Confessions time: I have an inner Cruella De Vil. When my sons were small enough to be beguiled by Walt Disney videos, 101 Dalmatians was a firm favourite. Inevitably, I ended up watching it with them a few thousand times. Secretly I was rooting for Cruella. She was such a fabulous character, wasn't she? Anita was such a drip in comparison. Remember Cruella's best line? 'I live for furs. I worship furs! After all, is there a woman in all this wretched world who doesn't?'
Obviously we all know we can't say that any more. We can only think it very very quietly, then repent afterwards if we have a Nonconformist upbringing. The wearing of animal parts reached its apogee in the Victorian era, when hats were festooned with whole birds, fur stoles showcased the taxidermist's art, beetle shells shimmered on evening capes and butterfly wings gleamed in necklaces. These days we can wear leather and sheepskin without getting pig's blood hurled at us in public. Maybe a spot of rabbit fur trimming can be tolerated. Although when the chancellor was a curate, he was once accosted from the pulpit by an angry Methodist minister. She pointed and declaimed: 'That man there is wearing RABBIT FUR on his academic hood!' I forget what the sermon was about now. It was probably in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Well, the reason for this subject today is the fake fur gilet I'm wearing. No rabbits or mink suffered in its production. However, I bought it from Primark, so I expect some poor human or other suffered in a dismal sweatshop. How else could it have been so cheap? This being England, people are less churned up by that thought. Ever noticed the bins in supermarkets where you can donate tins of cat and dog food? There's never one where you can donate tins to homeless people. As I said in an earlier blog, I no longer shop at Primark. Somebody somewhere is not being paid a living wage. The same is probably true of high end fashion, but I never buy that, so my boycotting posh shops would have zero impact.
My fake fur gilet is nice and warm. But oh, it's not as nice as real fur would be. Have you ever plunged your hands into the sleek depths of a real fur coat? I once bought a real fox fur, complete with little dangling paws and accusing glass eyes. I got it in a vintage clothes shop because I was going to a Murder Mystery party as a Russian countess. It later emerged that I was an imposter. In fact, I was a human cannon ball. But by then I'd bought the real fox fur. I no longer have it, you'll be relieved to hear. It got infested with carpet beetles, so I put it in the wheelie bin, closing the lid forever on those reproachful glass eyes.
No, it is not right to ransack the natural world and deck ourselves in the spoils. Wearing rare animal fur is only the crassest form of this, I'm afraid. But oh...