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Our Clothes








Reptile Skin


Down & Feathers


The Byproduct Myth




Animal Agriculture: Selected Bibliography



Dying to Get
Dressed Up

How Long
Animals Live

How Rabbits
Live & Die

How to Skin
a Rabbit

Wildlife Body Parts, Fur, & Leather


Wildlife "Cuisine"




Behind the chic runways and haute-couture ateliers from Tokyo to New York is incalculable suffering and almost unlimited animal exploitation: small mammals driven to self-mutilating frenzy in wire cages; larger species slowly bleeding to death in steel-jawed leghold traps; sheep in torment from the maggot-infested open wounds caused by shearing; fetal Karakul lambs pulled from their mothers' wombs; geese plucked and thrown back only to be tortured for the foie gras market; cats, dogs, and rabbits skinned alive. This is what the clothing industry demands as it drives whim and fashion.


Although there is a long history of using animals as commodities (for their fur, wool, feathers, or skin), it was only at the beginning of the 20th century that mass-production methods began to be applied to the breeding, raising, and killing of animals. As this industrialized production of animals was refined and expanded, animal-derived ingredients to be used for clothing could be supplied more quickly and more cheaply. When the clothing market developed into a competitive global one, the pressure was increased for more components derived from animals to be delivered still more inexpensively. In certain local economies (fur in North America, wool in the Pacific, silk in the Far East) the international trade was so important that it was governmentally subsidized.


The quantity of fur shipped from Russia, Canada, Scandinavia, and the U.S. is astounding, matched by the growing exports of wool from Australia and New Zealand, the expanding supply of high-quality silk from China and Japan, and the stream of cheap leather from India. In approximately 100 years we have taken local cottage production and developed an important international commerce worth multi-billions of dollars (U.S.) annually — all on the backs of animals.


As far as animals are concerned, this legacy of the industrial revolution is obscene.


Some people justify the use of animals for clothing on the basis that these are byproducts of the food or other principal industry. This is a myth. Certainly, in the case of fur, it is obvious that these animals are ranched and trapped simply to supply pelts for our clothes. However, each related field of commerce is financially significant and is so integrated that you cannot separate out any one aspect. For example, using leather or wool clearly subsidizes the meat industry, an industry based on animal suffering. Every single part of any animal product can be sold and contributes to the strength of the overall enterprise. The Fur Commission USA, an industry advocate, admits that it is often hard to identify what actually is the byproduct: "Secondary products such as leather in the beef industry or mutton in the wool industry make an important contribution to farmers' financial viability. And, depending on market conditions, today's secondary product may be tomorrow's primary product."


Andrew Linzey, the Reverend Professor of Ethics, Theology, and Animals at Oxford University (as well as a Visiting Professor at the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine at Hebrew University) states eloquently, in his essay, "The Ethical Case Against Fur Farming," that "there is an emerging consensus that we have special kinds of obligations to animals and that a great deal of what we now do to them is morally unacceptable." He goes on to detail why animals have a special claim on our attention:

  • Animals cannot give or withhold their consent.

  • Animals cannot represent or vocalize their own interests.

  • Animals are morally innocent.

  • Animals are vulnerable and defenseless.

The late Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Haim David Halevi, who ruled that the use of fur is against Jewish law and should be banned, stated that it is forbidden to kill animals "in a painful way in order to beautify and warm oneself with their skins."


Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, associated with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has written extensively about environmental and animal issues in relation to contemporary interpretation of Jewish Law. Citing the concepts of avoiding waste (bal tashchit) and the mandate not to cause the suffering of animals (tsa'ar ba'alei hayim), he calls for greater discussion on the inter-relationships between man and the environment, including the use of animals for clothing, and requests new studies and religious rulings (responsa) about our responsibilities and way of life.


The late Sunni Imam, Al-Hafiz B.A. Masri, wrote in his book Animals in Islam:


There is a large-scale carnage of fur-bearing animals...to satisfy human needs, most of which are non-essential, fanciful, wasteful, and for which alternative, humane products are easily available....The excuse that such things are essential for human needs is no longer valid. Modern technology has produced all these things in synthetic materials and they are easily available all over the world, in some cases at a cheaper price.


Some juristic rules that apply are: "That which was made permissible for a reason, becomes impermissible by the absence of that reason" ("Ma jaza le uzrin, batala be zawalehi") and "All false excuses leading to damage should be repudiated" ("Sadduz-zarae al-mua'ddiyate ela-l-fasad"). These rules leave no excuse for the Muslims to remain complacent about the current killing of animals in their millions for their furs, tusks, oil, and various other commodities.

Animals in Islam, "Fur and Other Uses of Animals"


Please read the Factsheets on clothes and consider that the choices you make have an immense impact on animals.