Is It Ethical to Buy Vintage Fur?

Fur coats are not only completely unnecessary in modern fashion, but they’re also a product of animal cruelty and suffering. Encouragingly, major labels like Gucci have begun to accept this reality, and world governments are moving toward tightened restrictions on fur as fashion.

That said, though, where do we draw the line on vintage fur clothing?

What makes reused furs problematic?

On the face of it, purchasing secondhand furs from vintage stores may not seem as ethically troubling as buying new coats.

After all, no additional animals have had to undergo the squalid conditions of factory fur farms, nor have they endured agonizing deaths from  decompression chambers, electrocution or poisoning — sometimes via unfiltered exhaust fumes — to name just a few killing methods that, incidentally, are prohibited when slaughtering animals domestically for meat.

There may, in fact, be some moral reason to support wearing a vintage fur coat as much as possible, too. After all, animals already killed should not have died for a fleeting fashion trend. In terms of resource conservation and avoiding a throw-away culture, an argument certainly exists for keeping an inherited or second-hand fur.

Indeed, among the thrifty and craft-inclined, there’s been substantial interest recently in buying old furs from charity shops and estate sales and putting them back into use with repairs or re-purposing. And many feel that this enables people to enjoy a warm winter coat without harming any new animals or costing the environment.

Critics of these motivations should remember to check their privilege. For some people, a hand-me-down coat that sports either fur trim, fur lining or the like may be their only protection against the cold this winter season. I think it’s important to distinguish between necessity and choice — and make an allowance for that possibility.

But, certainly, fur brings to mind luxurious — and unnecessary — stoles, coats and hats worn by individuals who could very well afford to buy fur-free alternatives.

Fur feeds the industry, new or old

When I became a vegan, I had to make a number of decisions relating to where I drew moral boundaries on animal products. For example, I had to ask myself, if I won’t buy new leather products, will I still purchase vintage leather boots, briefcases, belts and the like? Are more ethical than new leather?

At first, I believed that this distinction justified wearing old leather products. I reasoned that I was not contributing to animal deaths, and that my money was not feeding into the system of animal oppression and abuse that I find abhorrent.

But this tricky moral question kept nagging at me. While I never actually purchased any vintage leather goods, I inherited a leather laptop case from my brother — and every time I used it, I felt uneasy. And one day it hit me: Other people didn’t know the case was secondhand leather.

They didn’t know that I hadn’t purchased the item and that I hadn’t fed into the system I was trying to rally against. They didn’t know I was vegan, and, therefore, might assume I supported leather.

After this simple revelation, I never used the leather bag again.

This little anecdote informs my thinking on vintage fur, too. Nearly everyone I know agrees without hesitation that the fur industry is barbaric and entirely unnecessary in a modern fashion context. They do not support fur farms, and they’d never want to be associated with animal cruelty.

As such, I believe that any and all fur coats or fur products — like boot lining — promotes a tolerance for a deeply disturbing industry. Whether these items are new or secondhand, they normalize wearing fur. A passerby doesn’t know why you chose vintage over new, and they may not know the animal suffering that is involved in making a fur coat.

Of course, if we’re applying this rule fairly, it’s important to consider some of the drawbacks of fur alternative: Are cheap, faux fur products imported from Asia really any better?

These are difficult questions, and I don’t think it’s helpful to condemn people for their choice to buy vintage fur. The emphasis must be on educating others to make informed choices – hopefully ones that don’t support a troubling fur industry.

It’s a tricky line to draw, but I think it comes down to one’s personal moral code on this issue. That said, a common thread exists at the heart of the matter: The fur industry must end, and we should focus on ensuring that fur fashion is a dying brand.

Photo Credit: Michael/Flickr

135 comments

hELEN h
hELEN h3 days ago

tyfs

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara3 days ago

if you would not wear ivory or skinned pet cats don't wear fur

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara3 days ago

quite right, nobody would know the briefcase was vintage leather or coat vintage fur. Don't support the trade.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara3 days ago

if I was given a fur garment I would want to give it a decent burial.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara3 days ago

poor animals caged, trapped, killed for a pelt.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara3 days ago

I have never worn fur

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Danuta W
Danuta W3 months ago

No

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Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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JACQUI GLYDE
Jacqueline GLYDE10 months ago

NO NO NO

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Emma Z
Past Member 10 months ago

No.

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