Emma Amyatt-Leir has written extensively on health, ethical issue and the environment. A selection of features are available here:
Emma Amyatt-Leir wrote on complementary therapy The Bowen Technique, read the article here::Organic
Emma wrote on celebrity stress busting techniques for Here's Health: to read click this link
From EMAP's Here's Health on the brutal business of Trophy Hunting
Emma Amyatt-Leir wrote on Family Ties amd the work of Bert Hellinger in Kindred Spirit May 2006 http://www.kindredspirit.co.uk Click here to view the article
During Caroline Lucas MPs award winning General Election Campaign, Emma Amyatt-Leir was responsible for all her Green Party election publications: from commissioning, editing, and writing to layout. For the full range visit The Green Party or To view a copy of Greenleaf click here
As Editor for Wave Magazine www.wavemagazine.co.uk Emma was invited to experience the Hoffman Process and write about it in Wave. The feature was encouraged so many people to do the course it was translated into a number of languages and used worldwide to download the article click here
Emma Amyatt-Leir wrote regularly for Here's Health in their monthly 'Great Debate' feature:
Here's Health. The Great Debate. September 2004
IS WEARING FUR ACCEPTABLE?
Once the subject of high profile campaigns fur has just sauntered back onto the catwalk for the autumn. Is it more respectable or do we just not care any more? Emma Amyatt-Leir investigates.
"You can wear a sheepskin coat without fear of abuse, but a mink stole will elicit a very different response. Since we know many people object to fur whilst eating battery chickens or wearing leather shoes, this must be a class issue not an animal welfare issue," says Carolyn Miller from Image Consultancy 'House of Colour'. Fur has long been associated with affluence and style. Carolyn explains: "From the Middle Ages there were 'sumptuary' laws forbidding the middle classes and below from wearing luxurious fabrics. The wife or daughter of a knight was not to wear sable fur, whilst that of an esquire or gentleman could not use ermine. Our perception of fur today stems from this."
Over 400 designers have included fur in their collections for this autumn. Oscar de la Renta's beautiful red cashmere hand embroidered sable trim coat was perhaps the most opulent garment on the American catwalk whilst Gucci presented fox-stoled chiffon dresses in Milan. "It's time to go back to luxury. The best way to pamper yourself is to put soft fur against your skin," says Escada designer Brian Rennie, who put fox and mink trim on the Escada tweed and cashmere jackets we'll soon see on sale.
Supermodels such as Naomi Campbell can't resist the lure of fur coat, in spite of protesting against fur in the early 90's. Rappers, such as 'P.Diddy' and R.Kelly have also padded their wardrobes with mink, coyote and raccoon furs. Fur is so sensual many people secretly admit to adoring it but only with this high profile endorsement have they felt safe enough to come out of the closet.
Luxury aside we have been using animal skins to keep us warm since we were cave men and cave babes. Fur trading began in North America in the late 17th century starting with settlers trapping and skinning animals and swapping the fur for provisions. Selling the fur from wild animals continues to be one of the few ways of surviving in really remote areas and also provides a pest control-service to farmers. "Today, wild fur-bearing animals are particularly important to those living in isolated and rural areas, enabling these communities to maintain a traditional lifestyle while earning cash income. The wild species that enter the fur trade are normally taken for pest/predator control or wildlife management reasons," says Andrea Martin, Spokesperson for the British Fur Trade Association.
Maybe our ancestors knew something else about the benefit of fur. The nursery rhyme 'Bye baby bunting' reminds us that once baby would have been wrapped in rabbit skin. Today there's science to back up this primeval urge. "The Winganna sheepskin fleece, which babies are given to sleep on, has proven health benefits," says Louise James, 41, a mother from St. Albans. Medical research in a special care baby unit in Cambridge's Maternity Hospital demonstrated that high-risk and premature babies gained weight faster when sleeping on lambswool rather than on conventional bedding. Babies with lambswool in their incubators gained 1.1 ounces a day, compared to .7 ounces gained by babies on regular bedding. The study also showed that once home babies cried less and slept better on lambskin. "The sheep are bred especially for their wool, these sheep aren't meat sheep," explained Sally Terry who sells the fleeces in the UK. This is the same case with farmed fur, a rabbit skin trim comes from a rabbit that is especially bred for the purpose, the pelt is not a by-product of the meat industry.
Some pro-fur advocates also feel there are environmental advantages to fur. "Looking at the bigger picture fur is natural, sustainable and biodegradable unlike today's man-made fabrics which come from non-renewable petrochemicals," says Charlotte Macpherson, catwalk photographer for Elle during the 90's. "I don't thing it's ethical for the yarn industry to pollute rivers and kill marine life but we don't see protestors jumping onto catwalks to object to that."
Just as increasing numbers of meat eaters are seeking organic or free-range products to ensure the animal has led a happy life, consumers are concerned about the conditions for animals farmed for their fur. "Most fur farming takes place in Europe and North America where it is highly regulated by national and international laws and codes of conduct." Says Andrea Martin, of the Fur Trade Association. She adds: "The welfare of farmed animals is taken very seriously. Fur farmers have a vested interest in keeping their animals healthy and content. As anyone who owns or cares for animals knows, the condition of an animal's coat is a key indicator of its well-being."
Today it is illegal to import furs or skins of endangered species, so the leopard skin coat worn by style icon Jackie Kennedy back in 1962 is not something we'll see back on the catwalks. Nonetheless Caroline Carr, retired, 62, from Perthshire, says what others don't dare to: "women will always want to buy clothing in such an attractive, warm, sensual fabric just because it makes them feel sophisticated and gorgeous."
"I would never wear fur, even a vintage coat. The vanity that could allow such cruelty is hard to imagine," says Deborah Derber, 40, from Brighton. "And to claim they wear it to keep warm is really spurious. You don't see mountaineers wearing fur coats do you?" Anti-fur sentiments often run high. "I'd rather go naked than wear fur," said model Christy Turlington and actress Kim Basinger as part of the high profile People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaign against wearing fur. In fact anti-fur advertising during the 80's and 90's made it more fashionable to object to fur than to wear it. There are a number of designers who publicly refuse to use fur in their collections, including big names like Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney and Katherine Hamnett. "We don't use fur. I think it is disgusting and sad to kill an animal just for the sake of some rich woman's vanity. I also disapprove of fur companies being allowed to sponsor student degree shows," says Katherine Hamnett referring to the fur industry supporting St..Martin's School of Art degree show.
In Britain there is still a strong movement to keep fur out of the fashion industry, supported by shops such as Harvey Nichols who don't sell any fur in their upmarket Knightsbridge store. The main reason for this is in spite of what the furriers tell us there is no compassionate way to procure the perfect pelt. If the animals are trapped in the wild it is by a leg-trap. "To break the leg of an animal in a steel trap and leave it there in fear, pain and acute distress for perhaps days is obscene - so obscene that it has been banned in Britain." Says Tony Wardle of animal campaigning charity Viva. Leg-traps were outlawed in Britain in 1988 but they are used widely in North America, making up 30% of fur sales in the US.
Fur farms or 'ranches' are no less upsetting, which is why they were also made illegal in the UK, in November 2000. Some fur-farmers moved their business into Europe where they are still legal. An undercover investigator for PETA in North America reported: "The wire cages are tiny, filthy, and encrusted with dirt, clumps of fur, and excrement. Locked inside each one is a fox, imprisoned here since birth. Many of the foxes live for years in these hideous conditions before the farmer kills them and sells their fur to make coats, cuffs, collars, and trim." Although there are regional welfare rules many protestors think these are very inadequate.
The method for killing the animals is also most distressing. Stella McCartney describes it: "The fox is removed from his cage with a metal neck pole. He is walked past the rows of slaughtered foxes. Death is by painful anal electrocution." A lethal injection would hurt less however some farmers think the 30cents (roughly 20p) per animal is too expensive. PETA told us "Because the electricity does not go through and stun the brain, the foxes remain awake and feel the full excruciating force of a massive heart attack."
If the cruelty argument isn't enough to put you off buying fur, the suggestion that fur is 'green' is insubstantiatable. "More than 60 times as much energy is needed to produce fur coats from ranch-raised animals than is needed to produce fake furs." Says Andrew Butler, PETA campaign co-ordinator. The production process also produces toxic waste, which has on occasion been illegally dumped in rivers. "Furs are also loaded with chemicals to keep them from decomposing in the buyer's closet," added Andrew.
Native American's have a long tradition of using animal skins and fur; their ceremonial clothing utilises animal feathers, fur, skins and even bones, whilst fur and other animal parts are used in their ceremonies, healing and divination. However the increasing scarcity of sacred animals such as buffalo, whose skull was part of a shaman's altar, and wolf, whose appearance heralded the birth of new ideas, means even within this world attitudes are changing. Shamanic healer Dawn Eagle Woman says: "I love furs and I use them in my rituals. When I touch these furs I feel the spirit of the animal, and I honour it. I once adored wearing fur and still have a lynx collar from my first 'grown up' coat from the early 60's. I love it and I am awed by its beauty. Today, there is a lynx who lives protected on our sanctuary. I choose not to wear fur since my journey is to live and grow in consciousness and be at one with all life."
The fur industry says fur is back in fashion and sales are up, however the government's national statistics office presents a different picture. Setting the fur wholesalers' figures for the third quarter of 2003 against the same period of 2000 shows a downturn of 76% from £6.3m to £1.5m. "The British public has turned off fur entirely," said Andrew Butler. "However fur trim has been snuck in where people think it must be faux. We urge people to be vigilant and check." Firstly check the label, but since labelling can be ambiguous, also look at the backing. If it looks like leather or suede, then it's probably real, if the backing is fabric, then it is probably faux. "Ask the store directly if they have a no-fur policy. Not only will you hopefully find out if the garment is fur or faux, but the more people that ask, the more likely a store is to adopt an anti-fur policy." Says Andrew.
There are those for whom polite enquiries don't go nearly far enough. "Some people, just some, are prepared to justify anything - slavery, child abuse, genital mutilation. They do it on the basis of culture or religion or personal freedom and it is always backed by wilful ignorance. Those who wear fur fall into this category because it is born of a cruelty which, to normal people, is indefensible.," concludes Tony Wardle.