Meet Johnny Weir, figure skater. Brash, flamboyant, talented, Weir will be representing the United States at this month’s Olympics. He has recently garnered considerable attention more for what he wore than how he skated. Adding a fox fur trim to his left shoulder at the U.S. Nationals drew the ire of animal rights advocates, most notably Friends of Animals. In an open letter to Weir, FoA’s Priscilla Feral asks the skater if “looking pretty” is worth the suffering that the fox endured. Weir has backed down, but not because of any new sensibility: “I want to publicly acknowledge my knowledge of the fur trade industry and the fact that I am totally understanding of the methods used in this industry. I am not changing in order to appease them [activists], but to protect my integrity….”
“There are humans dying everyday. There are thousands if not millions of homeless people in New York City. Look at what just happened in Haiti. I tend to focus my energy, if there is a cause, on humans. While that may be callous and bad of me, it’s my choice.” Diversion is a common tactic for people who have no argument. Humanitarianism and compassion towards animals are not mutually exclusive objectives. Weir can care about the homeless and not wear fur. China is the largest exporter of fur in the world (40-60% of U.S. fur sold), and it is very difficult to identify the specific animals that produced the fur (e.g., dogs and cats). Of course, it should be irrelevant which animals (mink, chinchillas, seals, foxes, rabbits, raccoons) are used…
Fur is ugly, and the industry has no shame. In promoting their product, The Fur Commission USA claims that fur is a renewable resource (like cotton, a plant), and that they are, in fact, protecting fur-bearing animals from predators and disease (though the animals wouldn’t exist in the first place if not for profit). It is propaganda, including coloring and activity books for children, to make Joseph Goebbels proud. Why not field trips to these family farms so children could witness the tiny cages, manic pacing, self-mutilation, cannibalism, horrible mutations from inbreeding (to produce desirable colors), and executions (anal electrocution and neck-snapping)? And, the fur industry largely polices itself (the animals are not covered by the Animal Welfare and Humane Slaughter Acts).
The subterfuge from the American fur industry stands in stark contrast to Chinese directness. When Paul McCartney urged a boycott of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, a spokesman for the Chinese Ambassador to London said, “…the fur trade mostly feeds markets in the US and Europe. Most of this fur is not for the Chinese market. So the Americans and Europeans should accept the blame. We have no plans to clamp down on this internally that I am aware of – it is for the US and Europeans to take their own action. They should boycott fur as a fashion material.”
Weir: “I do not want something as silly as my costume disrupting my second Olympic experience…” There is nothing silly about fur. While viewing these videos, I was reminded of this quote from the late William Ralph Inge, Anglican priest and Cambridge professor, “We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.”