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Vail woman gives fur to activists

NWS Joan Berger PU 3-12
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EAST VAIL – In a town where fur and leather stores abound, East Vail resident Joan Berger doesn’t wear fur, and neither do her friends. It’s an ethical and moral choice she’s made, she says. But at a recent gathering, Berger saw a woman – a friend of a friend – dressed in fur. It was a battle, but Berger held her tongue. “I saw this woman, and I thought, ‘You have no idea what these poor animals go through,'” Berger said. “I look at people and think how ignorant they are to wear fur.”But until recently, Berger did own a couple furs. She never actually purchased the garments for herself, but inherited two pieces from her aunts – one mink coat and another Persian lamb jacket with fur cuffs and collar. “In 18 years in this valley, I think I wore them each once,” she said. “I was embarrassed to wear fur.”PETA steps in Knowing she would never again wear her furs, Berger boxed them up and waited for the right time to get rid of them. The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, came to the rescue.Staunchly against the use of animal products, it may seem strange that PETA would ask for fur clothing, but nevertheless, the international group announced it would collect donations of fur garments.

Every year, PETA collects and then gives away hundreds of fur coats to the needy and homeless across North America. PETA has even sent coats to Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. The group also uses the furs in library displays, anti-fur shows, street theater and other events trying to convince people animals shouldn’t be fashion victims. In this day and age of synthetic materials, Berger said she sees no reason to wear fur. The very thought of wearing fur is synonymous with blood and misery, she said. “One hundred years ago, they didn’t have anything else, but now there’s just no need,” she said. The softer side of furBut Teresa Platt, the executive director of Fur Commission USA disagrees. Fur Commission USA represents 420 mink-farming families on 330 farms in 28 states and aims to convince people of the benefits of fur.”To me, it’s sort of a symptom of industrialization, of urbanization. People are losing their connection with reality, with the earth,” Platt said. “I think most people support natural fibers over synthetics for a host of reasons – it’s organic, it’s warm and it’ll last you generations if you take care of it.”Platt’s message may be working because raw fur is raking in record prices at auctions and bringing in the highest retail sales in history, she said. “Designers are doing some amazing things with fur,” Platt said.

PETA isn’t swayed and continues to tell people about animals caught in steel-jaw traps that wait days to be stomped or bludgeoned to death by trappers. On fur farms, animals are confined to tiny, filthy cages where they don’t receive veterinary care and are killed by having their necks broken, suffocated or are anally electrocuted, PETA said. Platt said PETA’s philosophy is misguided the group has the benefit of operating with bigger budget to sway public opinion. “A quick, painless death that’s stress-free is the goal,” Platt said, adding farm-raised mink are gassed to death as prescribed by the American Veterinary Association. “These animals are well cared for.”She also said trapping is regulated by state governments and animal cruelty is punishable. Not black and whiteWhile Berger doesn’t condone wearing fur, she said the lines are blurred in other uses of animals. She’s raised three sons, two of whom are strict vegetarians. Berger herself refrains from red meat but will eat poultry and seafood. And although Berger doesn’t like the idea of hunting, she said it might be OK if the entire animal is used. Platt maintains mink farming does use the entire animal. The rich fur is the most sought after commodity, while the thick layer of fat under the skin is used for luxury cosmetics or as oil for leather. The minks’ meat is sold to feed other carnivores, but not humans. “It’s in the best interest of a farmer to use all of the animal, to not have waste,” Platt said. But Berger remains unconvinced.



“We all have a right to be here,” Berger said. “We’re all God’s creatures.”Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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