Archive for the ‘pelts’ Category

Would you trap, kill, skin and sew your own fur? One girl’s extreme attempt to see if animal pelts can ever be ethical – by Daisy Dumas – Last updated at 1:42 AM on 21st February 2012

In Animal Rights, best practices, foxes, pelts on February 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Jenni Avins owns a red fox vest. It is simple, warm and, to many, hideously ugly for what it represents.

To Ms Avins, though, it is not only thing of beauty, but the hard-earned product of hours of her own labour and learning.

At, she details her first, eye-opening experience of trapping and skinning foxes, the tanning process and finally the specialist seamstress work that is needed to make just one fur vest.
Blood sport: Jenni Avins trapped and skinned a fox then sewed her own fur vest

Blood sport: Jenni Avins trapped and skinned a fox then sewed her own fur vest

It is all part of her experiment to see ‘just how difficult it would be to transform dead animal skin into haute couture.’

It was also a personal quest to unearth whether ‘free range fur’ is a possibility – could American wild fur have ‘the potential be the fashion-industry equivalent of sustainable, free-range, farm-to-table meat’?

‘As it turns out, it’s a macabre but doable task, given some expert assistance,’ she writes at the magazine site.

A trail of phone calls led the tenacious Ms Alvis to a Pennsylvania forest. There, she was taught to lay raccoon and fox traps. Marshmallows, a bacon-scented potion and a grape jelly-like mixture was enough to entice raccoons, or coon, to the vicious spring-mounted traps along muddy riverbanks.

Failing to trap her own animal overnight, the one-time fashion insider, who had worked with a designer who had a ‘penchant for fur dyed in bold colours’ instead headed to the basement of a hunting business, where ‘death was everywhere, and it was crowded’ and picked a frozen fox, killed earlier in the week.

Wild woods: The writer’s journey began in a Pennsylvania wood, where she was taught to set fox and raccoon traps by a professional hunter and his business partner

Skinning her small beast was an effort in strength – a strong gut, certainly, but also a strong arm, the small fox not letting go easily of its protective hide.

The process is a gruesome one, not for the faint-hearted.

‘I felt the hook push past the bones and saw it come out on the other side. Eric slowly turned the fox, now hanging by its hind legs, a blue plastic bucket on the floor beneath its nose. A few drops of blood had already fallen in,’ she writes.

‘With the tip of the blade, I traced up the backs of the fox’s shins and then around the bottoms of its ankles. I worked my fingers into the seam of sliced flesh, pulling the fur from shiny muscle until the swath was completely separated and hanging just below its tail…

Not for the faint-hearted: Skinning the fox was an ordeal – bloody, tough and gruesome, the process took 40 minutes and required both mental and physical strength

Not pretty: Ms Avins described skinning the creature as ‘horrific’ and found herself crying by the end of the process, when she finally held the full pelt in her hands

‘Without warning, my right hand flew down the length of the tail as the fox swung away from me, and a long, spindly bone sprang up in my face. It was absolutely horrific. “This is the easy part,” Eric [her guide, a professional hunter] said. “Wait until we get to the hard stuff.”’

The ‘hard stuff’ involved unwrapping the fox of its entire coat, leaving a ‘red and violet body’, alien-like in its strange, exposed appearance.

‘I was holding the entire skin, inside out, in my arms, completely bewildered,’ Ms Avins writes. ‘I looked at the clock. The process had taken about 40 minutes.

‘Something inside me wanted to clutch it to my chest, like a teddy bear or a baby. I felt my chin crinkle up and tried to steady myself, fearing [the hunters] might start to wonder whether I was an undercover activist.

New York furrier: The one-time fashion insider used the expertise of a Manhattan furrier to sew her fresh pelts together. Sewing took four days

‘To my horror, I was starting to cry.’

Four skins later, and Ms Avins had enough hide to make her vest.

The tanning stage was completed in New Jersey, by a man who had never skinned an animal himself. She described the relief of off-loading the reeking skins that she had kept in her bathroom, after they developed an ‘odor somewhere between a butcher block, a leather shop, and a bowl of Cheetos’.

The writer describes the ‘furs frothing in tubs of soap, chemicals, and salt, preparing to be scraped of excess flesh, moisturized, and then tumbled in towering wooden barrels’ – all part of the age-old process of turning skin into fur.

Steam blasting: Final touches included steaming the fur. It took just weeks to get to this stage, from the wood to a Manhattan workshop

From a wintry wood in Pennsylvania to Manhattan’s fur district, the final stage of Ms Avins’ fur journey was an urban affair, conducted with the help of an expert furrier.

‘We matched two of the saltier-colored furs and laid them side by side,’ she writes. ‘With a gold-handled blade, Dimitris sliced off their pale inner edges and sewed the skins together, creating a mutant, two-headed fox pelt with a double-wide back. “See?” he said. “Like plastic surgery.” Then he unceremoniously swiped across the tops of their necks. Like that, my foxes were fabric.’

Dimitris, explains Ms Avins, is one of just 40 furriers remaining in Manhattan. 27 years ago, there were over 500.

Lining and an embroidered monogram later, and the vest was complete. The Manhattan-finished garment had come a long way from its humble, wild and muddy beginnings.
Safe hands: Dimitris, one of just 400 furriers remaining in Manhattan of around 500 in the Eighties, guides Ms Avins in the cutting process

Safe hands: Dimitris, one of just 400 furriers remaining in Manhattan of around 500 in the Eighties, guides Ms Avins in the cutting process

An ethical project of sorts, while Ms Avins was determined enough to go to the lengths of experiencing the whole fur-making process, her experiment has still left some animal rights commentators cold.

PETA’s campaign director, Lindsay Wright, was unequivocal: ‘The fur trade is simply a violent, bloody industry, any way you slice it.’

Finishing touch: While Ms Avins’ dedication to her morals is impressive, PETA and animal rights academics were not convinced by the ethics of ‘free range fur’

Even academics did not feel that Ms Avins’ novel approach to a fox-skin vest altered the ethical certainty of fur.

She spoke to Steven Wise, author of An American Trilogy and a legal scholar specialising in animal rights. She wanted his opinion as to whether killing or processing one’s own garment influenced his belief that all fur should be illegal.

‘No,’ he told her. ‘It just makes you wonder whether it’s insane.’

Commentator Comments :

Vile woman. What a cruel, vain and wholly unnecessary act. This article made me sick and I am surprised that you published it. Disgusting.

– ENR, London UK, 21/2/2012 13:19
Rating   18

Unless you lot are all vegetarian, and never wear leather etc, or use/eat any other product derived from animals, you have no right to criticise and essentially are a bunch of hypocrites. Wearing and using real fur and skins should be perfectly acceptable — especially if ithe animal is not endangered, has been killed as quickly and humanely as possible and the other parts were also used.

– Sarah, London UK, 21/2/2012 13:18
Rating   56

The biggest problems I have with the fur industry is the conditions in which animals live and how they’re killed. The same ethics apply to my consumption of meat. I expect eggs to come from free-range chickens, I expect meat to come from animals that lived with room to move, outside access, and a quick death. Essentially I have no problem with someone shooting an animal then skinning it for its fur, if it lived a normal wild life first. I agree with taking what you need rather than stockpiling supply on a fur farm. But I’d question the traps mentioned in this article – how do they work? Does an animal die instantly, or remain trapped and in pain for hours? Aesthetically I also find the fur industry unpleasantly ostentatious. I wouldn’t wear fur any more than I’d carry a handbag covered with logos and clanking hardware. I think it’s vulgar. I don’t live in the Russian steppes, so a few layers, a big scarf and a couple of pairs of tights under my jeans usually keep me warm

– Jen, London, 21/2/2012 12:03
Rating   77

No, just no. We’re not cave men. It’s not the Ice Ages. Nor do we live in Siberia. Killing an animal simply to wear it’s fur is not necessary, it’s deplorable. Skinning a frozen fox? NO. You want the authentic experience, then do it. Trap the fox YOURSELF, skin it alive YOURSELF (that’s how they do it in real life). Not so neat and tidy then, huh?

– Tiare, Hawaii, USA, 21/2/2012 11:00
Rating   43

Though I am usually more eloquent and/or verbose, only one word comes to mind: vomit.

– Sandra, Los Angeles, CA, 21/2/2012 09:57
Rating   44

I think DM is pretty brave publishing this article. Just reading Liz Jones vitriol and the ensuing comments after the Mulberry and Matthew Williamson use of fur in their shows I expected more of the same. I am pro fur and have received death threats for my opinion- which is rather ludicrous and somewhat decreases the strength of their argument. Like Ms Avins, I have trapped and skinned and treated and its hard work; I have also shot and cooked game. All this makes me appreciate the finished product more.

– Elaine- Modesty Personified!, Birmingham UK, 21/2/2012 09:28
Rating   2

I don’t condone wearing or creating fur of any kind. I do recognise that in some parts of the world people have no choice, such as tribes residing north of the arctic circle who wear seal skins. In their defence, they also consume the meat of the seal. I just do not understand in this day and age how people in nations where you have beautiful fake fur to wear, still go on wearing the skins of innocent animals. Like other people have commented before, when we speak of leather, at least it comes from an animal from which we use nearly everything. Foxes kept in tiny cages and then skinned only for their fur, which is in no way necessary for us, cannot be justified.

– miia, switzerland, 21/2/2012 09:05
Rating   73

4 pelts for one lousy vest? 4 innocent lives taken for just one sleeveless vest that wouldn’t even keep you warm… I’m disgusted. At least with leather (not that I agree with it) you can get multiple items from one hide as well as plenty of meat to go around. Jenni, it’s obvious that your only intention was to get publicity and an excuse to own a fur vest, not to do any research like you claim.

– Loula, Boston, 21/2/2012 05:05
Rating   85

This is a clever piece of propaganda. You know, those traps also kill our family pets. It probably wouldn’t be so “fashionable”, though, to acknowledge that. Truly, in trapping, “death is everywhere.”

– Scott Slocum, White Bear Lake, MN, USA, 21/2/2012 05:02
Rating   63

That’s disgusting that she supported killing an animal just for its fur. That she skinned it herself and it was frozen doesn’t make it acceptable to those who do not support the wearing of fur anymore. I would only support her methods if she had eaten all of the fox meat also.

– Lisa, Los Angeles, USA, 21/2/2012 05:01

[[[ *** RESPONSE *** ]]]

Not insane or bad or evil at all. It’s not a suit of ‘Human Skin/Flesh’ is it? (Even then the consensual could put forward a reasoned argument if the material came from a consenting and aware party . . . ). These are survival skills that should never be lost, but if everyone did this there would be no justification either for the suffering. Maybe animatronic foxes to practice with, THEN combined with SPONSORSHIP of free range foxes in specialised reserves as close to nature as possible, that are skinned ONLY AFTER natural death?

This way anyone with a pelt of any sort would be praised for patience (foxes live a few decades) and with the animatronic option will have preserved survival skills (perhaps the fur could be specially marked on a certain manner to show the wearer has actual skinning skills), without causing unecessary suffering, and kept ENTIRELY ethical (having sponsored the fur animal) as well.

The costs are raised tremendously in this format but if fur wearing is intended to be elite, this could be the way to go. Probably for the first birthdays of many children of the elite, parents  would ‘sponsor a fox, elephant (for tusks), or a number of tagged sharks (for fins)’ on a reserve/ocean reserve somewhere that will be skinned/harvested in a few decades after that fox’s/elephant’s/shark’s (200 years means Great-Grandad did the sponsoring . . . VERY l33t – more so than aged wines no???) natural lifespan ends.

Dmitris? Talk about coincidences, there is another Dmitrys who does ‘furry art’ as well . . .