When I first moved to Japan I thought it was an animal loving nation as there are temples dedicated to Foxes and Tanookie (Japanese raccoon dogs) and every other girl has a Paris Hilton type rat dog hidden in their oversized bags. However as the months started to turn colder I was completely taken aback as the shops filled up with fur. Everything here is fur trimmed! Bags, shoes, socks, hats, coats even underwear. Last years fashion must have was a fox or raccoon tail clipped on to your waist band or bag. They even have fur decorations for their mobile phones.
Fur hats being sold at the local shopping mall
Fox/raccoon tails being sold for around 8GBP
Rabbit pelts being sold in my local fabric shop for 14GBP
When people think about fur in fashion they picture fur coats, fox stoles or rabbit fur trims but rarely do hats, (with the exception of big fluffy winter Russian style hats) come into the picture. Before getting into millinery I too had no idea of the extent fur was used in the hat trade and I am still shocked at how many milliners out there working with fur have no idea where the fabric came from.
When I see the word felt I think wool thus sheep thus sheering thus ethical (PETA would disagree with this but having lived on a croft in Scotland and helped with the sheering each spring I see no harm done to the animals, however this may be different on bigger factory like sheep farms) Since becoming a milliner however I have found that nearly every felt hat sold is actually fur felt.
Felt used in Millinery is usually a combination of rabbit and beaver fur. The more expensive the hat the more beaver fur it contains. It is actually pretty hard to find a 100% wool felt hat. The use of fur is justified by milliners as it is strong, drapes well and has a tradition dating back as far as the profession itself.
Many people justify the use of fur as they claim it is a bi product of other industries. While this may be true for some furs (mainly Rabbit fur) I have never seen a beaver steak pie for sale in the local supermarket never mind an Arctic fox thus the question has to be a bi product of what? Even with bi product fur however, the conditions that animals are kept in and the deaths they endure to make sure the pelt isn't damaged is in my mind unjustifiable by any means.
The PETA video below shows what is really going on in the production of fur. The video is very disturbing but so is what is happening.
Albert Einstein said that vegetarianism was the next step in human evolution but as things stand today we are closer to Neanderthals than enlightened beings. I can only hope that PETA steps up when Tokyo fashion week comes around.