Friday, December 17, 2010

Fur Flying

It appears that the Trudeau family Christmas card got more attention than it intended when PETA proclaimed that the card was offensive and lurid. PETA activists were shocked that the Quebec politician and his young family would pose for their Christmas card wearing fur and snuggling under a fur blanket. While the fact that PETA found the use of fur offensive didn't surprise me, the accusation that it was lurid did. It didn't seem to mesh well with my understanding of the term. So I looked it up online to make sure that it was being used correctly and came up with the following:

lu·rid (lrd)
1. Causing shock or horror; gruesome.
I suppose that this is the definition that the PETA activist was looking for, stating that wearing fur was a gruesome act.

2. Marked by sensationalism: a lurid account of the crime. See Synonyms at ghastly.
I suppose that this could have been the other meaning, stating that wearing fur is a sensational and ghastly act.

3. Glowing or shining with the glare of fire through a haze: lurid flames.
I checked the back of the Christmas card photo to see if there was a fire in the fireplace which I assumed was crackling festively in the background and couldn't quite make it out. So let's assume this one is also true.

4. Sallow or pallid in color.
Since all the Trudeaus look to have normal colouring and not jaundice, I'm guessing this one's a no.

Whatever the meaning that was intended, the message by PETA is clear: fur is wrong. But is it really so wrong? As newsmakers point out and rightly so, Pierre Elliot Trudeau was often photographed wearing fur collars on his winter coats, looking very much the patriot, the outdoorsman and Canadian. Canada is, after all, founded on the fur trade and lumber. And the tradition of fur in Canada is not based on excess or fashion, but on necessity. Facing a harsh winter often meant that early pioneers would have to seek fur to keep warm. Otherwise, they would not have made it through.

As any red-blooded Canadian will tell you, cotton is useless against wind chill and snow in Canada. Even heavy denim doesn't do anything when it's 40 below. They say the weather outside is frightful for a reason- it's damn cold and most people would have to be out of their minds to go out in a Canadian snowstorm. Just ask Edmonton.

True, the fur trade isn't exactly what it used to be. There are many companies looking to make a killing (pardon the pun) with animals who are beautiful rather than practical. The early tradition of killing animals for meat and fur were a necessity and was done with respect for animals. No pioneer would have dreamed of demolishing an entire animal population on purpose or raising some poor animal for its fur alone. That would have been wasteful and unethical.

But there's no reason to believe that the entire fur industry is running afoul and operating laboratories where animals are imprisoned, skinned and then tossed out like so much garbage. There are responsible fur traders and companies out there who genuinely know and appreciate their trade. If there's anything that activists should get upset about, it's the sale of animals who are endangered and whose meat is useless, and poor regulations of the fur industry that leads to a black market.

They should also protest the idiots in LA who buy fur as a status symbol when they clearly live in a climate that doesn't require it. The luxury fur trade is often ridiculous and lucrative, but it's not exactly 'lurid'. And neither is the Trudeau family Christmas card.

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