Editorial: Who’s Skin Are You In

Every year, millions of animals are slaughtered in the name of fashion. I was excited when fashion month began in February and I was hoping to find inspiration from the latest trends.

As I followed all of the major fashion accounts on social media, I noticed a lot of the trends involved lots of real fur coats, feather skirts and real leather handbags. It didn’t take long for me to find the criticisms from animal rights activists, making claims that this promotes unethical treatment of animals in the fashion industry.

While I have always purchased faux fur and synthetic leather, I realized that I bought these alternatives because they were cheaper, rather than based on knowing that they promoted ethical treatments of animals. Ever since I adopted this new mentality, I cannot look at a real leather handbag without shuddering.

Is the immeasurable suffering these animals endure worth the fur coat you wear? The answer is always no. If people had a better grasp of what animals suffer in order to further sales in fashion, people would take this issue much more seriously than they currently do. It hasn’t been a secret that foxes, bears and baby harp seals have been killed so their fur can be made into jackets, scarves and the trim of hats.

Steel-jaw traps in the wild either catch these animals or hunters physically go and kill the animals themselves — usually with a lack of compassion.

Exotic reptiles such as alligators and snakes are killed so their skin can make wallets and tote bags. Not everyone is a fan of snakes, but we can all come to a consensus that they do not deserve to be skinned alive and have their heads cracked open with a hammer. Because their metabolism is so slow it can take hours for snakes to die, which prolongs their suffering.

Domesticated animals are not exempt from this brutality. A recent investigation led by PETA revealed that dogs have been bludgeoned to death so their skin can be turned into leather gloves, belts, jacket collar trims and other accessories, many of which are distributed to North America.

When you look at a puppy, do you see the latest Prada tote bag? Something must be done to curb these atrocities. However, please do not misinterpret this article as me condoning those who throw red paint on women who wear fur coats to fashion week.

Actions like these only perpetuate the problem even further and bring attention to the action, not the cause itself. Taking action does not have to be something “big.” There is nothing wrong with starting out small. Try paying closer attention to the materials you are buying the next time you need some retail therapy.

Try looking for pleather jackets, cotton based shirts and satin. Most clothes will have animal friendly labels on them, indicating that the article of clothing is fur-free and excludes real leather.

Paying attention to these labels makes a world of difference. Designer Stella McCartney, who is a lifelong vegan and animal activist, has a vegan clothing line that is still fashionable but ethical. Become acquainted with other designers who will design clothes that will not make you feel wrong for wearing what seems to be a real leather jacket. If you want to move further along in promoting compassion in fashion, find local animal rights organizations in your area and contact them.

Express your interest in getting involved. Whether you sign a lot of petitions, speak at conferences or take part in a rally — your voice matters. These animals cannot say they are in pain. That is why you must use your voice to speak for them.

If we could all promote ethical fashion maybe next year for fashion month, animal activists will commend the fashion industry for its progressive change towards animal rights.

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