Monday, August 26, 2013

Bio-Art: Fur Is Alive.

"Fur is murder!" is the rallying cry of PETA and animal-lovers everywhere. Indeed, the fur industry is one of the most controversial parts of the fashion industry. Most people who buy fur are not swayed by animal rights activists at all, but in general, there's a weird disconnect when it comes to humans using animals for meat or hide.

Well, Cecilia Valentine intends to put an end to that mindset. Her "Fur Is Alive" series proposes that fashion involving animals can be humane. In contrast to skinning an animal alive for fur, Fur Is Alive uses live animals and plants without actually harming them. Yes, this is still considered high fashion.

Cecilia Valentine designed Fur Is Alive with one idea in mind: the reconnection that things like fur and meat were once living, breathing creatures. This blog has posted numerous times about how disconnected Americans are from their food - particularly meat products. We're the same way with fashion fur. By and large, the people who buy fur are oblivious to what's really going on.

Here are a few shockers for you:

"Garment or accessory labels cannot always be relied upon to accurately identify the type of animal fur used in an item. Born Free USA advises erring on the side of caution and compassion by not buying items that you cannot verify are fur-free." 

"With nearly $1.3 billion in retail sales, the fur industry makes a substantial contribution to the U.S. economy. The fur industry in the U.S. provides full-time employment for over 32,000 workers and seasonal or part-time employment for an additional 155,000+ workers. Over 12,500 workers in fields such as marketing, banking and insurance also owe their livelihood in part to the fur industry."

 "As any pet owner knows, the condition of an animal's coat is one of the clearest indications of the care it is receiving. A fur farmer's livelihood depends upon assuring that his animals receive the best possible feeding, sanitary housing and care. Killing methods used on fur farms are similar to those commonly used in humane society shelters."

..."synthetics are generally made from petroleum products which are non-renewable resources and not biodegradable. From an environmental perspective, as long as trapping is well regulated, it is far preferable to use natural furs. Fur is renewable, long lasting, biodegradable, and it is warmer than any synthetic product." 

"During the 2009-2010 season, more than 67,000 seal pups were killed for their fur, genitalia and Omega 3 oils. The fur is used to make clothing, boots and garment trim; genitals are widely used as an aphrodisiac in traditional Chinese medicine; and the oils are used as a supplement for human consumption. The majority of the seals are skinned alive and are between the ages of 12 days and 12 months old. Others are left to suffer after being clubbed until a hunter returns to skin them. "

Notice that I am including both sides of the argument in these facts. Fur trading is one of the oldest trades in existence, and we should not expect it to die anytime soon. Beaver pelts were a fairly popular commodity when the New World was still being colonized. Human beings would not be alive if we hadn't learned to use the hides of animals as clothing. Synthetic fabrics have not been around since the dawn of time. Like it or not, we owe the fur industry and all of the animals who lost their lives to make sure the human species lived to have iPhones.

Another, more personal reason for watching both sides of this argument is my own experience with reptile legislation. For big bills banning, say, pythons, reptile owners can and will use the fashion industry to prove their point. They are against snakeskin farming during the other 364 days in the year. It's an interesting bit of hypocrisy, highlighting sides of skinning that PETA-pushers rarely consider. Snakes don't even have to be skinned to be in the fashion industry, so the case is particularly interesting for that reason as well. Plus, reptiles already make great living jewelry.

Back on topic! Cecilia Valentine's series consists of animals and plants on or in attractive-looking lattices. I particularly like the rodent in a necklace, in part because it actually has fur. These designs were made on a 3-D printer, allowing for testing of templates. The hamster was compensated for his time, by the way.

Unfortunately, the project looks to still be in the concept stage. The bird, for example, was photoshop'd in. None of this stuff is on the market, but I hope it's a hit when it gets released. This is a truly eye-opening idea. No matter what side of the argument you're on, when was the last time you saw a hamster cage necklace?

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