“Wait a second. So you are against animal cruelty but your outfit imitates that of real animal skin? You’re vegan but you eat food that looks like real meat?”
As a vegan, I’ve heard my fair share of humorous statements about my lifestyle with many attempting to create my own hypocrisy instead of dealing with their own. I can certainly understand where many are coming from, when they ask me the above questions. A vegan by definition, is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Whilst eating food that imitates decomposing animal flesh is much easier to explain, (vegan’s don’t hate the taste of animal products, we are simply against the exploitation and murder of innocent beings) when it comes to fashion, the areas can become a deep shade of grey. After all, what kind of message does it send if I stand against animal cruelty but wear a fur coat? Even if that coat is fake, with today’s incredible resources to create convincing faux fur, it could confuse many to think I am not following my compassionate lifestyle.
Whilst the majority of the vegan community is full of compassionate, peaceful beings who have all animals best interest at hearts, there are a few whom are very judgemental and whose voices are much louder than the rest. I do believe that their hearts are also in the right place but their passion is harder to control and view the world through a black and white lens.
I’ve heard a lot of uproar on whether vegans, whom are advocates for animal rights, should be wearing faux fur. I find it ironic that this conversation isn’t on other animal skins that are just as cruel; leather, wool, silk, cashmere, etc. I have found myself feeling uneasy on whether I’m being a ‘true vegan’ by investing in a faux fur coat that I absolutely love. Which I now find crazy, considering I have abstained from all animal products since making the switch in April 2016, and make conscious decisions every day to not support animal cruelty, where practicable.
It’s as though, somehow, fur is more horrific but pain is pain. Murder is murder. Just because you eat an innocent’s flesh doesn’t mean it’s ok to wear their skin too. So why is there more of a stigma around fur? Perhaps it is because society is less tolerant of fur than leather. Although, if history has taught us anything it’s that you should never follow the crowd and look at the mass population to teach you between right and wrong. Racism, sexism, homophobia… need I go on? Nonetheless, there seems to be a lot of chaos and confusion on if it is ok to wear faux fur as an animal rights activist. If you are new to Veganism then this can be even more confusing. Which decision is the right one to make?
Although I cannot make the choice for those lost, I can share both sides of the scale as well as my own thoughts and feelings on where I personally stand on this issue. Here is my perspective on the negative and positive impacts on wearing faux fur…
Does it promote the right message?
Perhaps the largest issue with wearing faux fur is that it can implicate the message that I am promoting all fur. It can come across as though I am advertising the fur industry especially as most faux fur looks unquestioningly real. This is the biggest reason many Vegans are against wearing faux fur. They believe that someone will see you wearing faux fur, think it looks great, and go purchase themselves a real one. Thus, you are indirectly causing animals to suffer.
Personally, I think we are picking at short straws here. In no way do I believe that anyone is responsible for another’s actions. We all make our own choices and I think it is unfair and immature to put blame someone for the decisions another decides. If I am to wear a pair of fake suede boots and that influences someone else to also buy a similar pair that are made with real suede am I really at fault? I don’t think so. Particularly as I’ve purchased these boots from an ethical vegan company that not only make all their shoes to be cruelty free but also treat their works with fair wages and use sustainable materials. Are you really going to tell me I need to stop supporting an incredible brand aiming to make the planet a better place because there’s a small chance someone else could support animal agriculture by liking my shoes? Now, why is this a different view when it’s faux fur?
In my own personal experience, I have had various people ask me about my cute pair of shoes or faux coat which has given me the opportunity to enlighten them on the cruelties of the animal industry or simply inform them on a brand they may have never heard of.
You may be judged
Although other animal skins are still widely accepted in society, fur thankfully is not. Whilst this is a really incredible evolution of human behaviour, it comes with the possibility of being judged. Someone may think you are wearing a real fur coat. I won’t lie, I have been concerned, when walking down the street with my faux fur coat, that I’ll be harassed by someone not knowing I’m actually a vegan and it’s fake. Thankfully, there are cute little badges you can wear to let others know you are not harming animals. However, if you aren’t as thick skinned as myself, being judged by strangers could be upsetting.
There is also the possibility of being judged by those who know you are vegan but are getting mixed messages from you. Perhaps you are the only vegan someone knows and it is up to you to represent the movement to your best ability. If this someone sees you wearing what they believe to be real fur, they may loose respect for vegans and not give the vegan movement the consideration and respect it deserves. Once again, this falls onto the unfair notion that you are accountable for another’s actions nor are your solely responsible for someones impression of veganism. You shouldn’t fall into this pressure of being the poster child for veganism for all of your family and friends, 24/7. You’re human. You still have to live your life and that should include letting go of your worries on other peoples choices.
It can Glamourise the fur industry
Another con is that you are glamourising wearing the skin and hair of another animal, which is exactly what veganism fights against. Despite wearing faux fur, it does represent an industry based on the skinning and exploitation of animals. This is something that many vegans do not want to be associated with. Whilst I do agree that this can be rather uncomfortable, I had a friend who viewed it as being ‘inspired’ by animals beauty just as we do so with floral dresses and last years trendy palm leaf prints. This, I thought, was a refreshing perspective and one I can relate to as an ex print designer. As long as you aren’t harming an animal, what is the actual harm? Because here’s the thing…
Vegan fashion can be badass
If fur fits into your style, rocking it ethically could be one of the best ways to reveal to others that cruelty-free fashion is just as awesome, perhaps even better, as the cruelty-filled kind. Ironically, I used to despise anything fur and thought it looked tacky- after I grew out of my 101 Dalmatians phase at 6 years old. Then, I spotted a few classic chic looks that included fur and my perception on how it can be styled, changed. Now, I love a touch of faux fur in my outfits and the white faux fur coat I am wearing in this shoot is the best winter coat I’ve ever had! I’d hate to think that there are fashionistas out there whom love fur looks also but support animal agriculture because there aren’t any cruelty free options out there. The number of animals murdered for their skins would be much higher and that is a heartbreaking thought.
Wearing fake animal skins uncovers just how evolved vegan materials have come. The responses I’ve had to my vegan Inyati bags are overwhelming. No one can believe that it’s not made with genuine animal skin. “I can’t believe it’s not real leather!” They proclaim. Well duh, that’s because vegan fashion is sexy as!
You’re voting through your money
If you are regular reader of Eternally Elle, then you’ll have read this notion before. When you buy anything, whether this be an expensive genuine leather bag from your favourite designer or a vegan burger from that organic restaurant down the street, you are casting a vote on the kind of world you live in. Each penny you spend is a statement of what you support. Thus, when you buy that handbag you are stating that you want a world where sentient beings are hung upside down and have their throats slit because your superficial desires are more important than a precious life. Contrariwise, when you purchase faux fur from a company that also sells real fur, you’re showing them that faux fur is more profitable. If you invest in faux fur from a vegan company, you’re helping to support an ethical brand and making the fashion industry a more compassionate place.
How to spot real fur
Separating faux fur between real fur is becoming increasingly difficult due to the quality of faux fur reaching new heights each year. To make matters worse, real fur can end up tagged with low-price points and labelled incorrectly. If you follow the news, you will be aware of the huge discrepancy in 2017 where Chinese distributors sold real fur as faux to big high street stores that were none the wiser. Resulting in many unwittingly knowing they were supporting such a cruel industry with animal skins hanging in their wardrobe. Therefore, you can only trust your own judgement and arm yourself with the knowledge on how to differentiate between faux fur and real fur.
Check the base
This is the easiest way to check if your fur is real or faux. Simple separate the fur and look at the base. If you find a mesh or threaded backing then rest assured you’re holding faux fur in your hands. If, however, the base looks akin to the roots of your own hair, and looks like skin, then it’s real.
Study the tips
Real animal hairs taper at the end, their lengths will generally fall to a fine point – unless they have been cut or sheared- and will fall at different lengths. Faux fur, however, will always look blunt at the ends. Therefore, if the hairs narrow at the tip, play it safe and leave the garment on the rack.
Do a burn test
Unless, you already own the item, I wouldn’t recommend to carry this step out. Simply remove a few hairs from your garment and use tweezers to hold them over a non-flammable surface. Now ignite them with a match or lighter. (Make sure you are doing this carefully and safely!) Real animal hair smells exactly like that of human hair burning whilst fake fur smells like melting plastic.
If you still find yourself indecisive, it’s better to leave it on the shelf and walk away. In addition, if you have discovered that you have unintentionally invested in real fur, make sure to contact the retailer to inform them of the problem.
Get the Look
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Personally, I have found that the pros out weight the cons. Whilst, yes, I can indirectly support the fur industry by wearing faux fur and glamorise this look, this is certainly not my intention and I shouldn’t be held accountable for other’s choices. If someone want’s to support animal agriculture, they will, regardless if I’m sporting a fur coat or not. I love that I can use my faux fur coat as a part of activism through showing others that vegan fashion can look fabulous. If I were to give up my own personal style to abide to the judgements of others, I feel that I am sending the message to non-vegans that you have to make a lot of sacrifices, which could put them off making the switch. This could cause damaging effects to the movement. Similarly to eating a faux meat burger or frying some vegan mince for my spaghetti bolognese, veganism should be shown as obtainable with easy alternatives available to help make the lifestyle change easier and more appealing. I love wearing my faux fur coat and I will continue to do so.
Read my quick tips below on how to differentiate between faux fur and real.
What are your thoughts on faux fur?