The man in the fur hat

A while ago I went on a few dates with a seemingly cool guy I met on Tinder. On our fourth date he came to my apartment to meet me before we headed out to the cinema. I opened up my front door to see him wearing an animals skin on his head and my heart sank. 'Is that a fur hat?' I asked, unable to hide my shock and disbelief. He knew I was vegan, I knew he wasn't. Him not being vegan wasn't a problem for me because I wasn't planning on pursuing a serious relationship with him. He asked me on our first date if it was ok that he ate a burger in front of me. 'I'm not going to tell you what is ok and what isn't, I know that most people in the world are not vegan, so I'm not going to expect anything from you. You do your thing, and I'll do mine.' I replied and he smiled. 'As long as you respect the fact that my home is a place where no animal products are allowed and you don't be an asshole about me being vegan, then we are cool. If I have to put up with seeing dead animals all around me in my every day life I at least want my home to be a place where I don't have to look at that.' 'That sounds totally fair to me' he said, only 2 weeks ago on our first date, and yet here he was stood in my doorway wearing a fur hat.

He rolled his eyes. 'Yeah it's fur. Come on Sal this is not a big deal. We live in Norway, I don't know if you have noticed but it's fucking cold outside.' I reiterated again that I had told him that I was not going to let him bring any animal products into my house, especially not a fur hat. 'It's fur, I can't believe you wear fur.' I said. 'I know lots of people who eat meat and drink milk and stuff, but I thought it was pretty common for people to be against fur.' He looked at me as if I was stupid.

He grumbled and waited outside in the cold whilst I got ready to go. I left the house in my nice warm North Face jacket, gloves and hat. I might have made a few comments about how warm my clothes were even though they were not made from parts of animals bodies. I just couldn't believe that this guy who seemed so nice and compassionate would walk around wearing something that was the product of such cruelty.  We spent the walk to the cinema talking about the fur industry. I told him that the products we use and things we do in our everyday life have consequences. Sometimes it's difficult to see how much harm our consumption causes and sometimes it is staring us in the face. With fur, it is brazenly apparent that this is product of torture, abuse, death and pain. 'But this is Norway...' he said 'The government here wouldn't let the animals be treated badly before they died.' 'Why do you think that?' I asked. 'Well, I don't know, I just assume so. I guess it would be illegal if they were doing something bad, right?' It seemed that only right for me to give him a reality check. It was time to show him the facts.

Facts about fur in Norway

  • About 200,000 foxes and 800,000 minks are killed each year on Norwegian fur farms.
  • There are currently around 265 fur farms in Norway, with a total of nearly one million animals.
  • The mesh cages that the mink and fox live in are around 0.3 m2 and 0.8 m2. They live in these small spaces their whole lives.
  • 0.5 to 10 km2 is natural territory for a red fox, for a mountain fox, it is 20 -120 km2.
  • 2.5 km of space in a lake or a river, is the natural territory for a mink, they are semi-aquatic, which means they naturally spend much of their time in water.
  • The animals are killed by electrocution or choked with gas.
  • There is (or will soon be) a ban on fur farming in several countries - eg. UK, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Croatia. In Sweden fox farming is prohibited, and in Denmark fox farming is under liquidation.
  • 99% of the skins of fur animals are exported from Norway - China and Russia are the largest markets for purchase of fur.
  • 50% of Norwegian fur farms were closed down during the past decade.
  • 20 to 30 million of taxpayers' money goes to support the fur industry.
  • 68% of Norwegians are against having fox and mink in cages for fur, only 15% are for.
  • Only one out of ten support government subsidies for fur farming.
  • The Norwegian Veterinary Association believes that "the time is ripe to consider the liquidation of fur farms in Norway."
  • Political parties against fur farming are Red, SV, AP, MDG and Left. But there are also representatives from parties which are pro fur farming which want to liquidate the industry.
  • Members of Parliament from the Conservatives said last year that they will work for a controlled liquidation of the industry.

Read more facts at pelsut.no

I started telling him some of this stuff as we walked along in the snow, he started off so defensive, 'how do you know this is true', 'this is propaganda' etc. But as I explained the work that NOAH and other animals rights organisations have been doing to uncover what really happens on fur farms his arrogance turned to sadness. His eyes widened and his mouth fell open as I detailed how the animals were kept in tiny cages all their lives, the frustration, pain and fear they have to endure and ultimately their death by electrocution or gas.

'How can they get away with this?' he said in shock. 'Sadly, you can get away with a lot of bad stuff if you make money out of it.' I replied. 'It's kind of our duty to each other and the animals to say no and take a stand when we find out about the horrible things happening. It's the only way to make it stop.' He sighed, and stared at me. 'You make a lot of sense. I guess that's why you are vegan. It must be so damn hard to think of this kind of stuff all the time. To be honest, and I know this is shit to say, It's too overwhelming and I think I'm happier being ignorant.' 

We walked for a bit in silence. I din't know what to say. Eventually I spoke up: 'Yeah I get what you mean. But this isn't an all or nothing thing. It's not like you either care about nothing or everything. You just have to do what you can. In the case of fur, it's pretty easy not to wear it and not to support it. It's pretty easy to stand against it actually. NOAH organise a march against fur every year in most of the big cities in Norway, and they get people to sign petitions to ban it too. You could buy a very warm hat for much less money than that fur one would have cost and donate the spare money to NOAH. That way you would be actively contributing to animals happiness rather than exploiting them and causing them harm.'

'I have to be honest and say that I just don't care. I don't want to know. My brother bought me this hat and I don't want to stop wearing it. Maybe I am selfish and ignorant.' he shrugged. It was heartbreaking to meet someone who just didn't care. I wasn't mad at him, just sad at his indifference and sad for the animals. I smiled sweetly at him. 'I think I'm going to go meet some friends instead now, don't really feel like the cinema'. I went home, changed into my comfy pants, ate some pizza, and watched the Pels documentary. We never made it to a fifth date.

Trailer for NRK Brennpunkts dokumentar "Pels" som ble vist 9. desember 2014. Se hele filmen her: http://bit.ly/1z2UpK9 NRK beskriver dokumentaren slik: "Dyrevernaktivister har gang på gang filmet på pelsfarmer og dokumentert brudd på god dyrevelferd. Etterpå har Norges Pelsdyralslag lovet å rydde opp.

I won't be ignorant to the violence of animals, I will make sure I stay educated and informed on the way they are treated. I simply don't want to live in a world where we shrug and ignore the terrible things that are happening to others because it doesn't affect us personally. I want to live a life filled with kindness, compassion and empathy and that is why I will be marching with NOAH at their Fakkeltog mot Pels this year, and every year until all cages are empty.