When I was in my late teens and early twenties, tolerance was important. If people didn’t agree with each other, it was seen as an opportunity to learn, not a time to create an enemy.
We now live in an age of identity politics where anyone who opposes your identity is automatically considered a villain.
HB 1718 portrays the few remaining fur producers in our state as villains who make a living by killing animals for luxury items. The bill lists false information, including the claim that there is no state or federal regulation of fur production, and militant rhetoric to force fur producers to lose their livelihoods by because of moral judgment.
Fur was once ubiquitous in cold weather clothing due to its unique insulating properties. Unlike synthetic materials, fur creates a barrier between the wearer and the wind or cold preventing the penetration of cold air. In addition, the double layer of fur makes it warmer while maintaining lightweight portability.
So while fur is as useful as its cousins in consumerism – leather, down – due to its negative association with being a luxury item for the wealthy only, it has become a target.
If bills targeting animal products out of legitimate outrage become the norm in our state, what’s next?
You could say that some shoes are luxury items, especially leather ones. However, they are also a mark of professionalism among our legislators; not to mention wallets, briefcases, handbags and a myriad of other products. The animal that contributed to their construction and design is no less dead than the animals that contribute to the production of fur, but there is no bill prohibiting the use of leather goods.
Down pillows and duvets are sources of comfort and warmth in bedding. However, geese and ducks whose duvets were used to make these items were also harvested for these products and there is no bill proposing to ban the use of duvets.
What HB 1718 fails to recognize is that fur production is a highly regulated industry both in Washington State and elsewhere. Breeder associations set standards for the humane breeding, nutrition, housing, veterinary care and harvesting of animals. In the United States, all standards set by breeder associations are enforced by US Fur Commission. These standards include ensuring that animals are treated with care.
While fur animals are, of course, primarily bred for their fur, other parts of the animal are used post-harvest to enrich the agricultural food chain. Mink oil, made from animal fat, is used as a conditioner and preservative in leather goods as well as in hypoallergenic makeup and facial oils. Meat and internal organs are made into crab bait or used as animal feed in wildlife sanctuaries, zoos and aquariums. Finally, manure generated on fur farms is a key ingredient in organic compost used in organic food production.
While there are a lot of terms in the bill about how fur production is detrimental to animals and the environment, HB 1718 aims to point the finger at a small minority of producers in our state who are trying to win their life. Rather than finger pointing and identity politics, we would do better to abandon this point of view in favor of the tolerance and learning approach that was once the hallmark of our citizens.