Faux Fur: Eco or Not?

As a recovered vegan, I can honestly say that fifteen years ago, if you’d told me I’d be eating beef and cooking in duck fat, I’ve have though you were absolutely nuts.

While my reference to being a recovered vegan may be harsh, I am applying that only to myself because back then, my approach was that of an angry, self-important nature. I felt I was right and should anyone dare challenge me with any reason that being a vegan wasn’t the best way to thrive, I had my top ten list of why they were wrong. It lasted two years and after I began incorporating fish, my gateway protein, I began to grasp the concept that categorizing all meat under one heading, both wild and free-range as well as factory farmed or feed lot, I was actually doing nothing to further the cause. It is only by supporting the smaller ranchers, farms and fisherman that are doing things the right way that we can progress to decrease demand for the inhumane producers.

But that’s with regard to meat that we eat, right?

What about leather?

And even more of a slippery slope, fur?

Faux Fur Friday is celebrated annually on the first Friday in December and people are encouraged to go fake, rather than support the fur industry by wearing the real deal.

But is wearing faux fur really the way to go?

Let’s take a step back for a moment.

If we were to follow the example set hundreds of year ago by the Lakota Tribe, who used virtually every part of the animal, from horns to tail hairs, one might argue that not using and wearing leather or fur would be the unethical, wasteful thing to do.

“The Indian was frugal in the midst of plenty,” says Luther Standing Bear, a member of the Lakota tribe. “When the buffalo roamed the plains in multitudes, he slaughtered only what he could eat and these he used to the hair and bones.”[1]

Granted, the typical Western society is no longer living by these standards, so we’ve got a completely different set of circumstances to deal with.

In principle, the same thought process could apply. We’re eating nose to tail if we’re following a real paleo diet; rather than only dining on chicken breast, we’re also eating the liver, and instead of solely eating filet mignon, beef heart graces our plate as well.

Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could also procure the leather than came from the very cow that was raised humanely?

Unfortunately, determining where and from what conditions your leather jacket or handbag came from isn’t as easy as figuring out if the burger on your plate is 100% grass fed or not.

And incidentally, that’s not even as straightforward as it should be, given the confusing labeling laws.

While companies do exist which sell grass-fed leather and related products, they’re few and far between.

One such outfit is Brooklyn-based Marlow Goods, where the designer, Kate Huling takes the farm-to-table approach her husband Andrew Tarlow applies to food in the Wythe Hotel. She applies that ethos to fashion and started the leather goods company four years ago as way to use every last part of the animals that were passing through the kitchen and onto plates in Tarlow’s restaurants[2].

So it’s possibly to find, it just takes a little extra thoughtfulness.

Sound familiar?

Not that different from those who finally decide to implement a healthy eating program like Paleo after thinking for years that it would be just too difficult.

And fur?

No doubt about it, the fur industry’s main goal is not in the best interest of the animals, and we’ve all heard and read horror stories of creatures being tortured alive[3].

Clearly, from an ethical standpoint, buying and wearing fur, with the exception of fur that one may have taken from an animal they killed humanely and used every part of can’t be positioned as being a morally correct thing to do.

But is fake fur the way to go?

Hear me out.

Fake fur is any material made of synthetic fibers designed to resemble fur, normally as part of a piece of clothing[4].

Synthetic furs are no more than by-products of the petro-chemical industry. Making a single faux fur coat can chew up 19 liters of petroleum, a non-renewable resource[5].

Bad for the environment.

Further, breathing petroleum vapors can cause nervous system effects (such as headache, nausea, and dizziness) and respiratory irritation. Very high exposure can cause coma and death. Liquid petroleum products which come in contact with the skin can cause irritation and some can be absorbed through the skin. Chronic exposure to petroleum products may affect the nervous system, blood and kidneys. Whether specific petroleum products can cause cancer in humans is not known; however, there is evidence that occupationally exposed people in the petroleum refining industry have an increased risk of skin cancer and leukemia[6].

Bad for us, too.

Just as it’s a bad idea to eat fake food, it’s equally a bad idea to wear fake, or synthetic fabrics.

When I was vegan, I ate fake meat. It was supposed to look and taste like meat, but it was made from textured vegetable protein or soy, it didn’t taste great and quite frankly, I’m sure it contributing to my GI issues growing worse during that period of the time, years before I knew about gluten and paleo and inflammation.

I should have just left it.

And that’s perhaps the best thing we should do with this; just leave it.

We don’t need to wear fur. And we don’t need to wear fake fur either.

Opt for grass-fed leather if you’re inclined to wear skins and by doing so, you’ll remain consistent with the nose-to-tail philosophy we implement on a real Paleo diet and avoid supporting the torturous fur industry.

So go fur free, yes, but no need to ‘don the petroleum either.



[1] “American Buffalo: Spirit of a Nation.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web

[2] http://brooklynbased.com/blog/2013/03/26/grass-fed-fashion/

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rQkNdB_Cfo

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_fur

[5]“Animals Feelings and Fur: Who (Not What) We Wear Is An Ethical Choice.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015

[6] “What Are the Health Effects of Exposure to Petroleum Products?” What Are the Health Effects of Exposure to Petroleum Products? N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015