Fur is going out of fashion. It’s outdated and consumers agree. In the UK, 93 percent of Britons do not wear animal fur, according to a survey by the Humane Society International animal welfare organization. In the United States, the value mink pelts fell more than $ 59 million in 2019. And globally, fur auctions are selling fewer pelts.

But textile innovations have spawned alternatives to vegan fur, proving that faux is the future of fashion. And for good reason.

Many fashion brands are now abandoning animal fur in favor of more ethical materials. | Scott Suriano via Getty Images

The impact of fur on the environment and animals

The fur can come from a variety of animals; mink, rabbits, foxes, chinchillas, and raccoon dogs are just a few examples. And animals like bobcats and weasels can also be caught in the wild.

According to an animal rights group PETA, about 85 percent of the fur industry’s fur comes from animals bred in captivity on fur farms. These animals are often kept in appalling conditions, crammed into cramped cages to maximize profits, with insufficient access to food and water. And to make sure their skins are removed intact, animals are often slaughtered using horrific methods including electrocution, gas, poison, or a broken neck.

Besides cruelty to animals, the impact of fur on the environment is considerable. The ecological footprint of the increased 100 million animals which are cultivated each year, as well as the tanning and dyeing of the fur, are vast: abundant amounts of soil, water and energy are needed. And in addition to being very resource-intensive, the industry is polluting. Animal skins are often soaked in toxic chemicals like formaldehyde – a classified carcinogen that can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, nose and throat – to preserve them. The use of these chemicals, along with animal wastes, often pollutes the environment and surrounding waterways.

And on top of that, fur farms spread disease. Due to the fact that mink are susceptible to respiratory viruses, the COVID-19 outbreaks have had a dramatic impact on hundreds of mink fur farms in Europe and North America. As a result, countries have resorted to slaughtering millions of mink in order to stop the spread of the disease. Following Denmark’s order for a mass mink slaughter last year, Kopenhagen Fur, the world’s largest fur auction house, has revealed it will shut down for good within the next two to three. years.

The future of (fake) fur

Fortunately, we don’t have to contribute to animal cruelty and environmental degradation in the name of fashion. Many brands are now abandoning animal fur in favor of more ethical materials.

In 2019, British designer Stella McCartney launched a sustainable faux fur called Koba. The recyclable material includes plant-based materials, such as corn. “I think fashion is about the future and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your style for durability,” McCartney said. “I wanted to try and develop a faux fur that’s just more durable.”

A wide variety of other fabrics can be used to simulate animal fur, such as hemp and polyester. Scientists have even turned to lab-grown fur to disrupt the luxury fashion industry. Amsterdam-based biotech startup Furoid has created the world’s first in vitro hair follicle bound to collagen, which can be used to make fur and wool without killing animals. While not technically vegan (researchers have grown stem cells from various animals), the material grown offers a solid alternative to fur obtained by culling.

Luxury fashion designers aren’t the only ones giving up on fur. Fur abandonment is happening en masse with countries around the world banning the industry. And even some of the biggest brands of outerwear and athletic wear are moving away from fur. Here are some of the biggest bans of 2021.

About the Author

PERSONAL WRITER | LOS ANGELES, CA Audrey writes on sustainability, food and entertainment. She holds a bachelor’s degree in audiovisual journalism and political science.