Last weekend I went to the Couleur Café Festival in Brussels. Saturday’s headliner was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis who flooded the airwaves of Europe with ‘Thrift Shop’ this spring, a song which may be about creating a unique, personal style through second hand shopping – or it might just be a one finger salute to the consumer society. Or simply an excuse to rap a ton of bad words.
Whatever the deeper meaning of the song, a silly scene played out during the performance in Brussels. Someone in the audience was kind enough to lend his fat fox fur coat to Macklemore while performing, but when trying to crowd-surf the coat back afterwards, another someone decided to keep the souvenir. Awkward situation, the rapper had to urge the thief to let go of the fur coat, and it was just one of those situations where most of the crowd thought “not so cool, dude. Return the coat” (which eventually happened).
Now, as much as this situation probably was about a fan wanting a souvenir from his idol, the whole thing did make me think about the ethics of wearing fur. In the fur debate, ethics are pretty much defined as having to do with animal welfare, the necessity of the product, the utilization of the fur animals, environmental impact, and, to some people, the intrinsic value of the animals – but what about the value to humans?
The only theme in the ethical debate that matters for the animals is the welfare provided for them whilst they are alive. Animals do not have an opinion about global warming, and they certainly do not have a clue of whether they are becoming food or fashion. Because animal welfare is the only thing from the debate animals can feel and experience, animal welfare is the single most important argument in the moral justification of using fur.
The rest of the arguments are only relevant to humans, and Macklemore’s fur coat kind of inspired me to an extra take on that.
Say we have a plate of chicken and a fur coat. Say that the chicken is deliciously prepared, and the consumer who eats the chicken gains both a full stomach and some joyful moments because this was a particularly sweet and tasty chicken. The next day however, her stomach is empty, and a few days after that the chicken is erased from our consumer’s memory forever.
The fur coat is another matter. If it is a cool fur coat, our consumer is likely to talk a lot about it, and this will lead to others talking about it. The fur coat might become a subject of admiration, maybe even envy, and even strangers will admire the fur coat. Perhaps, at some point in its life span, the fur coat will ignite an emotional debate about ethics too, but in the most cold of those winters, no one can argue against the value of the fur coat, and the owner’s appreciation is certain to grow. Year after year, the fur coat will provide moments of human feel-good and appreciation, perhaps even happiness, to its owner.
The chicken, on the other hand, is forgotten the same week it is consumed.
The life span of a fur coat is maybe 20-25 years. The value to the consumer during this time is obviously tremendous in comparison with a plate of chicken. And then, when the life of the fur coat seems to be over, it may just get another life through the thrift shop and revoke another number of positive human moments.
“What you know about rockin’ a wolf on your noggin?
What you knowin’ about wearin’ a fur fox skin?
I’m digging, I’m digging, I’m searching right through that luggage
One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come-up