Everything old is new again, and vintage inspired fashion has been dominating the catwalk for the past few years. This is a wonderful trend those of us who like to look dapper at all times. This nostalgia has spread to film, TV, beauty, décor, and every other aspect of living. It’s wonderful, really. But there’s an interesting phenomenon coming along with this movement that I felt the need to comment on: the idea that animal cruelty is ‘retro’. I’m talking about the unprecedented resurgence of fur and leather in fashion, and I’m talking about companies returning to animal testing and flying under the radar. More so, I’m talking about the attitude a lot of people are taking to these issues.
A decade or more ago, fur was just not on. Celebrities were falling over themselves to campaign against it. You got death stares for donning mink; you got red paint thrown on you for supporting an industry that is exceedingly cruel and wasteful. Even people who weren’t concerned about the leather industry’s waste and cruelty issues, who chowed down on a steak every night had reservations about fur. It seemed even worse somehow to take a life just for vanity. Now? It’s “glamorous” and “retro chic”. Lady Gaga tells her millions of young fans that a fur coat is a ‘work of art’, and that exotic skins are also tres chic. Global fur sales went up 70 per cent between 2000 and 2010: that is a huge figure, and a huge amount of animals being farmed exclusively for the skin on their backs. Even revelations that dogs and cats are being skinned for their fur and sold on international markets hasn’t stemmed the demand.
Meanwhile, cosmetics companies resume animal testing years after pledging to be ‘cruelty free’, and no one blinks an eyelid. Animal testing was the ‘animal’ cause de jour some ten years ago, just as fur was some ten years before that. What is happening here is not just a fashion and lifestyle trend. It’s not just apathy. It’s a nostalgic attitude.
Society as a whole became a lot more compassionate and motivated on a number of key issues in the 80s. Environmentalism was given a voice, and more people than ever started questioning the ethics of what they spent their dollar on. Just as many of us reach a point of ‘compassion fatigue’ after viewing one too many World Vision ads, society as a whole seems to have gotten tired of caring whether their toiletries were tested on, or their coat came from an animal just as friendly and inquisitive as the one in the living room. We tried to juggle caring about the environment, human rights, animal rights, our family, friends, and somewhere along the line, ourselves. We got tired and started dropping the balls. Then we started tossing them away and telling ourselves that in doing so, we were subverting popular beliefs. “No one tests on animals these days, anyway.” “It’s just a fur lining, and it’s such a niche market these days.” The fur industry actually sells more than 15 billion dollars’ worth of product each year.
Then suddenly, retro culture gives us rose coloured glasses, and opens a door to a world where things are simple. Make-up is just make-up; fur is glamorous and hey, you’re worth it. Smoking won’t cause cancer, and neither will forgoing sunscreen. I can see the appeal of burying our heads in the sand and pretending the world isn’t complicated. Unfortunately though, it is. In a world of seven billion people, nothing is as simple as it once was and every purchase counts.
Supporting the fur industry doesn’t make you retro, it makes you complicit in a multi-billion dollar industry where cruelty is the only product. It’s not sustainable or eco-friendly, though it is being marketed as such, and it’s not okay. Searching for cruelty free and vegan products is easy. In fact, here’s a handy guide for you. You just have to give enough of a damn to look. I know you’re tired. We all are. But it’s time to wake up. Animal cruelty is not vintage. It’s only intensified in the modern age. It’s right now, and if we don’t take a stand, it’s the future, too.
Anna Angel is a Brisbane based journalist, writer, and vegan. She likes to daydream just as much as she likes to explore the big issues of life. Anna has been vegetarian for half her life, and vegan since 2007.
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