In a recent opinion piece for Huffington Post UK, former MP Mark Oaten tries to make a case for men wearing fur. Of course, as the head of the International Fur Trade Federation, that's to be expected - but gents, beware. Besides the risk of looking like Liberace, there's another reason why men should avoid fur at all costs: cruelty to animals is a real turnoff and isn't going to score you any points with the ladies - or anyone else, for that matter.
In fact, according to a recent opinion poll, 95 per cent of British people say that they wouldn't dream of wearing real fur. That's because they know that for the animals trapped in filthy cages on fur farms, who are never allowed to feel the grass beneath their feet or dive into a cool stream - or do anything else that is natural or enjoyable - every single day of their existence is a living nightmare.
PETA Asia has investigated fur farms and markets in China - now the world's largest exporter of fur - and found that raccoon dogs are beaten with steel pipes and left to die slowly as they writhe in agony in full view of other animals. Rabbits are stacked row upon row in dark, dirty sheds, just like any factory-farmed animal. The stench of ammonia from urine-soaked floors burns the animals' sensitive eyes and lungs, and many rabbits die of painful respiratory diseases - which is considered just a cost of doing business.
On one fox fur farm, hundreds of foxes were packed individually into wire cages that were not much bigger than the animals' own bodies. Every part of the farm was filthy. Frozen piles of urine and faeces had accumulated beneath the cages. Many animals did not have food or water. Some foxes had gone insane from the solitary confinement and deprivation and repeatedly spun in circles or threw themselves against the sides of the cages.
Similarly appalling conditions were exposed on fur farms in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden - countries that participate in the fur industry's "Origin Assured" programme, which purportedly guarantees that the animals were treated "humanely" before they were senselessly slaughtered. Judge for yourself if you think that's true: when undercover investigators toured fur farms in Sweden, they found minks crammed into wire cages and suffering from severe psychological distress. Many of the minks had resorted to self-mutilation and even cannibalism. Animals on farms in Finland had untreated, oozing wounds and broken, malformed limbs. Dead animals infested with maggots were left to rot among the living. Many animals, driven insane by confinement, circled frantically in their cages. The Danish group Anima also exposed the cruel reality of life for animals on fur farms in Denmark. Anima documented sick, injured and dead animals on all 26 farms that it visited. Minks were found with massive untreated bite wounds, resulting from fights that likely erupted because these solitary animals were forced to live together in small cages. Some minks had their legs, tails and ears bitten off, and others had oozing wounds.
These animals' deaths are just as bleak as their short and miserable lives. Some animals are killed by being genitally electrocuted, which sends a current through the heart and immobilises the animal but does not stop brain activity. When animals are electrocuted without prior stunning, they suffer the crushing, agonising pain of a full-blown heart attack until their hearts finally stop beating. Others are poisoned or gassed. Since these methods don't always kill them, some animals "wake up" while being skinned.
Fortunately, despite what fur-industry cronies say, real fur is on the way out and has been for years. Many retailers, including All Saints, Gap, H&M, New Look, Topshop and Zara, either never sold fur or have permanently pulled it from their shelves. There's not an inch of fur in the fall collections designed by Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, or Ralph Lauren - they're just some of the top designers who refuse to use it. British department stores also know their customers do not want anything to do with it, which is why Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser and others all have no fur policies.
A growing number of stars are turning their backs on real fur as more high-end labels offer clothing made from luxurious synthetics. You'll never catch male celebs such as Mark Ronson, Joaquin Phoenix, Danny Cipriani, Rylan Clark, Morrissey, Ricky Whittle, Jamie Bamber, Dave Navarro and model Austin Armacost (Marc Jacobs' ex) sporting a fur-trimmed bomber jacket or a fur trapper hat - but you may have seen them in PETA ads speaking out against fur products. And you won't find any real fur on the parkas of Pretty Green, Noel Gallagher's fashion brand. Like female style icons Michelle Obama, Victoria Beckham, Leona Lewis, Penélope Cruz and Kate Winslet, these animal-friendly fellows are fashionable without fur.
Taking a stand against an industry that confines animals to cramped cages, violently beats them and rips the skin off their bodies is easy - just ban caveman couture from your closet. Visit PETA.org.uk today to take the pledge to go fur-free.
Follow Mimi Bekhechi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Mimi_Bekhechi