Everything Old is New Again: Reselling Vintage Fur Items Made from Endangered Species
Mid Atlantic Journal on Law and Public Policy, 2012
24 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2012
Date Written: November 7, 2012
Fur has made a comeback in recent years, with fur pieces reappearing in high fashion. Some designers who had previously shunned fur due to pressure from animal advocacy groups have changed their views and have embraced the material again, demonstrating a significant shift in popular attitude from the “Fur is Murder” days when fur wearers feared having red paint thrown on their mink coats by animal activists. Despite the apparent change in opinion, many potential consumers remain wary about buying new fur apparel because animals had to be killed to make it. At the same time, they do not want to buy faux fur, seeing it as a cheap petroleum-based substitute lacking the luxuriousness and warmth of the real thing. Vintage fur has consequently become an appealing alternative. A desire to emulate mid-century aesthetics, a reluctance to contribute to the killing of animals, and the appeal of wearing something “recycled” or “green” (i.e. repurposing an existing item instead of making a new one) moves many modern buyers to satiate an appetite for glamour with vintage fur.
It is well-established public policy that killing endangered animals and selling their parts is undesirable, because people recognize that there are a multitude of interests served by saving these species from extinction. Whether or not individuals believe that killing and trafficking the parts of endangered animals is morally wrong, the general public recognizes that these activities are illegal. What is less clear, however (and what poses a major problem) is the issue of reselling items made of animals which are now protected under one or more endangered species laws but which were not at the time they were killed.
The average American will never go out poaching leopards, but may have Grandma’s Kennedy-Administration-era leopard coat in the back of a closet and might want to sell it for extra money. That person has to contend with a web of poorly-understood state, federal, and international regulations. Consequently, many online sellers either have no idea they are trafficking in illegal furs, believe the sale of “pre-ban” items is permitted, or think good intentions keep them safe. Some may be emboldened because they see others selling similar pieces. A quick search on e-merchant sites will yield hundreds of items made from endangered species.
Because of this confusion and the frequent violations, this article attempts to clarify the laws so that the average person might navigate the system. It also explores the legal responsibility of the owners of e-commerce sites enabling these kinds of online transactions, who often turn a blind eye to illegal activity or shift the burden of policing their sites onto the users. The article discusses why it matters whether these older items are resold, as upon first impression it can seem that there are no negative effects, since the animals have already been dead for decades. Finally, it also advocates for stronger enforcement of laws prohibiting these transactions and explains why online selling makes finding violations easier to find than ever before.
Keywords: Fur, Endangered, Species, CITES
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