In this comparison guide, we outline some of the differences between real fur and faux fur, and consider which one might be better, as well as which one might be more ethical.
Summary – Real Fur vs Faux Fur Comparison: Differences, & Which Is Better & More Ethical
We’ve already written individual guides about real fur and faux fur, which you can read here:
- Real Fur – Is It Ethical, Animal Friendly & Eco Friendly?
- Faux Fur – Is It More Ethical, Eco Friendly & Animal Friendly?
But, some of the main considerations might be:
The main difference between real fur and faux fur is how they are made.
Real fur comes from animals (animal farms, and wild animals), whilst faux fur does not involve the use of animal products.
There’s also differences in the traits and features of the final product depending on how faux fur is manufactured and the technology used.
Which Is More Ethical?
It depends on the ethics of the person answering the question.
Some might say real fur is not ethical simply because it uses animal fur, and because of the associated direct animal welfare issues at the farming stage.
Others might say that faux fur is no more ethical because it comes from non renewable fossil fuels, and still involves indirect impact on wildlife via pollution and contribution to other environmental issues. It may also rob people in low income or isolated areas of the world of making an income to meet their basic leads from selling animal products.
There’s also instances of invasive species, pest species, overpopulated species and predator species degrading ecological systems and severely decreasing the numbers of other species.
Which Is More Better Overall?
It probably comes down to whether or not you believe in the direct use of animal products, or synthetic products, and also what you want in the look, feel and properties of the final product.
Natural/real fur is going to have different traits to faux fur. There can be a difference in cost (faux fur can be made cheaply in some instances), breathability (real fur tends to be more breathable), durability, and recyclability/biodegradability – just to name a few factors.
The choice from and eco friendly and may also come down to what sort of animals are used for natural fur, and whether they are wild caught or farmed. Some sources indicate that rabbit and alpaca fur, as well as wild caught coyotes, might be some of the most eco friendly and sustainable options (refinery29.com)
Several sources also accurately identify that faux fur has an indirect impact on wild life and the environment – via chemicals and pollution at the production phase. So, they aren’t completely animal friendly (craftsmanship.net)
*Note – some real fur might be made from recycled or pre-used and refashioned real fur. Additionally, some faux furs might be made from recycled synthetic fibres, or from bio based fibres in the future when technology further develops. This can change the set of pros and cons for both real and faux fur.
Real Fur vs Faux Fur – Additional Differences & Considerations
[Artificial furs can be cheaper, and so] Artificial furs become increasingly popular when the prices of genuine fur rise (montanatrappers.org)
Fake fur is a fabrics and it might be easier to sew, and may not need cold storage to prevent deterioration (wikipedia.org)
Real fur involves animal farming/agriculture mostly, but also animal trapping and hunting for fur. Faux fur is made mainly from petrochemical based synthetic fibres like acrylic and modacrylic. Both types of fur have a production stage that involves heavy use of chemicals.
[There have been several studies that have contradicted each other in regards to the eco impact of each fibre, with some studies saying fake fur requires less energy to make, whilst others say natural fur takes less energy to make] (wikipedia.org). Refinery29.com makes the broad point that determining which fibre is more eco friendly and sustainable might require breaking it down to the animal used for the fur, and whether it’s wild or farmed. Rabbit and alpaca fur might be more eco friendly than polyester, whilst Mink may not be. Additionally, wild caught coyote may be eco friendly compared to faux fur. [How long you keep your fur or faux fur product also matters – the longer you keep it, the better. Additionally, whether the fur product is recycled/upcycled or not matters because it cuts out the need for new production. There’s also indirect factors to consider like how factories and farms are powered, how much toxicity is involved in the production processes of fibres and fabrics, and so on]
[There’s debate over which fibre might actually be more animal friendly] Refinery29.com illustrates this point: One study, which was commissioned by a pair of animal rights organizations, says that a fur coat is worse for the environment; a competing study commissioned by the International Fur Trade Federation says a faux fur coat is worse. [There’s also the point made by Refinery29.com that Nutria are degrading Louisiana’s wetlands, invasive Minks are hunting voles in Scotland, and Rabbits are leading to the extinction of other species in Australia – so, providing fur from these species may be beneficial for other species and the environment]
[Fake fur may not be as insulating as real fur, and may not allow the skin to sweat and breathe as much as real fur] (wikipedia.org)
[Faux fur may not be as suited to snowy conditions because it may not be able to] keep snow from melting and re-freezing on the fiber filaments (wikipedia.org)
Fake fur is made from partly non renewable materials like coal and petroleum that are used for the different blends of acrylic and modacrylic that make up faux fur, whilst real fur is made of natural animal fur fibres
Real fur, because it is made from natural materials, might be more biodegradable than faux fur
Real fur might be able to be refashioned/upcycled and recycled into other fur products than faux fur
Faux fur, because it is made of synthetic plastic fibres, might have issues with breaking down into micro plastics when it is disposed of – these micro plastics can get into the gut of wild life, and even into human tap water sources
Faux fur might have more opportunity to be modified and manufactured into a wider range of appearances, feels, and looks. Faux fur technology might also develop in the future to include more bio based (plant based) and lab grown fibres being used. Faux fur technology may continue to improve the quality and standards of the product
Both faux fur and real fur may still suffer from mislabelling in some parts of the world
Some Potential Improvements For Fur & Faux Fur
Moving from synthetic based faux furs to bio based (plant based) fur, or fur grown in laboratories
Better certifications – Saga Certification and Welfur might be two examples of certifications that are helping or could help track the supply chain and animal welfare standards of fur (voguebusiness.com)
Reducing the environmental impact of animal agriculture
Capturing and re-using waste water from the fur and faux fur production process, or capturing it and treating it before disposal
Better transparency on whether studies were commissioned by pro fur, or pro faux fur groups
10. Animal Legal & Historical Center (Author,: https://www.animallaw.info/article/detailed-discussion-fur-animals-and-fur-production