What’s Really Wrong with Sea Otter Fur?

Let’s get one thing straight. I am a white, middle-class American with enough privilege to feed an army (or something). So when the New York Times asks, “Is All Fur Bad?” and The Guardian posits, “Why Would Anyone Want to Shoot a Sea Otter?”, I have at the very least a social obligation to fulfill that roll and pipe up with an incensed, offended response.

So, here I am.

Except my response to this particular situation isn’t because I am pissed about the mean man hurting the furry sea otters.

Let me explain.

sea-otter2004-by-ryan-wolt-ma-043219-21
Northern Sea Otter by Ryan Wolt and Marine Mammal Commission

When I first sat down and read these two articles, I was, admittedly, enraged.

I was enraged at this man and his high-tech gun mowing down endangered sea otters. Enraged at his wanting to sell their body parts to boutiques in Paris and New York. Enraged with how he “thanked” the animals before he killed them (as if that makes some kind of difference to the animals as their brains explode). Enraged that he glorified these products of murder to an already confused mainstream consumer market. Enraged that he used his traditional, indigenous culture as reason to promote killing.

And as I considered this stance, considered the hunter’s comment that “Conservation feels a lot like colonialism,” I back-pedaled mildly.

I back-pedaled in the sense that I realized condemning particular cultures for their abuse of animals comes across as truly imperialistic, truly racist. To add insult to injury, my anger at one cultures’ use and abuse of animals doesn’t even remotely capture the real reason I am enraged–why we should all be enraged.

In truth, the sea otter victims of a single hunter in Alaska are just one species of many millions that are daily subjected to the tortures wrought upon their kind simply because they happen not to be human.

In reality, all killing of any animals for any reason, is wrong.

My rage wasn’t boiling up because of the innocent sea otters killed for fashion–my rage boiled over because people continue to make a distinction between acceptable killing, humane killing, and bad killing. 

Isn’t all killing just simply…bad?

Expanding the argument to include whether the hunting of sea otters with high-powered rifles happens to be “more humane” than say, skinning them alive, which is how the majority of animals farmed for fur come to their end, is completely irrelevant. The hunter tells us himself that sometimes when he goes to pick up the otters in his boat after having shot them, they are still alive. At that point he has to club them over the head.

“Life is a powerful force,” he says.

How majestic.

The rage I felt reading about the murder of sea otters is indistinguishable from the rage I feel when seeing people scarf down their chicken breast salad.

So when someone asks, “is all fur bad?” or “why would anyone want to shoot a sea otter?” they’ve already lost the plot.

The answers to these questions are hidden in the distraction of having asked the question in the first place.

Instead of asking “is all fur bad?” we could ask why we are pondering whether stealing body parts from living, sentient creatures could be anything other than wrong?

Why would anyone want to shoot a sea otter? The better question is, Why would anyone want to kill any animal for any reason?

We come to these conclusions by focusing on all animals as individuals and considering these questions from their perspective–since it is they who will suffer depending on the answer we choose.

To that end, there’s no difference between a sea otter, a pig, a cow, a rat, or a human who, as individuals, value their life and seek to avoid pain and fear.

 

We can see how confused even the hunter of sea otters is about life and death when he explains to the New York Times, “We don’t want to think about the plants we are wearing when we wear cotton, and we don’t want to think about life and death.”

Suddenly, a person who hunts sea otters with a sniper rifle, skins them, sells their body parts to vapid fashionistas, explains that of all the terrible things humans do, we don’t think enough about the plants–THE COTTON–we are wearing.

And if the man who hunts and kills the animals is imploring us to think more about the plants we hunt and kill (wait, what?) for our clothing, then consumers of these news stories, of the sea otter pelts, of their cow milk lattes and yogurts and sirloin steaks will mimic this rhetoric and perpetuate their own cognitive dissonance.

The story that the New York Times and The Guardian needed to tell was much simpler, far less adventurous, and much more straightforward.

All animal use is wrong. All of it. No exceptions.

The moment we start placing the abuse of sentient beings along a sliding scale of bacon sandwich to sea otter murder, we forget that all animals belong to themselves and exist for their own purposes beyond human interests.

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