Monday, March 7, 2011

#12 Fur

In a rare show of solidarity and support for my mental health, the fickle Copenhagen sun finally made a full appearance today and it is a beautiful day, as windy, late winter days go. I know I should't be complaining given that it might be another three weeks before I see the sun again, but the only down side to this otherwise lovely event is that it has ruined any good photo ops for today's post. So I apologize in advance at this topic's lack of photojournalistic merit.

For the past few weeks, it's been unseasonably, bone-chillingly cold. It was during this time that I noticed another Danish phenomenon - the appearance of fur. On one particlar day, as I stood waiting for a friend inside the entrance to an upscale, downtown department store, I counted no fewer than twelve fur coats, four fur hats and some unidentifiable dead-animal-as-scarf draped around a woman's neck over about a ten minute period.

Please don't stop reading here. I promise this isn't going to be some diatribe about fur-wearing. If you're inclined to feel guilty about continuing to read or having a laugh about the subject, I suggest you make a donation to PETA before reading on. I will give some personal background though so you know where I'm coming from and can make any judgements and comments accurately.

I would describe myself as an animal lover. That said, a weak spot for bacon means vegetarianism and I will never truly see eye to eye. I generally tend to avoid eating "cute" animals (bunnies, lambs, etc) but have no problem eating tons of chicken - chickens being enormously un-cute animals in their adult state. On my own personal revulsion scale, fur-wearing ranks somewhere above operating a Michael Vick-style dog fighting ring but below not braking hard enough to avoid hitting squirrels in the middle of the road.

Danish fur-wearing doesn't actually suprise me all that much given how Danes can justify a lot of questionable clothing choices as long as they are practical. What does suprise me is that it seems to fly in the face of Danes' otherwise broad and encompassing humanistic tendencies. Here are some examples:
    Are those pigs smiling?
  • It is illegal to dock the ears and/or tails of cats and dogs.
  • It is illegal to hit small animals, oops I mean children - even your own - in Denmark.
  • Danes take a lot of pride in their high animal welfare standards in the agriculture industry, as evidenced by this brochure on pig farming.
So the fur thing came as a bit more of a suprise than I guess I expected. Sure, there are plenty of Danes who are plenty against the wearing of fur and the practice of raising animals for fur production. But here is an interesting intersection of Danish ideals found on the corporate website for Kopenhagen Fur, a cooperative of breeders and also the world's largest auction house for luxury hides and skins headquartered in nearby Glostrup.

Kopenhagen Fur acknowledges and respects ethical vegans' rights to abstain from animal products and by-products but then turns it around on its Danish head by saying, "animal rights groups are actually depriving people of their right to choose if they want to use products deriving from animals or not." I wonder though if this whole "protecting peoples' choice to choose" as a Danish value isn't a little hypocritical - I mean, I would like maintain my American choice to choose between more than two brands of pretzels or ketchup in the grocery stores yet that doesn't seem to be happening any time soon. I would also like to exercise my choice to choose a kooky, American-style name like Romeo or Apple for my next child but the Danish government doesn't seem to trust my instincts.

I think as a side project, and because my most recent graphic "statistical analysis" went over so well, I will devote some time in the near future to diagramming the various intersections and heirarchies of the Danish morals and values I am encountering. I joked today to some of my Danish language school classmates that I think I need to get a life. I think I've just confirmed that...