How guilty is my fake fur?

Yes, I bought a fake fur.

I can’t fix all the problems of climate change and extinction. But I can dress for winter. So off to my favorite “gently used” clothing store for some new-to-me sweaters.

Do I really buy all my clothes used, out of a political conviction about consuming raw resources? Or am I just cheap? Luckily, I don’t bother myself about these fine distinctions.

After wearing the fur a couple of times (It’s definitely too much for the pinball bar where I spent New Year’s eve, but not too much for the hipster pizzeria,  strangely enough. Could I wear it to church? If, you know, I were a churchgoer and not an atheist?), I  got to worrying.

Does owning a fake fur sweater make me a piss poor animal lover?

I went, almost mindlessly,  to the PETA site (People for the ethical treatment of animals). I expected a full on sermon on the symbolic evils of fake fur. After all, these are the folks best known for throwing paint on the minks of celebrities.

To my amazement, I found a carefully reasoned policy saying that fake furs are okay.

Fakes, it emerges, are even a little trending.

Of course  I was bred for guilt, so I  couldn’t rest there. It seems there are also some fake furs out there that have a quantum of real fur.

So I used the three tests recommended by the Guardian for determining whether fake fur is really fake.

The skin of the dead is a giveaway

First, the back should look and feel like fabric, not skin. Check. That’s definitely a knit backdrop.

Beyond all that, my fake fur sweater smells like the acrylic content that the label asserts.

(A fellow activist and I once crept into a fur store just for the hell of it. The smell of dead animals was overwhelming.  Apparently,  there aren’t enough odor eaters in the world to cover up that travesty.)

Better to have faith than to burn

The next test is to burn a small amount of fur. Clearly, I had to wait until I got home, rather than setting fire to the ladies’ auxiliary thrift store.

Hell, that was dangerous.

And inconclusive. I was supposed to get sticky plastic balls, if it’s fake, and singed fur, if it’s real. The sample instantly disappeared in the experiment, and then I was figuring out how to keep from burning down the kitchen.

Do NOT test your fur this way, not at home. Not anywhere. I hope the smell dies back before my husband gets home. I’m canceling my subscription to the Guardian.

Blunt or tapered

The third test is to examine the individual hairs to determine whether they are tapered or blunt. If blunt, they are man-made.

Seriously?

They look blunt, but I’m not at all sure I could tell the difference. And I’m still shaking from the fire experiment, so that’s it. I’m going a different direction with this.

The pit bull smell test

As I said, the fur smells fake, which is to say, it doesn’t smell like a murdered mammal.

Nevertheless,  my smell is not my superpower. But I know someone who can smell trace elements of meat and plant food through a brick wall a mile away.

My pit bull, Alice.

She was napping when I began my experiment.

Here is Alice’s level of interest in my fake fur:

This continued for a few minutes.

Here is Alice’s level of interest when her favorite cat entered the room. Trust me, there’s tail wagging here.

Quick kiss, then back to the experiment.

Alice’s level of interest in trace elements of tuna:

So, I’m declaring my fake fur fake. But the great thing about buying from a charity thrift store is that I can always donate it back. What do you think? Should I?

California could go fur free

Imagine a world where everyone gets to keep her own skin.

California Assembly member Laura Friedman dared to imagine it. She proposes a law that would make it illegal to sell fur products in California.

Wild minks are semi-aquatic animals with no real capacity for domestication.

If passed, Assembly Bill 44 would shut down imports of animal fur from other states and abroad and require California fur farmers and retailers to re-purpose their businesses.

No longer would an emerging starlet be able to drop into a Beverly Hills furrier and spend her latest royalty check on a murdered mink.

It doesn’t do to think about where fur comes from if you want to sleep at night.

Minks, for instance, cannot really be domesticated. Genetically programmed to move between land and sea in relative isolation, the caged mink lives in terror and madness, denied the opportunity to roam and swim.

And, if you buy a fur, you can’t really be sure that it was even farmed. It’s about as likely to have been trapped. It may or may not be a wild animal. Almost no fur-bearing animal is safe.

Even some very conservative news outlets have darkly insinuated that your family pet could end up on someone’s back if you don’t keep Fido out of a nearby trap.

And the news gets even worse and weirder. There’s really no guarantee that so-called faux fur or fake fur is really fake. According to several animal rights groups, it could just as easily be real fur posing as fake.

My brain hurts, doing the math on this, but it seems it’s cheaper to kill and skin a dog or coyote than to manufacture an actual synthetic coat.

If AB 44 passes, California will be the first state in the United States to ban fur.

“This is history,” says Leslie Goldberg, a former San Francisco newspaper reporter and organizer for Compassionate Cities. “The animal rights movement has been fighting to end fur for fifty years.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States are working together to push the bill through. As of this writing, the bill is under review with California’s Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee.

Becoming law requires the bill to jump through quite a few more hoops before landing on the Governor’s desk.

Goldberg is optimistic about the bill’s chances. based on California’s history of supporting animal rights and a strong Democratic legislature.

“California has been pretty strong on animal rights,” she notes, adding that there is strong Democratic representation in the state legislature.

In general, the United States lags behind some other countries that have already banned fur. In the United Kingdom, fur farming is no longer legal. The good people at Fur Free Alliance have compiled an exhaustive list of countries with fur bans.

Other states may well follow suit if California sets a fur-free precedent.

“The country is with us,” Goldberg avers. “Poll after poll show that people are concerned about animals.”