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The tortured ethics of wearing animal furs

PETA, or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to give them their full name, have announced that they are to organise a distribution of a number of fur coats to the homeless of Liverpool. (I'm not sure why they picked Liverpool, perhaps they think everywhere north of Watford suffers from Artic conditions.)

It seems that there a number of individuals who regularly become so ashamed of the contents of their wardrobe that they whip out their minks and sables and offload them on their friendly neighbourhood PETA representative. "We get so many we needed to find something constructive to do with them" as a PETA spokesman said, going on to explain that such items were normally burned or buried deep in some landfill site. The campaigning organisation now seems to feel that keeping the homeless and destitute warm over the cold winter is a better use of these otherwise redundant items.

(Although apparently the chap from the Liverpool YMCA who is co-ordinating the hand-outs seemed rather less impressed and thought most of them would end up at the local Cash Converters; with the resulting cash no doubt being rapidly re-converted into Carlsberg Special Brew and crack cocaine.)

Although this is news to us here in Britain apparently PETA have done this before across the pond and even shipped fur coats over to Afghanistan as aid to the stricken refugees of that country. In fact so regular and prevalent are the announcements of these 'fur-coats-for- the-homeless' initiatives that it does make one wonder when was the last time PETA actually incinerated a fur coat. Perhaps their PR people have been rather lazy in re-using the same press release once too often.

From which we can now all conclude that it is apparently morally unjustifiable to wear a fur coat if you have bought and paid for it with your own hard earned money, but quite acceptable to wear one if it's given to you by someone else. Although exactly where the ethical dividing line is to be placed I'm not sure.

Is it necessary to be of no fixed abode with a certifiable meths drinking habit to qualify as a morally acceptable fur coat wearer? Does the time honoured method of acquiring a fur coat with someone-else's-money qualify? (You know, the one that involves performing sexual acts for wealthy gentlemen that their wives won't do....Although come to think of it, that probably constitutes payment in kind, so won't make it across the line. Never mind.) Or does the gift have to completely gratuitous without any trace of consideration? Or do you need a certified statement of exemption from your local PETA office?

It all seems rather cloudy, for an organisation supposedly concerned with ethics PETA did not seem overly keen on being drawn into a detailed analysis of the ethical issues involved.

Now I haven't worn my grandmothers old mink for ages now, simply because I was always getting accosted by some individual or other with staring eyes who would insist on trying to engage me in conversation without being properly introduced. Do you think I can now safely wear it out in public if I mess my hair up, paint a large bruise on my forehead and stagger ever so slightly as I sway down the street with a half empty bottle of VP wine clutched in my outstretched hand? It's worth a try I suppose, although it might frighten the other ladies at the Bridge Club.

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Provoked by news reports on:-
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_722922.html
http://society.guardian.co.uk/homelessness/story/0,8150,855510,00.html

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