One of the most exciting new movements in recent times, in my opinion, has been the development of the progressive “woke” brand.
Brands are now developing into socially responsible actors who support your right to protest, want to tackle toxic masculinity, and want to create vegan treats for the animal-welfare conscious generation. For the millennial progressive, most likely to rail against the benefits of free enterprise – the market provides.
This is very apparent in the growth of the sustainable fashion industry. Emotionally-charged campaigns by groups like PETA have told the consumer that buying animal products is a huge knock-back for animal conservation. The world is becoming more ethically aware – particularly on the environment – and that’s a great thing. Personally, I wouldn’t buy a fur product and try and keep my meat consumption relatively low – as do many people my age. And that’s why alternatives like faux fur have risen to fame. That said, there is a dark side to the faux fur industry that requires a second look.
Not only does the faux fashion industry hurt indigenous communities, but it’s purporting to make major steps in animal conservation whilst harming the environment by producing higher greenhouse gas emissions than any other fashion product. Natural products are biodegradable and don’t use petroleum in production - unlike faux fur products. Labour MP Mary Creagh, who recently led a parliamentary inquiry into sustainable fashion, noted that fake fur is almost impossible to recycle – and in many cases the ethically conscious consumer is actually having an adverse effect on the planet. Whilst morally, faux fur may be the much better bet for the new age consumer – the manufacturing of them majorly contributes to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
PETA (of dog barbecuing fame) should devote more time to making the dark side of the vegan fashion industry more transparent. In fact, when it comes to animal conservation, there’s something to be said for properly regulating the fashion industry rather than boycotting it. For example, various programmes ensure the production of animal-derived materials adheres to environmental standards and actually enhance animal welfare. By ensuring well-regulated, ethical trading with the indigenous people who rely on the basic fashion market continues, we encourage them to keep animals healthy as the lifeblood of their communities – they’re very much aware of the downsides of harming animals.
Conservation programme WelFur, for example, was established by a number of EU-based universities specialising in animal sciences and conservation, alongside the fur industry – and has established a reliable on-farm animal welfare assessment system based on scientifically proven measures and independent third party assessments. WelFur’s commitment to animal conservation shows that the industry has a long way to go, but it’s learning.
However arguments aren’t just coming from one political spectrum. 'The Independent', so committed to animal welfare that they published fake news suggesting the Conservative Party had outlawed the very concept of animal sentience, recently ran with a piece that noted the fashion industry is turning a blind eye to the un-sustainability of faux fur. Indeed, there’s evidence that the production of fur produces more greenhouse gas emissions than any other fashion item, according to Lucy Spiegle of the Guardian’s ‘Green & Ethical Living’ section. Certainly, the dark side of the vegan fashion industry means it can’t be worlds ahead for
environmentalists – as brands aren’t exactly ditching the fur entirely, but swapping it out for lavish faux products.
Obviously, if you care about animal welfare and the environment – there are major ethical implications attached to buying natural products. It’s very exciting that the market is adapting to allow for the priorities of the next generation – and events such as Helsinki Fashion Week are perfectly within their rights to ban fur products.
As always, though, it’s wildly important that the consumer has access to enough information to make an informed choice - and it’s simply untrue that the faux fur market has the answers that all conservation activists have been looking for.
by Matt Gillow