Is COVID-19 the Last Nail in the Fur Industry’s Coffin?

Is COVID-19 the Last Nail in the Fur Industry’s Coffin?

It’s safe to say that fashion has successfully uncoupled from fur. Never has it been as shameful and questionable to be seen wearing an animal pelt as it is today, and 2020 may just have given us one more reason to shun fur forever.

It started with Gucci. In late 2017, its CEO Marco Bizzarri commented on the brand’s decision to stop using fur in its collections: “Do you think using furs today is still modern? I don’t think it’s still modern, and that’s the reason why we decided not to do it,” Bizzarri told Business of Fashion. “It’s a little bit outdated. Creativity can jump in many different directions instead of using furs.”

Gucci axed fur from its offering starting with its SS2018 collection, followed by the likes of Burberry, Chanel, Prada, Maison Margiela, Diane von Furstenberg and Versace, many of whom cited sustainability and animal welfare as the main reasons for their decision. Donatella Versace was quoted as saying, “Fur? I’m out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.” It doesn’t feel right to many people: public figures from iconic fashion editor Anna Dello Russo to the Queen of England herself have stopped wearing fur.

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Gucci’s Pre-Fall 2017 campaign heavily featured fur.

Today, there is one more reason to leave the fur trade to the history books: COVID-19. The first scares appeared when animals at two mink farms in the Netherlands – where a ban on fur farming was already planned for 2024 – were found to have cases of coronavirus. On 23rd and 25th April this year, cases were found at the farms, which held 12,000 and 7,500 animals. Workers were believed to have contracted the virus from handling the animals, which introduced the notion that fur farms, where animals live in cramped cages in close proximity of one another, are no less of a public-health threat than the live-animal markets where COVID-19 is believed to have originated.

The two farms in North Brabant were just the beginning – more cases appeared in farms throughout the country, with the latest being found recently in Veulen and Evertsoord. As a result of this, the Netherlands’ planned closure of fur farms has been brought forward to March 2021. As the Netherlands is the fourth-largest fur producer in the world, with approximately 130 farms, this is a big step forward for the anti-fur campaigns.

Something that angered many was the mass culling of thousands of animals in the Netherlands when the outbreaks started occurring. But what angry animal lovers may have failed to consider was that the culled mink would have been killed anyway – even without a pandemic, they would have been gassed to death for their fur. Culling isn’t the true issue; fur farming is.

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The Netherlands is far from the only country to have been struck. In Spain, nearly 100,000 animals were culled when the virus struck farms in the Aragón province – one of the Spanish areas that has been hit the hardest by the pandemic. A staggering 87% of all the animals on the farm had become infected.

Denmark – the world’s largest producer of mink fur – had its first cases on a farm in North Jutland in June. It was announced in the beginning of October that up to one million animals would be culled after further cases surfaced. In total, 41 mink farms in Denmark have been affected, with another 20 thought to also have been hit. Regardless, the country has no plans to limit its fur trade, which is among the most prominent in the world.

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But other fur-producing countries are going in another direction. Poland, the third-biggest producer of fur in the world, recently announced that its lower house of Parliament had voted in favour of banning fur farming. This move will possibly spare eight million animals who are kept on Polish farms, including mink, raccoon dogs and foxes.

France also recently added its name to the list of countries choosing a ban on fur. Mink farms in the country will have to close no later than 2025, with the country also announcing a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses and a law against breeding orcas and dolphins in captivity. A triple win for animals.

Save the Duck vegan fashion brand produces animal fur free outdoor clothing and jackets.

But just banning fur farming isn’t the end of the road – some territories are also considering a ban on selling and importing fur, which makes perfect sense: if a society has taken a stand against producing something, it does not logically follow to import it from other places. California was first (as it often is) to ban fur sales in the entire state, and Israel has now drawn up a bill that will see fur sales outlawed. Animal rights organisations in the UK have created the Fur-Free Britain campaign to call for a ban on sales and import of fur, and Members of Parliament are largely supportive of the idea.

Societies all over the world are stepping away from fur for many reasons. Its sales are dwindling as more consumers are familiar with the cruelty behind it. And today, the pandemic has reminded us that exploiting animals is incompatible with the kinder, gentler, more conscious society we all want to return to once the crisis subsides.

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Cover image via Gucci.

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