Monday, July 30, 2012

The Fuzzy Line between Right and Wrong

Have you read Posing as Ashley?  (Spoiler alert:  if you haven't, you may not want to read any further, as the rest of this post is about a major plot point.  I'll pause for a moment so you can turn away...)


If you're still here, I'm assuming you've already read Posing as Ashley.  In the story, Ashley's pursuing a modelling career - until her personal ethics clash with those of the clothing manufacturer who's hired her to model fur-trimmed sweaters.  Did you think she overreacted?  Is fur even relevant in this day and age?

To be honest, when I wrote the book I planned to make it about a different issue - that of product testing on animals.  My publisher, however, suggested changing the focus to fur, and after much discussion and research, I agreed.

At first, I believed that most people were already firmly on one side or the other when it came to wearing fur.  And I didn't actually see how it mattered much to my readers, who aren't blue-haired old ladies parading around town in mink coats (my own grandmother wore a dead fox around her neck - feet and all - at my wedding where MY DOG WAS THE RING BEARER!  See the irony???).

Anyway, as I researched the book, I came away with a much deeper respect for the complexities of the issue.  This article, which recently appeared in The Toronto Star, describes China's use of dog and cat fur in clothing that is regularly purchased by North Amercians.  Gross?  Maybe.  Or maybe not. 

I don't think it would be much of a stretch to say that my dog and cats live a better life with me than much of the world's population.  They have access to plenty of nutritious food, clean water, shelter and medical care.  Meanwhile, in China, (where using dog and cat fur provides a source of income for some) Forbes magazine said:
"The number of Chinese living in poverty is expected to reach 100 million if the country decides to consider people who earn up to 1,500 yuan ($229) a year as being poor, a senior poverty alleviation official has said.  To now be deemed impoverished, a person must make less than 1,196 yuan a year."

($229?  I am almost embarrassed to admit that I spent more than that on a single veterinarian bill just last week.)

If the dog and cat meat is going to be consumed as food and they are not being killed solely for their furs, maybe a dog fur vest isn't really any different than the leather jacket I wear out to my favourite steak restaurant.  And if we're buying it without asking questions about what it is we have actually purchased, who are we to complain about where it came from?

Not so simple, is it?

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