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Animals in Fashion: Where Should You Draw the Line?

From airbrushing to anorexia and the occasional drugs bust, the fashion world is no stranger to controversy. However, it's not just the impact on people that has campaigners up in arms, with concern for our furry friends one of the hottest issues. Whether it's a fur coat, leather boots or a snakeskin handbag, our fascination with finding the latest trends continues to impact on animals. However, with people across the world still devoted to these items, is there any way to justify using animal products in the name of looking good?

For those against using animals in fashion, the reasoning is simple: animals should not have to suffer to make us look stylish. The large-scale production of furs has led to some species being declared endangered or protected. Besides being an unnecessary and tragic loss, the destruction of just one species can have a huge impact on the food chain and thus on the environment as a whole.

Campaigners have resorted to various tactics to protest against the wearing of fur, from splattering wearers with paint to producing graphic ad campaigns. While these acts split public opinion, artist Cecelia Valentine recently took a more novel approach, producing a line of conceptual jewellery that featured live pets, including a necklace with a hamster inside and a birdcage attached to a hair band. Cecelia's website is quick to assure readers that the animals were properly cared for, but even the most devoted pet lovers will probably prefer to stick to some pretty silver jewellery from Littlewoods!

Despite widespread opposition to the use of animal products in fashion, the long tradition of fur as a sign of prosperity and wealth remains. Some are willing to pay for what they claim is superior quality from animal skins and furs, as long as they are antiques. They argue that since the animals were killed years ago, it would be even more of a waste if their fur was not even worn.

The use of animal products worldwide adds another twist to the debate. While many Westerners might now baulk at the idea of donning an animal skin, other countries have a different attitude. Take China, for example, where there is currently a trend for buying keyrings with live animals in them. This might be just a fashion statement, but conversely, there are also people from cold climates who have always relied on skins as the best way to keep warm. One is fad and another a practical necessity, but it's important to realise that imposing our British values on other countries can often be unfair and illogical.

Evidently the issue of animals in fashion is less than clear-cut when you look at the global picture. However, with a ruling banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals in the EU now in effect, it's comforting to know that the welfare of the world's animals is still firmly in the public's mind.

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