Saturday, January 7, 2012

mink coat controversy

I did a very controversial thing today, and I could use some public advice, although if I might ask it is very controversial and I would appreciate it if the opinions could come in a gentle, kind way.

I live in Northern Canada, and as many people know it is cold here.  Not as cold recently, with the general climate change, but still very cold.  Canada has a long history of fur garment production, from farming to processing to designing and executing beautiful fur items.  I bought a lovely red coat today that contains mink fur in its composition.  It is not my first fur coat, it is my second one.  The first one, my mom bought when she was young, and passed it on to me.  It was made in Romania, from farmed sheep, and is still in use, as good as it was back in the days when I was born.  It has kept us warm for three generations now, if we consider that it is the only coat I wear when I take Emma out at -20 C in the baby Bjorn.  When I saw this coat, I thought that it would be my legacy to Emma.  It is short and light, and made for a warmer climate than the one I have from my mom, although generally suitable for winter.   However, once I brought it home, I got some hard questions from my husband about the ethics behind the whole thing, and I had to think and make it out to myself what my position on this topic is.

The company I bought this coat from is involved only in ethical farming of animals.  I have asked before buying where the fur comes from, to ensure it is not from any endangered species or cruelty-linked.  The mink was not trapped, but raised in cages on mink farms.  The mink are solitary animals, hence they have to have their own space, which is why they have to be raised each in a separate cage, and not allowed to mix in packs of twenty.  They are killed according to humane euthanasia methods, using carbon monoxide, a method that is much kinder than what is used to kill the chicken and the cows that we eat from the local grocery store.  The whole animal is used, both for meat that is then fed to fish on fish farms, and for the fat that is used for leather shoe maintenance and other stuff.  There is no waste.  Even the bonemeal is used.

I don't eat meat or eggs or milk from the normal grocery store, and rather opt for the local farmer produced foods from animals that are raised free range and even known by name by their owners, in the case of beef (the name of the animal is often on the package).  Or hunting meat, from deer and elk.  None of them are endangered species, and none is hunted for trophies only, the meat is all used up.

That being said, the question of whether I should have or not remains.  I did not really need a new coat, which makes the whole discussion sway towards the fact that I probably should not have bought it.  But assuming that I did need one, should I have rather bought a non biodegradable plastic/synthetic garment that is sure to stay in the landfill for 300 years, and that my daughter will have no respect for or interest in?  Or should I rather teach her the importance of using a coat as a family heirloom, the way I was taught, for as long as it is possible, and then know that it will degrade into the environment with ease and cleanliness?  The fur is greener than the synthetics, and the appreciation of an item in theory should discourage overconsumption, which is a bigger problem at this point for all of us than any other problem.

All in all, in the end the fact that the coat makes my husband feel uncomfortable about the issue makes me regret buying it.  (I don't know really how uncomfortable I should feel about the issue when we both wear leather without a second thought).  However, now that I did, I plan on wearing it with respect for the animals that died. As in, I don't plan on discarding it in five years, the way people do with synthetic coats.  And I plan on spending the money on alterations if needed, the way I usually do with all my garments.  It is my way, I buy expensive durable things and alter/repair them just about forever.   The last option, that of returning the coat to the store, is the most shameful of all.  I think I made a decision, I should live with it and its consequences.

The controversy in my mind at the moment makes the whole purchase non-enjoyable, but I think there is no harm in thinking about a topic and making it out for myself, even if it will take a while to decide what the right way is for me in this context.  Any help on making it clearer in my own head is appreciated.  But please be kind.  Don't call me names.  I might not have made the best decision for lack of enlightened thinking, but I am not a cruel or mean person.

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