Anti- fur activists are some of the most aggressive people on the planet and so strolling, unknowingly, through a PETA protest was one of the most shocking, and shameful, experiences of my life. It was Thanksgiving. My husband and I had taken our three youngest children to Manhattan for some holiday weekend fun.
It was freezing outside that day and I wore a shearling coat, one I bought 20 years prior. I don’t have a second shearling coat. Just that one. And I bought it at a time when I did not have awareness about animal cruelty.
As I developed an understanding of a corrupt fur trade, I considered not wearing the coat I already owned. But that seemed ridiculous, a waste: not a fashion waste, a real waste. Plus, it gets really cold in New York, and nothing keeps you warm as fur.
I appeased my conscience by not buying a new one, and justified wearing the one I had by telling myself what’s done is done.
But the angry anti-fur mob before me didn’t know my story nor would they care. They saw my coat and had one mission. Faced with their hostility on 5th Avenue, I was left, at first, frightened and appalled but then furious. With outstretched arms, I tried to shield my children by creating a barricade around them as the protesters waved horrific, graphic signs– images of skinned animals, still alive.
I’m pretty easy-going in general but when people mess with my kids—watch out! Fierceness takes over, a mama bear’s reaction to protecting her cubs.
But in this case, there was little I could do. The damage was done. Even as I covered my children’s eyes, and tried to barrel through the crowd, my children had seen.
Apparently, the protesters were keen on protecting animals but not children.
Once I had a chance to calm down, I wondered about how to proceed. To continue to wear the coat or not, was the question.
I actually have a few fur coats in my attic. They’ve been collecting dust there for years as I refused to wear them. They were gifts from my grandmother who wore chinchilla, sable, fox, beaver, mink, leopard, rabbit and lynx during a time when nobody questioned if wearing fur was wrong.
But she lived in an era when nobody questioned cigarette smoking either.
We have more awareness today. We know that wearing fur is linked to the killing of animals and not always in the most humane ways.
I eat meat and wear leather so I’m left feeling hypocritical when I take a stance like how I am absolutely opposed to buying a coat with a fur-trimmed hood.
Pamela Paquin, is the founder of Petite Mort, a fur company that produces ethical fur. Pamela uses road kill. She calls her product accidental fur. The death of the animal might be unfortunate but it is natural. Animals are not caged or treated badly, and in honor of her Native American roots, Pamela gives a prayer of thanks adding spirituality, consciousness and respect to the process.
The lines are blurry for sure but whether your fur is from your great grandmother or a road kill victim, I don’t recommend wearing it to Angelica Kitchen, a vegan restaurant, in New York City. Take it from me. I’ve tried it. And while I’ve attempted to hold my head high, confident that the coat I was wearing was legitimate, meaning decades old, I still felt judged. I’m tempted to wear a sign: THIS IS A VINTAGE COAT! Which is another way of saying: THIS IS NOT MY FAULT!
But there is a Jewish principle. It goes something like this. A man should not wear a kippah in an unkosher establishment even if he has no intention of eating there because someone might see him and conclude that he is eating there. His behavior could influence another Jew.
There is that thinking with the fur debate as well. By wearing it, I make it seem acceptable.
The thing is that while I don’t always care what people think about what I do, I do care what they think about me in this regard. I don’t want to be seen as someone who could hurt an animal. I don’t want to be blamed for that death.
I’m dreading this upcoming New York winter. The last two have been severe and I’m reconsidering wearing the vintage fur coats I already own: the ones my grandmother purchased in the 50’s and a stunning electric blue one my husband bought me in the 80’s.
It feels like such a waste that they hang in the attic closet year after year. I’m still not certain how I feel about this but one thing is for sure–if I should choose to wear them, I will say a little prayer. I’d like to say that I’ll recite the prayer out of respect for the deceased animal but really it’s to beg that I don’t bump into any anti-fur protesters. They always assume the worst.
And their behavior is deadly.