I’ve been selling sporrans for nearly 8 years and one of the points that continues to fascinate me is the topic of selling fur.
When I first started selling sporrans, I had just entered my twenties and my goals and motivations were quite straight-forward. I saw an opportunity of a market that no-one was fulfilling, so I began to trade in sporrans. The sporrans which demanded the highest sale prices were the ones made from rabbit fur.
At the time, I didn’t really think about what this meant. For me, it was a higher value product, so the decision to sell them was simple.
I recall being surprised one day when I actually thought about what it meant. Until that point, I had this romantic notion that I was selling a traditional product steeped in history, and that therefore it was in some way acceptable to sell fur as a result. My surprise came when I realised that I was engaging in the fur trade – plain and simple. I was selling products which were made of fur.
I found this surprising, because I’d never really put that much thought into it from a moral or ethical perspective. I also in some way thought that the fact the product was traditional would in some way affect the moral implications of the action.
I spent a bit of time examining how to evaluate the moral or ethical implications of an action and read a number of books on the topic, including the excellent ‘The Elements of Moral Philosophy‘ by James Rachels.
I concluded that I could see no moral justification for selling fur products of any kind. The idea of an animal being bred solely for the purpose of it’s fur just seemed wrong.
However, context is always important. I eat meat, I wear leather. I think the use of animal products is OK, but I think that certain criteria needs to be met before it becomes morally acceptable. For example, I believe that products which are a by-product of the meat industry are acceptable, or products which are by-products of some other action (the seal cull comes to mind) are also acceptable. IE if the decision to cull seals has been made, it seems wasteful to not use the resulting products (regardless of the moral implications of the original decision).
So, why mention this now?
Myself and a colleague attended the Scottish trade fair on Monday. Yet again, it surprised me that virtually no manufacturers in the sporran industry seemed to feel strongly about this. Most manufacturers appear to sell a large range of sporrans made from animal fur, and those questioned, seemed not to know if they were able to source fur from moral sources such as by-products of other industries.
I should say at this point, that I do not believe this is the fault of the sporran manufacturers. I understand that demand creates supply. It is the end consumer that has the power to decide what product to buy.
However, lack of blame does not infer lack of responsibility. I believe that sporran makers have a responsibility and an opportunity to effect a great change. I believe that if every sporran maker changed to only selling ethical fur or offering a larger range of substitute products (like faux fur), the end user may not notice much difference. Those customers which feel strongly about having an animal fur sporran would presumably be satisfied by one which is a by-product of another industry.
Therefore, if the opportunity is there, it surprises me that no one is attempting to make use of it. It seems to me that as an industry, we have an opportunity to make a little piece of the world better, but that no one is making an effort to do so.
Where Do We Go From Here?
As a company, since my realisation that I was no longer happy to sell fur products where the source of the fur could not be proven to be ethical, we have stopped selling fur sporrans. I believe we would sell more sporrans if we sold fur sporrans, but it’s not something I’m prepared to do. We stock a large range of bovine fur sporrans (usually cow hide), leather sporrans and of course, our range of vegan sporrans.
We’ve had ranges of artificial fur sporrans in the past but the manufacturers who offered them, don’t do so any more, which is a shame.
However, I notice that after nearly 8 years in the industry, a year or two after the ban on sealskin came into force, that nothing much has changed yet. People are using alternatives to sealskin, but if anything, that may serve to increase the demand on fur sporrans.
I think that as a company we should make more of an effort to make our views more available in an effort to spread knowledge about the situation and hopefully encourage people to give more weight to the ethical consideration of their purchase.
I also think that personally, I could do more to help drive this positive change and I will spend some time thinking about how best to achieve that.