Cruel and Unusual Clothing

by | Nov 20, 2021

To many of us, the thought of a fur coat is abhorrent. It may conjure up images of Cruella DeVil going after all those sweet little puppies–although I think it’s noteworthy that in the new origin story of that notorious fashionista femme fetalle, Cruella (2021), the directors had the sense to know that their audience would never sympathize with their antihero if she actually harmed a Dalmatian. 

 Image by inspiredbythemuse on Pixabay

From Disney movie rewrites to designers for celebrities like Billie Eilish, who agreed to wear her Oscar de la Renta gown to the Met Gala only if the designer agreed to go fur-free, the signs are everywhere: people are waking up to the senselessness of fur.

Even if the cultural milieu is moving away from designers who use fur, the fur industry isn’t going down without a fight. While the average, everyday consumer probably doesn’t have to think too hard about avoiding fur–with its exorbitant price tag in addition to the requisite animal suffering involved–fur continues to be seen as a luxury good and a status symbol for many. 

As we move into the holiday season, gift giving–especially for those who seem to “have everything”–can be a season of temptation for many of us to spring for something someone might really appreciate–something they might not have or might not ever buy for themselves. It’s worth remembering, though, that fur isn’t the way to go–for many reasons.

If knowing that animals had to die to allow that mink shawl to be created isn’t enough of a deterrent for you or a gift-seeking friend, it’s worth remembering that fur farms are some of the cruelest places for animals on the planet. As the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) explain, 

[F]ur farmers pack animals into unbearably small cages, preventing them from taking more than a few steps in any direction or doing anything that is natural and important to them, such as running, swimming, making nests, and finding mates… The anguish and frustration of life in a cage leads many animals to self-mutilate, biting at their skin, tail, and feet; frantically pace and circle endlessly; and even cannibalize their cagemates.

Photo by Earthbuddies

Not only is this circumstance inhumane; it’s also a breeding ground for diseases, including diseases that can infect human beings such as Covid-19. In fact, last year, Covid-19 infections in farmed mink in Europe grew so bad that Denmark executed millions of the animals in an effort to keep the virus from mutating and spreading back to humans–a worst-case scenario that had already played out in the Netherlands. Not only does the spread of disease in these farms endanger human lives, it also adds exponentially to the suffering the disease-riddled animals experience while they await their final cruel indignity–the execution.

Execution methods for animals on fur farms are so inhumane it’s almost unbelievable, like the evil plot of a cartoon villain come to life. As PETA explains, 

Because fur farmers care only about preserving the quality of the fur, they use slaughter methods that keep the pelts intact but that can result in extreme suffering for the animals. Some animals even wake up while they are being skinned. Animals have clamps attached to or rods forced into their mouths and anuses, and they are painfully electrocuted…

It should go without saying that the animals raised for fur–all higher-order mammals, not all that different from our own beloved dogs and cats–experience pain, suffering, and sadness. What’s more, these animals aren’t being tormented for any purpose–there’s no medical advances coming from their suffering, no one is getting food or nourishment. They are suffering and dying on the altar of high fashion.

Image by USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr

As the fur industry fights back against accusations that they are endangering human lives while causing immeasurable animal suffering, let’s remain united against them. Let’s reject any thought of buying fur items for ourselves or as gifts for others. PETA invites us to sign a fur-free pledge, which is another great starting point. 

In addition, we can support organizations that are willing to fight against the fur industry. Consider making a donation to Humane Action Pittsburgh–perhaps even in honor of that hard-to-buy-for loved one. We also have merchandise available to purchase if you’re looking for more ethical gift ideas. And you can always join our action team to find out when legislation around the fur industry is up for public comments or votes. Reaching out to your legislator–especially at the right time–can go a long way in ensuring protections for these animals. 


Aimee Douglass is the Director of Compassionate Living. Aimee works in the healthcare industry and has a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a masters degree in Communications with a health care focus from Southern New Hampshire University.

Abhi Nadendla is a blogger at HAP and has been volunteering at the organization since late 2022. She is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and loves spending her free time helping out at animal shelters.

Hannah Lewis is a grant writer and blogger from Pittsburgh’s North Side who has been with HAP since 2020. In addition to writing and advocating for animals, she enjoys hiking, cooking plant-based meals, bouldering at her local climbing gym, and curling up with a good book and her long-haired cat, Freyja.

Kelly Frantz has recently joined the HAP family as a blog writer. She is passionate about animal protection and is excited to educate the community about animal welfare.