I was recently in Los Angeles walking down Melrose with my friends Carly and Peter. We stopped in a shop called Slow which sells both vintage and new collections - we loved the aesthetic, but were so shocked and grossed-out to see the volume of fur, from accessories to coats. On their website they say "Slow is also pet friendly [smile emoticon] ", and we knew the owners were failing to draw any similarities between the pets they welcomed and the animals who are bludgeoned, crushed, or genitally electrocuted on fur farms, or who slowly starve, dehydrate or bleed to death in fur traps in the wild. Carly was with her dog, and sarcastically asked the employees if they knew of a place that she could have her dog killed and his tail chopped off and turned into a key chain. To our surprise one of the employees answered in all seriousness, saying "a cat would actually be better, because it's more fluffy".
This trend is gaining popularity among too-cool-to-care teens and twenty-somethings. In similar über-cool stores like Oak and Opening Ceremony, the fur industry's trickle-down agenda seems to be working.
As The New York Times exposed, companies like Saga Furs fill the runways, providing free products and money to young designers and students, and eventually, cool-kids want it, having no knowledge or concern where it came from or that the fur was once attached to a living, breathing, feeling animal that needed to be killed in a way that did not damage the pelt.
Fox, raccoon, and even coyote-tail key chains are popping up in clubs, bars and on dance floors across the country. We can blame it on the popularity of Max's costume in Where the Wild Things Are or Peter Pan's lost-boys, we can blame it on our soft-spot for childhood nostalgia from Davey Crockett raccoon-tail caps to playing Cowboys and Indians, or we can just blame it on an apathetic youth culture that attempts to gobble up any bit of twisted symbology that fills a natural desire to have contact with nature and animals.
Whether it's a necklace, an earring, or a tail hanging from a belt-loop, this trend is disturbing on several fronts and it's spreading faster than you can imagine among fashion consumers who want to dress like rebels (yet fail to be rebellious in any real sense, funding one of the most powerful, mainstream industries.) Maybe if these were the tails of the 4 million dogs and cats euthanized in shelters each year in the United States, we could at least claim it's recycling (but we mustn't acknowledge that fact, and using cat or dog pelts would be an affront to our Western sensibilities).
Slow's website even boasts "Our Slow Production team also brings to you an exclusive fur collection, highlighting fur suspenders, leg warmers, caps, and capes. If you love funky fur, you can find it here!". The people wearing these things don't necessarily hate animals, they simply hand over all accountability to stores and suppliers who they rely upon to make ethical decisions (which is a convenient, but ultimately a failed form of faith in nearly every area of consumer culture). The logic goes something like this: "If it was so bad they wouldn't be allowed to sell it". And then the supplier's rationale is "If people thought this was so bad, they wouldn't buy it." Some even argue that tails are "scraps". But if scraps are being sold and making a profit, they are no longer garbage - they represent a growing source of income for the fur industry.
If you see someone wearing these - speak up. Ask them if they hate animals, and if not, why they'd wear the severed tail of an animal that was killed for something as frivolous as an accessory? If you are in a store that sells these products, make sure to speak to a manager and explain (or show with your iPod) how most fur is produced - or at least take a business card and send them an email.
Fashion trends often happen with little or no resistance, but let's not let this one go unchallenged. As harmless as a little pink or green puff seems at first glance, the disgusting and atrocious treatment of fur-bearing animals is a big deal - especially to the animals experiencing it.