My first blogpost as the accidental furrier.
What matters most to me is the only relevant question.
With regard to fur, humans, and everything else that
lives - it is always free will.
- WHY FREE WILL -
Free - as in without external limitations
Will - what comes naturally to someone
Important to Americans (this one included) because it is the promise our ancestors sought in leaving their homes for the unknown at best - to come and determine our own fate. Important to us even today after our ancestors endured centuries of oppression based on everything from class, to religion, to family ties and appearance. It goes to the heart of our Declaration of Independence from 1776. We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
You may bend toward Madison - “Where a majority are united by a common sentiment, and have an opportunity, the rights of the minor party become insecure. Or feel that Hamilton understood the basic arc of decision making and muddling along to preserve the whole "If mankind were to resolve to agree in no institution of government, until every part of it had been adjusted to the most exact standard of perfection, society would soon become a general scene of anarchy, and the world a desert". You may extend those rights and considerations to your own "race" or all - you may extend those rights to your own "religion" or all - you may extend those rights to your own "species" or all.
Your willingness to listen and provide space to speak will change drastically according to whom you prescribe as worthy to be considered. And thus you will limit or expand accordingly your own personal capacity to take in data from the system and make decisions based on what is universally helpful, or specifically helpful. And as Jared Diamond so usefully points out in his books Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse it is clear that even societies that seem to thrive short term will collapse if they do not consider the context and input from the ecosystem in which they live.
However, regardless of whether you are a fan of Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza or Bohr - I would bet money you prefer not to live in a cage and let others decide when you will die. This is exactly why we consider long term solitary confinement torture for humans, and the same extends for other mammals. It's why we put toys in hamster and bird cages. It's why if our domesticated cats and dogs are kept in crates permanently, the owners are arrested and the animals confiscated. My personal journey was as a ferret owner living in the mink capital of Europe (Copenhagen Denmark).
My 10 year old ferret fifi giving kisses on her last day while I was 4 months pregnant. Miss my ankle biter!
Below is a series of videos to highlight the context of weasels (Mink - Ferret - Stoat) and provide consideration on how we as humans effect the ability for them to live according to their own free will. Full disclosure - I fully support animals right to eat one another and do not try to make carnivores/omnivores herbivores. Mange!
Farm Raised Mink as described by the Fur Industry itself
The insanity of "domesticated" ferrets...no cage is big enough!
(watch them chase the car at the end to fully appreciate a weasel)
Ranch raise Mink allowed to hunt
Wild Weasel Stoat play leads to effective hunt of
Rabbit 10x it's size
So the question then is how and why and when is this condition appropriate or useful for either humans or other species?
What we hold to be good for ourselves does not necessarily apply to "the other". And how is this all related to an accessory?!
A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE CONTEXT OF HUMAN RELATIONS WITH OTHER SPECIES
There will undoubtedly be times the majority would agree it's time to take out a "sick dog" - someone hurting your child, a rabid dog, and these sort of extreme situations. I am a part of that majority. While I spent an hour placing a baby robin back in the nest this morning, I also chased a German Shepard with a bat intending to use it when it grabbed one of my beloved hens. But as a farmer it was ultimately my fault the hens were free range and thus available for dinner. Now they have electric fencing to keep them safer than before the Shepard. As to the baby Robin, he's my neighbor and I appreciate his eating garden pests and see his health effects mine. Self interest? A mother's instinct? Both likely - and that's ok. Valuing other life is a complex and ever changing consideration.
94% of the population avoids animals in the roads - 6% aim for them. Here's a link to one study done.
Like most I prefer to tread lightly and create life rather than take it. However as a living being my existence requires taking other life. Be it flora or fauna. For years I struggled with this - and once I realized plants communicate I understood becoming vegan/vegetarian was not more peaceful than being an omnivore. It was all about balance and efficiency.
to extend that individual sense of self to other species - while understanding the circle of life as nature's answer through a few billion years of R&D here on earth helped clarify a balanced way forward. As a farmer I dove into how to tend livestock well and give them life affirming conditions (unlike monoculture and factory farming) and a humane death (unlike what happens in the wild). I actually believe most farmers strive for this - even if sometimes the system or an individual falls short. People are trying - even the fur farmers are trying. But just as vegans say eating plant life is acceptable, fur farmers are saying clean cages and a quick death is acceptable. The law moves with our current moral status and is neither the truth or static. So what can one accidental furrier do about a $40 Billion Dollar a year industry?
I'm certainly not the woman to submit to other's definition of working conditions ;-) so here's where I have gotten thus far.
RETURNING THE FAVOR TO OTHER SPECIES ONE PRODUCT AT A TIME
If indeed the Humane Society is correct - about 365 Million animals are killed every year on American roads. The more efficiently we can harness those accidental deaths, the less we need the intentional ones. We become a "decomposer" or "scavenger" rather than simply (and vulnerably) an apex predator. Just as rats pigeons and cockroaches have learned - being flexible ensures resilience. We may call them vermin - but that is only because they are more successful than we are today. The goal of PMF goes beyond simple financial profitability and includes giving back to "the others" their free will. They can live and die as they please. Just as we would like to do. Vegan leather is plastic - and we all know what that does to wildlife and the earth when thrown away - this is not a sustainable option. With Limits to Growth, we cannot afford to habitually re-enforce the throw away culture. 40 years ago %80 of our clothes were made in the USA - today it's reversed to %20 - we are exporting not only the work and jobs of the garment industry, the control of living wages and secure working conditions, but also the profitability --- we are doing this for clothing that we throw away seasonally based on a culture created by those who profit from it...Let's take a step back.
WORKING ON THE CONTEXT
Wildlife just like humans are subject to context and in that sense there is more to do for both humanity and our furry neighbors to build healthy contexts in which both can thrive collectively. Many people are working on this. Many animals are working on this - from trees to Beavers and even the emerging Coywolves of the East - let's remember that!
Accidental Fur is one step - among many like recycled plastic shoes, organic cotton jeans, fair trade everything, transparent products tracing their production line and resource use, Bcorps, and so on - we all have a choice - contribute, or get out of the way.
USEFUL ATTITUDES FOR WORK - EMBRACING THE GREY
We need to embrace the grey regions of morality - this is the gap - this is the place of tension and change - this is where opportunity for mutual profitability exists. It's uncomfortable, it changes shade depending on the current wave of sentiment, but in being neither black nor white, it allows both to continue to exist. And if that is not the case - we have nothing but genocide/ecocide/suicide left to apply as an answer. The minute we allow "the other" to be wrong and bad - we allow ourselves to justify violence. This is why activists on either side do themselves no favors by trading insults.
Accidental fur is real fur, a part of nature - that supports free will of all species.
The Fur Industry has come a long way, and often with the help of non profit groups that advocate for animal welfare. And - there is more work to do.
As my friends at Team Academy say - Change, or Die. You can be sure I have more to say - this is BLOG1 --- and no doubt as we all interact my opinions and awareness will also change.
Let's get to work.