"Ethical fur" may seem like an oxymoron, especially in light of greenwashing campaigns that attempt to obfuscate the full environmental impact and inhumane practices of the mainstream fur industry. Nevertheless, there are alternatives, and we've seen designers use roadkill for fur clothing rather than raise captive animals, and it may make more sense than you may initially think.
According to Culture Change, around 1 million animals are killed on American roads every day (or approximately 365 million animals a year). The fur industry, on the other hand, kills 50 million animals per year. So that's a lot of roadkill that's essentially going to waste -- a fact that's spurred the recent rise of "roadkill cuisine" and businesses like Wayland, Massachusetts-based ethical fur company Petite Mort.
Founder Pamela Paquin, a former global sustainability consultant who grew up on a dairy farm, handcrafts luxurious items out of dead animals that she finds on the roads. She calls it "accidental fur," working with local highway agencies and animal control departments to source the dead animals, which have ranged from fox, beaver, bears, raccoons, otters, deer, mink and more. She works with local taxidermists to process the skins, which are then shipped off to a tannery in Idaho, one of the few places that can handle partial pelts. The website explains:
Accidental furs are loving resurrections of our fuzzy wild neighbors who have met with an untimely or natural death – it is sensible Yankee ethics at their best. Each luxurious piece is hand made, individually numbered, custom tailored to each owner’s specifications, befitting an heirloom investment.
Paquin's furry gloves, leg warmers, neck muffs and hats aren't cheap, ranging from USD $380 to $1,000, but the demand for her one-of-a-kind pieces has been very strong. Best of all, a percentage of sales goes to Critical Pathways, a project that works to provide local wildlife safe underpasses to traverse highways.
There's a spiritual aspect to the company's practices too; according to Modern Farmer, in honour of her Native American roots, when Paquin takes the skinned carcasses back to the woods, she says a “giveaway prayer, a prayer of thanks. You’re thanking the animal spirit.”
It's a promising and respectful concept that at least attempts to go full circle, making cherished, beautiful items out of animal lives that would have been otherwise violently ended and wasted. Check out more over at Petite Mort.