Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ignorance and Possum Fur

I met Franklin over the internet by reading his blog, The Panopticon, a while ago because he's a friend of The Yarn Harlot, and she talks about him from time to time. He's as funny as Steph is, and a delight to read. If you don't read his blog and you're a fiberartist, you should!

Yesterday, I checked Google Reader and he had a new post up, which I enjoyed, commented upon, and checked off the little block that said to email other comments to me.

Was I in for a surprise!

I got one of the comments from a woman who obviously is totally uninformed (or possibly misinformed) on the subject she was commenting on. Her lack of understanding was particularly disturbing, especially since I've heard this misinformed opinion before and I just can't forget the whole thing.

First of all, here is the specific post I'm talking about. Please go there and read it (unless you've lost interest already, in which case, skip this whole post). If you're a fiberartist, you'll find it funny!

Franklin deleted the offending comment, but since it was emailed to me, I have the text of it, which follows:

Socks made out of a dead animal? Really? Personally I think that THAT is what's disgusting, not the creature in the photograph.

And shame on all the people calling an animal ugly. It looks as it is meant to look, as do you. What a horrid thing to say about an animal with no voice of its own.

If those socks were mine I wouldn't be able to even look at them without thinking of a creature dying in a trap. Wherever you stand on the necessity of killing them, it certainly should never be something to be celebrated, or even dismissed so callously in favour of gushing about how soft and pretty the dead animal's hair is now that it's been turned into socks for you.

This would be less disturbing if I hadn't heard this viewpoint at least once before. I'd like to respond to the person who commented (who is nameless, and has no available email address now due to the fact that Franklin deleted it) when he posted the following comment:

Hi, smaytch. Disagreeing with my point of view is fine - I have no problem with that. Insulting my readers (and me) under the guise of taking what you consider to be a moral high road is not. I've only deleted one comment in the years I've been blogging. Now yours makes two. Keep a civil tone or go elsewhere. Thank you.
The parts I find disturbing is the repeated theme of "dead animals" and the lack of any understanding of what was talked about.

Here's what I'd like to say to the author of that comment:

If you've ever brushed or combed your hair, or gotten a haircut, by your reasoning, you should be dead! And if you have a cat or dog and you've ever brushed their coat to get rid of excess fur, you've been as cruel to them as these animals have had to endure. Yes, I know that getting a haircut is considered a fate worse than death by many two-year-old humans, but it really isn't.

Most animals who contribute "fur" for yarn have the shed fiber combed or brushed from their coats. Some of them, especially sheep, who have had shedding bred out of them, are sheared. They probably consider it as traumatic as a two-year-old, but it doesn't really hurt them. In fact, many people keep rabbits as pets and for their fur, and the process is called "rooing", where the person runs their fingers through the fur to remove what has been shed. Most rabbits that are kept this way will try to get into your lap to have you remove the excess fur because it feels good, and they like to be petted.

"Fur," in this context is "Protein fiber from an animal other than a sheep." Sheep produce wool, not fur, and it is usually removed by shearing rather than rooing, although some of the older breeds can be rood. In this context, "fur" is not a pelt, it's just fiber!

By the way, this doesn't apply to this particular sock yarn, which is produced commercially, but if you ask a spinner about the fiber content of a sweater or other garment, you'll probably get back not only what kind of fiber it is (as in wool, rabbit fur, etc), but the name of the particular animal it came from. Example: "Is that wool?" "Yes from a corridale sheep named Flapjack!"

I have a bag of wool waiting for me to spin it at the moment, and the person who grew the sheep not only sent me the wool, but the sheep's name (Daisy).

In the future, please find out what people are talking about before commenting on it and revealing your ignorance!

For any of you who had the misguided idea that knitters were in any way harming animals, you're wrong about that!

I used to have some friends who lived in New Zealand and raised sheep. Those sheep were allowed to roam free for the most part, and live the life they would have had in the wild, while being protected from predators and had someone checking to make sure they had enough food, and stayed healthy, got their shots, got rid of parasites, helped with lambing, etc, and generally took care of them. Once a year, they were shorn, which was necessary to keep them cool in the summer since shedding has been bred out of them. What's so bad for the sheep about that? I'm sure they were as happy about getting shots as two year old kids are, but not taking care of them would be even more cruel.

I feel like it's my responsibility to make sure that ignorant people get educated about my chosen pass-time. So, non-knitters please read!

And for all you knitters out there, please step on this attitude wherever you find it, and consider it your job to let people know that we really are not harming animals.


  1. But, you only mention the sheep. The possums who have become a pest due to the lack of natural preditors, are still killed. The possum fibre is then harvested after death.

  2. Sorry. Now I'm showing off MY ignorance.

    I wasn't aware that possums were being killed en masse wherever this is.

    The point is that I have met people who are convinced that to get fiber from ANY animal, you have to kill them, and that is just not true, and from what you're describing, they would be killed whether their fur was used or not.

  3. Yes, I have come across a few with that belief about sheep too. And being a fiberholic and former sheep owner, I can educate them about the whole process. But there's still a whole lot of cruelty going on out there and I believe in keeping an open dialog.


  4. Hiya, it was me that posted that comment originally and, as Caprifool says, it was only because the possums ARE being killed. I'm a knitter myself, have been since I was 6 years old, and have no problem with wool and other yarns from combing or shearing. In fact I run an animal shelter which gets a lot of rescue rabbits, including long haired and angora rabbits, which NEED to be brushed to keep them happy :)

    Also you'll notice that I never insulted anyone. I merely stated my own POV and how I, personally, would feel if I had that wool, and said shame on anyone who calls an animal ugly.