16 Aug Rethinking Fur
Gently Vegan’s Beauty and Lifestyle Director, Shonagh Walker, talks to us about her personal journey with fur.
And it’s one we can probably all relate to …
I’m sure that anyone visiting this website, and indeed reading this story, would agree that fur only looks beautiful on its original owner. It also really has no real use to anyone, except of course the animal it belongs to. Despite this, millions of animals suffer needlessly each year in the name of fashion and astoundingly, the fur industry has until recently seemed to continue without conscience.
However, this is changing, and the fashion industry is waking up to the fact that cruelty isn’t at all pretty and that consumers don’t see suffering as glamorous. The list of designers that will no longer use fur is growing rapidly and includes Gucci, Versace, Armani, Stella McCartney, Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren and Vivienne Westwood. Uber-cool, go-to fashion website, ASOS, recently announced that it will no longer stock any item made from fur, feathers, mohair, cashmere, silk, bone, teeth or shell, by early 2019. For more on its animal welfare policy, you can visit: https://www.asosplc.com/corporate-responsibility/our-products/animal-welfare
But back to the reason for this story …
Despite being vegetarian, pescatarian and/or vegan most of my life, I’ve been guilty of buying and wearing fur. I’m not proud of it. It’s something I did before I reached the point on my compassion journey where I realised that it was not only needless, it was just downright cruel and vulgar.
I owned a rabbit gilet, a racoon trimmed ski jacket and a fox fur neck warmer. And for years, I coveted my stepmother’s mink stole. When she finally passed it down to me in 2003, I wore it as a weekly wardrobe staple. I truly thought I looked so glamorous and chic, never realising how offensive I actually appeared.
But then, I began researching the fur industry and my mind was changed forever. Never again will I buy or wear fur unless it is 100 percent fake and made using ethical methods.
But I’ve also been left with quite the conundrum. What to do with the fur that I have sitting in my wardrobe? I don’t want to donate it to charity, as that seems to me to perpetuate the trend of fur as fashion. I thought about burying it, as a way of respecting the animal and hopefully returning it to the earth. But then, I came across an amazing initiative called Snuggle Coats.
Snuggle Coats is a marvellous ‘movement’ started by a huge-hearted Sydney woman, Lisa Brennan, which aims to breathe new life into fur and put it to use for a greater good – nurturing injured and sick wildlife back to health.
Lisa explains: “Furs provide a more natural environment for the animals than towels or blankets do. We actually hear the animals heaving audible sighs as they snuggle into these fur donations. These furs can act as a surrogate for injured wildlife during the rehabilitation process.”
Lisa accepts fur coats and clothing of all kinds, except sheepskin, and deconstructs them, before donating them to animal welfare organisations and groups, at no cost. “In simple terms, real fur in all forms of clothing – coats, stoles, capes and hats, are donated to Snuggle Coats and these are disassembled and passed onto Animal Groups (at no charge) to rehabilitate and enrich the lives of animals in their care.”
Snuggle Coats is a not-for-profit organisation and Lisa funds it by herself, via the sale of some really gorgeous merchandise, like T-shirts, drinking bottles and mugs, but she has a bigger vision. “The older I grow, the more I realise how important it is to give back,” says Lisa. “It is quite simply the right thing to do. Snuggle Coats is all about kindness, giving back to the animals and educating people on thinking smarter about their impact on the world.”
“I have big dreams for Snuggle Coats. I currently support the administration costs of my charity through the sale of tee shirts and other merchandise, but ultimately, I would like to see Charity shops such as The Salvation Army take a fur free pledge and direct their fur products to Snuggle Coats.”
“While people are certainly turning away from fur as fashion, there are furs currently in existence that hide away in garages or were gifted to people by a well-meaning relative. These furs often end up as landfill – or lingering in Charity shops. Well, it’s time to dust them off and donate them to Snuggle Coats. We can’t undo the cruelty of the past, but we can partially counteract it by helping hundreds of animals each year.”
For more information on Snuggle Coats, visit: snugglecoats.org
Lifestyle and Beauty editor Shonagh Walker