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Thanks for Nothing: Fur Coats Becoming Gift You Can't Wear Anywhere

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Like Hollywood, set to ban the sale of fur in 2012, Chicago is no longer a fur capital. One reason is the annual Fur Free Friday parade held the day after Thanksgiving. For 25 years, the march has crawled down the Magnificent Mile, stopping at every furrier along the way. Some years the parade has attracted 800 marchers.

Commensurate with the best street theater, the march has featured coffins, piles of animal pelts, dangling steel jaw traps, mock burials and phalanxes of monster masks for those monster enough to wear fur. It has featured PETA style disrobing (confirming the observation that the prettiest women lean toward animal causes), interpretive dance and of course a drum corps.

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Since the late 1990s, some of the scheduled "stops" where a spokesman delivers a speak-out about the cruelty of the fur trade, the stores are happily gone. Evans, the world's largest furrier who anchored the State street shopping corridor since the Great Depression went out of business in 1999 citing "anti-fur activism that focused on convincing the American and European public that wearing any kind of fur was cruel and malicious to the animal it was taken from." Evans had a second store on Michigan Avenue and on the day of the Fur Free Friday parade, it would hire a billboard truck to park in front of it and occlude its sign.

Across the street from the Evans State street store, Mysels Furs, in the Palmer House Hilton, stood as a last bastion against anti-fur sentiment. Its State street door was actually locked and an Addams Family-esque live male mannequin performed in the window, furthering the crypt-like feel. No one ever saw a live customer. Mysels, too, is gone.

Also gone is a Michigan avenue store called D'ion Furs whose slogan was, "Give her her own D'ion." But nearby, on Michigan avenue, Andriana Furs still stands despite news reports in 2009 that Sohrab Tebyanian was using the store to launder drug money and pay employees.

Once upon a time, Fur Free Friday was the one day the tables were turned on the Mag Mile and women in full length minks and lynxes were not admired but booed as they underwent a perp walk past the marchers. But now, there are few furs in Chicago (except for last year's "fox hat" fad; what was up with that?)

But the fur industry is alive and well, bolstered by cheap "Asian wolf" skins from China reported to be dog. And department stores like Macy's hawk the heartless outerwear pretending they have never seen the videos on YouTube that show where fur "comes from."

In fact, the fur and fashion industry deliberately mix faux and real fur to deny consumers an ethical choice. They dye "fun" furs that are from real animals wild colors to look fake and funky and people buy them. Fun furs are not fun for the animals.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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