Moral Acceptability of Fur Rebounds : Gallup
By FCUSA Communications Director Simon Ward
According to Gallup's latest "moral acceptability" poll, out this May, the percentage of Americans who find "Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur" to be morally acceptable has rebounded after three years of decline.
Since the poll began in 2001, a majority of Americans have always found fur clothing morally acceptable. However, from a high of 64% in 2005, its positive rating began falling, to just 54% in 2008. But in 2009, it staged a sharp recovery, bouncing back to 61%.
Of the 15 issues polled, the most comparable with fur is the acceptability of "Medical testing on animals". Since both questions concern the use of animals, trends in the two sets of results show expected similarities (see chart).
Thus the fact that medical testing bottomed out in the same year as fur, 2008, may indicate that the results reflect more on the specific pollees that year than on the moral compass of society as a whole.
Harder to ignore, however, is the current disparity between the two ratings.
Prior to this year's survey, fur had been less acceptable than medical testing except for two years in which it was ahead by just one point. This is arguably as it should be.
In 2004, when fur inched ahead for the first time, FCUSA called it "mildly surprising". "Society deems an activity 'moral' or 'immoral' based largely on the perception of need - of the end justifying the means. Fur clothing can be justified on many different levels, but given the competition from 'inexpensive' fossil fuel-based synthetics, few would still consider it an absolute necessity. Medical testing, on the other hand, has led to treatments that save millions of human lives each year - about as necessary as it gets."
But if that was "mildly surprising", the results in 2009 (while gratifying to the fur industry) are a little alarming.
While acceptability of medical testing rose just one point, to 57%, acceptability of fur soared seven points, to 61%. Bearing in mind these are the same pollees being questioned, one must wonder what kind of person favors fur but not animal testing.
Is it all down to education and PR? Does the increased support for fur, as some analysts suggest, reflect a backlash against the belligerence of animal rights groups? And if so, why has it not benefited medical research also?
Don't bet the barn
The fact that natural-fiber fur clothing for cold weather is even included in a poll on morality is regrettable. (We urged Gallup years ago to reconsider, but were ignored.) But at the end of the day, prudent farmers don't bet the barn on polls.
Whether buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur is morally acceptable is a straight question. And a positive response of 61% is respectable, given the misunderstanding and confusion sown by animal rightists.
But society is moving forward in its understanding of sustainability and care for the environment. So how much more positive would the response be to this question?
"Which is more morally acceptable: Buying and wearing clothes made from oil-based synthetics, or from natural, renewable, biodegradable fibers produced by recycling food production waste?"