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Macy's fur ban: Fashion is moving away from the inhumane practice

Macy's fur ban: Fashion is moving away from the inhumane practice
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I remember protesting fur sales at Macy’s flagship store in New York City in the 1980s, so I am very happy that they’ve finally agreed to stop selling fur. 

This comes in the wake of a newly passed law in California that will ban fur sales, and reflects a growing awareness about the need to examine and reform how we mistreat and abuse other animals.

As Gandhi famously said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.” By taking a principled stand against fur, Macy’s is helping to elevate our empathy for others, and empathy is a very important part of our humanity.

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Billions of non-human animals suffer terribly at human hands every year, and while we may rationalize our injurious conduct and tell ourselves that other animals don’t deserve any better, the truth is that our mistreatment of other creatures says more about us than it does about them.

Macy’s announcement should be applauded, and it should also be recognized that luxury fashion designers and manufacturers including Versace, Michael Kors, Gucci, Prada Group, among others have vowed to remove fur from their collections — leading the way for Macy’s and other department stores to follow.

Animals across the U.S. are abused in myriad ways, whether for fur, food or other purposes, and consumers have been unwitting accomplices. By purchasing products of exploitation, we subsidize and support cruelty.

At the same time, a growing number of citizens are learning more about the sad realities behind fur and other animal products. Our collective conscience has been shocked by the appalling pictures and videos of animal cruelty, which are now readily available online. 

As a species, we purport to be civil and humane, but our actions prove otherwise. In some instances, people torture innocent creatures, which perpetrates merciless violence. Most of the time, however, cruelty to animals is part of a broader social and economic system where animals are seen as commodities, rather than as living feeling creatures.

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Humans have come to exert enormous power over the lives of other animals, especially those we have domesticated and exploit by the billions. And, with great power comes great responsibility.

For decades, fur has been marketed as a symbol of wealth and status, but societal values are evolving along with growing ethical concerns about our fraught relationships with other animals. 

The intolerable abuses experienced by animals exploited for their skin and pelts are outside the bounds of acceptable conduct in our society, and with greater social awareness, it is getting more difficult for fur industry promoters to rationalize and defend their untoward practices. Most people are humane and would rather not cause unnecessary pain or suffering to other animals. As individuals, and as a society, we can do better. 

Macy’s announcement comes in the midst of major shifts in our understandings of other animals and us, which will have serious implications for animal exploiting industries. Laws are being updated and forward looking entrepreneurs and businesses are responding with innovative products that can succeed in this changing marketplace. 

In addition to banning the sale of fur, California, which is our nation’s wealthiest and most populace state, has also outlawed other forms of animal cruelty, including the extreme confinement of animals on factory farms and the force feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras. The state also prohibits the sale of products from these inhumane systems, and other states are now following suit.

Thankfully, innovators and businesses are developing fabric, food and other products that are produced in more humane and sustainable ways to meet the demands of more conscientious consumers.

As a longtime animal activist and vegan, I’m excited about the positive changes underway, and I believe momentum is building with a growing number of people learning about the consequences of our choices and seeking to live in better alignment with our compassionate values. Think about it, if we can live well without causing unnecessary harm, why wouldn’t we?

Gene Baur is the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary.