Monday, September 26, 2011

Ban Fur? Then Why Not Leather?

No Moral Distinction
Gary L. Francione is a distinguished professor of law at Rutgers School of Law–Newark. 

There is no moral distinction between fur and other materials made from animals, such as leather, which also is the result of the suffering and death of sentient beings. And as anyone who is knowledgeable about wool production knows, it, too, comes from animals who are treated brutally in the shearing process and ultimately killed in a slaughterhouse. These anti-fur campaigns are not only problematic as a matter of moral theory; they are a practical failure in real-world terms.

For a variety of reasons, many animal advocates are drawn to these “single-issue” campaigns that seek arbitrarily to declare some form of animal use or some animal product as morally more odious than others. These campaigns are not only problematic as a matter of moral theory; they are a practical failure in real-world terms. The anti-fur campaign has been around for decades and the fur industry is as strong as ever. As long as we refuse to think critically about institutionalized animal use as a general matter, such campaigns really cannot make much sense.

 Most of us accept that imposing "unnecessary" pain, suffering and death on animals is wrong. Whatever “necessity” means in this context, it implies that it is wrong to impose suffering or death for reasons of pleasure, amusement, or convenience. But those are the only justifications we have for imposing suffering and death on over 56 billion animals (not counting fish) we kill annually worldwide for food. No one maintains we need to eat animal products for optimal health, and there is a growing consensus that animal agriculture is an ecological disaster.

 We eat animals because they taste good. And if that’s O.K., what’s wrong with wearing fur? We need as a society to think seriously about our institutionalized animal use. Efforts like the West Hollywood fur “ban” will not get us any closer to that goal. Join Room for Debate on Facebook and follow updates on

 What are your thoughts on the fur ban idea?

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