As a former vegan, this is why I’m wearing fur this winter

I never thought I’d wear mink, but it’s more sustainable than fast fashion

October 28, 2022 10:08 am(Updated 10:53 am)

“I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur”: growing up in the 2000s, Peta’s anti-fur activism left an indelible imprint on my psyche. Stars as big as Naomi Campbell modeled for the animal rights nonprofit, whose infamous nude campaign used sex appeal and the power of celebrity (before “influencers” were a thing) to dissuade consumers from even thinking about wearing fur.

As a child I didn’t have the means to buy real fur back then anyway. But I wouldn’t have anticipated when I became an ethical vegan aged 13 that by my mid-twenties, I’d be the owner of genuine animal fur garments. What changed? While my diet is best characterised as “flexitarian” these days, my discomfort around animal exploitation never went away: I won’t order meat at a restaurant, visit a zoo or buy a pet from a breeder.

What has changed for me, especially in recent years, is my awareness of the evils of fast fashion. The scale of its production, consumption, and waste today is unprecedented, with low-quality polyester garments churned out by retailers at dizzying rates. These stay in consumer wardrobes for a matter of months before ending up in landfill. Virgin polyester, a vegan fabric favoured in garment production for its cheapness, has been implicated in microplastics pollution — and it’s now produced at double the rate it was in 2000.

A backlash against super-fast fashion is underway, but our entire relationship with consumption needs to change. We need to stop buying so many clothes, full stop, if we care about the future of our planet.

This is why I’ve been slowly trying to get into the habit of making more sustainable choices, not just for the sake of the earth, but for my wallet. Fast fashion websites need young people to stay shackled in endless cycles of shopping to replace their latest “hauls”. While it’s easy to feel like there’s no alternative, I’m hopeful that my current strategy of seeking out second-hand, long-lasting garments — many of which are constructed from animal products such as wool and leather, and, yes, occasionally vintage fur — will reduce my contribution to textile waste.

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In 2007, 93 per cent of British adults said they would refuse to wear animal fur. Judging from the weird looks I’ve received in my mink cape (which the 60-something-year-old seller inherited from her grandma), attitudes towards real fur remain negative. I’m glad that campaigning from organisations like Peta was successful enough to lead to a ban on fur farming in the UK. But it does seem sad that vintage furs — which can last a lifetime with proper care — gather dust in wardrobes around the country due to their owners’ fears of who social reprisal.

To be clear, I would never advocate for purchasing new furs: I believe animal rights advocates when they say that fur farming is cruel to animals, as well as resource-intensive and ecologically destructive. However, the more I learn about what goes on behind the scenes in the contemporary textile industry, the less certain I am that there’s a clear-cut way to be an ethical fashion consumer in 2022. What I do know is that my furs (which I paid £10 for) should last me for decades. The same cannot be said for the lifespans of most garments found on the internet.

The architects of the anti-fur movement weren’t to know that fast fashion would grow to such dangerous proportions in the 21st century. Times have changed, and the fur taboo no longer serves the purpose it did. I don’t blame you if you’re revolted by where my fur came from — but I won’t stop wearing it.

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