London Fashion Week Has “Activists” In A Fury
Fur has long been the focus of many so called “animal advocates” and one of the primary catalysts for public confusion with respect to animal ethics. However, it is in the nature of single-issue campaigns to fail. Within the context of a society where the dominant paradigm is animal welfarism, a single-issue campaign targeting one form of animal use will do nothing but promote all excluded animal use as better in a morally relevant way.
To demonstrate this, consider animal exploitation as represented by the alphabet. All letters, A to Z, represent each individual form of animal exploitation and together, they comprise our institutionalised animal use. In our society of animal welfarism, where the conventional wisdom dictates we can use and kill animals so long as they are treated “humanely,” every letter (or form of exploitation) is considered as normal as breathing air. When you single out exploitation X as being morally odious, you necessarily imply that there is something about X that makes it worse than all the other forms of animal use. Within the context of a society where A to Z is considered the norm, there is no other way for someone to interpret your fixation on X.
It is different to the use of single-issue campaigns in the human context. Our society unanimously rejects the exploitation of humans. There is much injustice done by humans to other humans, but nobody defends it. Where animal exploitation is considered the societal norm, the rejection of human exploitation is considered the norm. Therefore, in the human context, when you single out exploitation X, you are not implying that there is something worse about X. By default, our society considers the other human injustices to be abhorrent as well. Your focus on X doesn’t implicitly promote other forms of human exploitation as a normative matter. This is simply not the case where animals are concerned and where their exploitation is considered legitimate.
As one of the longest standing single-issue campaigns (alongside the anti-vivisection campaign), the anti-fur campaign has not only succeeded in drawing an arbitrary line between fur and other animal products, it has failed on its own terms. The fur industry is bigger now than at any point in history, despite its relentless presence since the 1980’s.
Recently, anti-fur “activists” have been sharing a change.org petition called “Ban fur from London Fashion Week.” This petition is particularly bewildering as it is not even calling for a universal ban on fur. It’s calling for a ban on fur for one week, in one location. That in itself highlights another one of the issues with single-issue campaigns – the measures are generally never seeking lasting change, they are merely outlets for humans to feel better about themselves. Especially when the outlet is just a form to fill in on a website, constituting nothing but a convenient little ego boost for those who wish to feel good about themselves whilst doing absolutely nothing. For more discussion on petitions, see my article here.
The petition goes into all the gory details of how fur animals are treated and how they are killed. The chap who started the petition, Ed Winter, asks: “[Why] is it that London Fashion Week finds it morally justifiable to still provide a platform for fur and profit off the exploitation of an industry that was outlawed in the UK 17 years ago?”
Well, regardless of the ban on production here in the UK (which was not for the benefit of the animals – we torture and kill a lot of animals) it is perfectly legal to import fur. As long as there is a demand for fur, there will be fur. It’s interesting that the demand has grown exponentially despite the presence of an anti-fur campaign for the better part of 40 years. It is clear that the people who buy fur are not affected by the campaign, and why should they be? As far as they are concerned, they are simply using an animal product just like the rest of us use animal products. And therein lies the hypocrisy and moral schizophrenia of those who are upset by fur.
Mr. Winter asks how LFW “finds it morally justifiable to still provide a platform for fur and profit off the exploitation.” I assume they find it morally justifiable in the same way that they have no problems using leather, wool and silk in their clothing either. The reality is there is no moral difference whatsoever between fur and other animal products. It doesn’t matter whether animals are bred solely for fur or whether their skins are used as a result of some other exploitation – they all end up dead. Leather comes from animals who are unjustifiably raised and slaughtered for food, and wool comes from sheep who are traumatised by the sheering process just before the final trip to the slaughterhouse. The moral value of these animals, as sentient beings, is the same. Saying that fur is worse because that’s what the animals are bred for, is like saying that the murder of humans for organ transplants is worse than the murder of other humans who just so happen to have useable organs too. It fundamentally misses the point – there is no moral justification for using and killing any of these animals, regardless how their bodies are used after.
The fixation on fur not only promotes the false message that there is a moral difference between fur and other animal skins, it also normalises animal exploitation as a general matter. People are upset by fur because they see it as constituting a form of unnecessary suffering and death. But our use of animals for food, entertainment, cosmetics and animal testing is just as unnecessary. For example, there is no medical need to consume animal products and yet we raise and slaughter 60 billion land animals and over 1 trillion aquatic animals every year for no other reason than “they taste good.” It makes no sense to object to fur on the basis of it being “unnecessary” if you are yourself participating in the exploitation and murder of animals for reasons just as trivial. People like to wear fur because they like the way they look, the rest of us consume animal products because we like the way they taste. Whether we’re wearing them or putting them in our mouths, there is no moral difference.
If you are upset by fur, you need to recognise that your rejection of unnecessary suffering and death requires you to be vegan. If you can’t see that, then your rejection of fur has nothing to do with respecting the lives of animals. If animals have moral value, if they are not things, then we have no adequate justification for using them as our resources at all.