'There are all these people who have inherited fur but don’t want fur and don’t know what to do with the fur.'
Fur in fashion gets a bad rap for a good reason.
While fur is a rightfully taboo fashion choice for many people, recent reports show it's unfortunately making a comeback on runways again.
So what can we do to curtail this cruel trend, aside from not buying furs and encouraging others to do the same?
What about all those old, unwanted furs people have inherited from previous generations? What should become of those?
What if we could use old furs to save baby animals?
Born Free USA, an animal advocacy nonprofit, is doing just that.
Born Free has partnered up with over 16 wildlife rehabilitation centers nationwide to send them furs that have been donated by people from all over the world.
The furs are used to help rehabilitate baby animals who've been orphaned or injured.
"There’s nothing that any of us can do to undo the cruelty that created those furs in the past," said Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA. "But what we can do is try and have animals benefit from what is already out there. Give the furs a useful home."
Roberts got the idea during an ivory crush he attended in Colorado. Ivory crushes are held to destroy a large amount of ivory in order to effectively remove it from market circulation and broadcast the message that ivory shouldn't be worn or used by anyone other than elephants.
"I started to think about other scenarios in which there are wildlife products we want to remove from the marketplace as a signal that there should be no commercial trade in those animals or their parts," Roberts said.
He did some research and found wildlife rehabilitation centers often collect blankets for wayward animals. He thought old furs might be similarly useful, and just like that, the Fur for the Animals was born.
Born Free began calling for fur donations in 2014. Today, they've collected over 800 furs — worth an estimated $1.5 million.
They collect over a four-month period from September through December, which also happens to be the time when baby animals need the most help warming up.
While the animals themselves can't say what a difference the fur means to them, the photos below speak pretty loudly.
Just look at how much Reggie the Bobcat loves his fur blanket:
And this baby skunk so cozy in his fox fur:
Or this bear cub doing yoga on his new fur mat:
And this injured baby squirrel nestling in fur while having a snack:
Whether it's because it reminds them of their mothers or simply that it acts as a warm, safe haven, the wildlife centers report that the furs really do seem to aid these animals in their recovery.
One fur coat can go a long way, too. Case in point, these 28 coyote cubs who found comfort in one fox coat.
What's most encouraging to Roberts and the rest of Born Free USA are the letters they've received from donors who finally feel like their fur coats will serve some purpose.
As Roberts said, "There are all these people who have inherited fur but don’t want fur and don’t know what to do with the fur."
Think about it. You have this fur from a past relative that has never felt right to keep, but it never felt right to throw it away either, so it's been sitting in your closet for years, just taking up space. Born Free USA is your chance to get rid of the fur in a way that both honors its former owner, the animal that gave its life, and brings the fur back to the wild.
Like this person who donated their mother's fur coat:
And this person who donated their grandmother's fur coat:
Roberts himself donated his grandmother's old furs.
She was of the generation that had come through the Depression, he explained, and bought things like steaks and fur coats as a way of proving they had made it out.
"She was a big advocate for me. But she was also someone of a different generation," said Roberts. "I think she would've been very proud to know some good use came out of the furs she had, because even though she had them, she also appreciated the cause of animal protection and conservation."
Roberts hopes Fur for the Animals will not only give old furs a second life comforting injured animals, but that it will raise awareness of the abhorrent nature of the fur industry and help put a stop to it once and for all.
He is well aware of the cruelty of which the fur trade is capable. Showing what a positive effect old furs can have on animals may be the most effective way to get the world's attention. Once people have been engaged by the sweet photos, he hopes the "stop the fur industry" message will fall on more attentive ears.
Thousands of animals died to make these furs, and that's a sad reality we can't go back and rectify. We can't undo what's been done, but we can change what we do with the millions of unwanted furs that still exist — and we can make sure we're moving forward positively. Even if this doesn't bring the fur industry to a screeching halt, bringing these furs back to wildlife is perhaps the only fitting way to end their story — with a new beginning.