Ethics, LARP and Fur

Ethics, LARP and Fur

A vast amount of LARP fur costume comes from unethical sources like modern fur farms and this is a PROBLEM. Learn how to source ethical fur whether you are a player or a crafter.

A dark and often unmentioned issue lurks beneath the latex foam weapons and jolly mead drinking bouts of LARP (that’s Live Action Role Playing to you). The issue is that there’s a noticeable lack of discussion about the regular use of farmed genuine fur in LARP costumes. Many LARPers appear to hold the opinion that wearing fur for a roleplay event isn’t unethical or controversial mainly because it’s for LARP… but my stance is that no matter how rewarding LARP is as a hobby, those farmed fur costumes still come under ‘fur for fashion’ so I find it genuinely puzzling that so many LARPers either think it is okay or don’t appear to have deeply considered where their fur cloaks came from in the first place.

At the end of the day, LARP fur is fashion fur.

I wear leather because I eat meat and it’s a useful biproduct of my food. Fur is, however, considerably more controversial as many animals like mink, foxes and wolves are farmed solely for the purposes of vanity. The only product generated is their fur, and that in turn is used for aesthetic purposes only. This is highly unethical, if not immoral.

Captin Maximus Ron models ethical LARP fur like a Sir.

From personal experience it seems that many LARPERs tend to ignore the contemporary ‘real world’ issue of fur for fashion. Some seem to think it’s acceptable to wear fur at roleplay events on the grounds that someone else did it hundreds of years ago; in this aspect I don’t see how they differ from millionnaires purveying fur coats from huge fashion houses. I really want to see a lot more discussion in the LARP community on this topic; unethical fur is a global issue, not an ‘everyone but LARPers’ issue.

I kid you not, there are people at LARP events actually wearing Alsatians on their cloaks. ALSATIANS!

Synthetic fur is by far the most ethically sound option when it comes to fashion and animal welfare, but when asked a lot of roleplayers argue that they wear real farmed fur on the grounds that unnatural fibres make for a historically inaccurate costume. Historical accuracy is the main reason used to support the apparent ‘LARP right’ to enable these unethical practices and personally I think that as excuses go it’s weak. An animal’s life so your cloak can look a bit better whilst you run around pretending to be an orc? In my books, that’s just not going to fly.

There will inevitably be roleplayers out there who want real fur despite the cruelty of it, so condemning the wearing of fur at LARP isn’t the answer. A more practical solution is to educate the LARP community into always questioning and researching the source of its fur, and encouraging the condemnation of nasty and brutal modern farmed fur. LARPers who buy this new fur are supporting and enabling a massively unethical trade.

How to wear ethical fur at LARP events and festivals

Have no fear; there are ways to still wear fur without either resorting to the synthetic stuff and pouring money into plastic-making corps (which are in themselves a conservation issue).

Buying vintage stoles/coats etc and modifying them is a much more ethical way of wearing genuine fur. When charity shops receive vintage furs they legally have to burn them and that’s hugely wasteful. Buying a vintage stole from someone who has owned it for years provides you with a genuine fur and doesn’t put money directly into an unethical fur farm.

Ethically sourced Fox Shaman outfit from the Custom Costume company. Modelled by Captin Ron. Photography by Deborah Selwood at Gecko Studios

Another option is looking into fur being sold after a cull. As animals need managing to protect the environment, it’s another ethical fur sourcing option. Waste not, want not…

If your local charity shops have already had their furs whisked away and you’re out of Cull season you need not worry; the internet is home to a broad collection of ethical furriers who sell online. Web companies like House of De Clifford focus on selling vintage fur only, and at reasonable prices. Sometimes they produce incredible bargains! So if you really must have that fur lining on your Orc cloak, make sure you bookmark these guys.

What isn’t known is that a lot of the LARP costume suppliers actually take the time to do these processes themselves when making fur costumes. Costume companies such as The Custom Costume Company and The Midgard Seamstress only use vintage fur in their work and refuse to work with the fur of any endangered species. However, there are also a lot of LARP suppliers that don’t take these steps. If you’re in doubt as to where the fur is sourced from, don’t be afraid to ask the seller and if the answer is along the lines of ‘imported from China/India/Thailand’ you know it’s been farmed! Fur sourcing methods in these countries are notorious for being about as unethical as it gets; culturally it is believed that a better pelt is produced if the animal is skinned alive.

When the internet offers so many cheap, quick, and easy ways to get hold of real fur, it can be easy to forget the brutality of the trade. The ethical fur sourcing methods outlined here mean taking extra time to keep an eye out and doing a little more research as to where the fur actually comes from, because animal welfare is a responsibility to us all, not to a select few. As LARP is becoming increasingly popular as a hobby it cannot be seen to support these violent practices, lest we have PETA rocking up to an event and throwing red paint all over our lovely costumes.

Response from a LARP costumier who uses fur

Ethically sourced LARP fur costume from House of De Clifford

Harma from DIY LARP costume store Barbwire and Roses was happy to talk to Mookychick about her experience of sourcing fur as a costumier, and her generously honest response goes to show you should ALWAYS ask, because only by asking are you likely to get a full answer on which to base your decisions.

Harma says: The rabbit fur I use comes from China through Tandy (I can tell because it has a “made in China” stamp sometimes). It’s the only fur I source through Tandy as I am fairly convinced that they would eat the rabbit over there. I know the horrible stories and videos of the wild dogs being skinned alive there. Although I have been offered that type of fur, I’ve never consciously bought it.

I do occasionally use fur from foxes and other wild animals. However, I’m conscious of buying them through a well-established fur-trader who keeps an eye on his suppliers as well (hence it’s not cheap). Alternatively I buy it from very small companies or personal traders from which the fur is obviously the result of hunting not breeding.

The 3mm veg. tan. leather I buy through Abbey Saddlery who have actually assured me that this leather comes from British soil. Generally I do not buy leather that is being ‘dumped’, but buy it through proper retailers in an attempt to obtain quality. It’s not always the cheapest, but to me it is important and I want to work with proper materials. If the quality is a little less fine, it will be stated as such in the item description. Sourcing leather can in some ways be as much of an ethical concern as sourcing fur; many mass-produced leather goods actually come from India.

Nearly all of the claws I feature in costumes are made of cast resin. I have two wild boar fangs, but I purchased them through re-enactor stalls where they are generally a by-product of hunting, particularly in the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia.

Summing it up:

You know where you stand on fur, so whatever you choose to do, think it through. If you want to either create or wear LARP costumes with real fur, always ask yourself and others what your reasons are for doing it and find out precisely where that fur comes from. Only with research and transparent communication between players, crafters and suppliers can you make a reasoned decision!

Ethically sourced Fox Shaman outfit from the Custom Costume company. Modelled by Captin Ron. Photography by Deborah Selwood at Gecko Studios

write for Mookychick