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Stick to your own skin 

Fur hunters deserve a gruesome death

I'm convinced that there is divine retribution after all. A recent news article reported that African ape hunters are being infected by a virus related to AIDS as a result of their "hunting and butchering of primates." The viral strain is called "simian foamy virus," and I hope anyone who would murder and chop up our ape brethren foams burning green at the mouth -- at the very least. These people actually deserve to die a gruesome death, which might happen since supposedly we humans brought AIDS upon ourselves through the "cross-species transmission" of a monkey virus. I've always suspected it started with lonely guys out in the bush screwing ass-flashing chimps who probably didn't look half bad after enough jungle hooch, but it sounds like butchering ape hunters getting elbow-deep in their victims' blood could have done the trick this time around.

This foaming-virus thing got me thinking about other punishments for crimes against the natural world, such as hideous consequences for the wearing of animals' skins. Those are their skins, people -- You have your own! All those photos of hag Martha Stewart in a knotted mink scarf got me imagining the scarf slowly tightening around her sour, scraggly neck. (Her fatal misstep, BTW, was mouthing off at a Vassar College grad in the form of that Faneuil fellow. You don't treat us VC alums like scum and get away with it.) Maybe some scourge could strike people clothed in fur so they'd snap and snarl uncontrollably just like whatever animal they're wearing -- or sprout claws, and fur on their faces around little beady eyes. Perhaps they could be haunted by the screams emitted by the poor beasts whose skins they wear as they were being bludgeoned to death.

My conviction that animals shouldn't have to die just so humans can parade around in their pelts goes back to my childhood, way before I was aware of any PETA propaganda. It originally came about because of my grandmother, an insatiable Fur Queen in the mode of Cruella de Ville. Nothing made Nana feel more like da bomb than wearing something fashioned out of somebody else's hide. She was the kind of predator who would have sported her best friend's skin if she thought it would help her look glamorous. I can still see her twirling in a circle, showing off the latest mink coat that replaced the not- that-old mink coat. Every couple of years a litter of minks had to be murdered just so my grandmother could have yet another fuzzy blonde tent to flaunt. The satin "Furs by Vanity" label sewn into the last one should have read, "Furs for Vanity." At first, I was drawn to the beauty and softness of these substitute skins Nana draped herself in, having no idea how they came to be on her body instead of on the animals they were created to cover. What changed all that was when she explained to me that her shiny black Persian lamb stole had such tight little curls because it was made from newborn lambs who had to be killed for their fleece since it was too close to their skin to be sheared off like sheep's wool. Blithely heartless Nana announced this to the young me as if it were simply something to be stored away for future fur reference, while meanwhile my mind reeled with visions of frolicking baby lambs like you see on Easter decorations, mixed with the bleeding, throat-cut lambs used to illustrate the Christ-as-Lamb angle of the Easter story. Apparently Christ died so my grandmother could have a sharp stole!

That was it for me and wearing fur. I knew right then there was something downright nauseating about it. Oh, but fur's so warm, you say! Even when I was freezing in college in one of the nation's dank iceboxes, upstate New York, I refused my mother's offer of her full-length beaver coat, making do instead with a polo jacket and a whole lot of substances to help me forget the penetrating cold. One day while eating at the now-defunct Catherine's restaurant on Providence Rd., I complimented a woman across the aisle on her incredibly soft-looking dress. She thanked me proudly, explaining it was made from unborn calf. The image I got of the cruelty involved in obtaining that piece of hide made me lose my appetite. Let's just say I doubt they waited for a natural miscarriage.

Fashion reports claim fur is popular now because women once again have no qualms about wearing it. If stripping the skins off other creatures' babies doesn't bother people, then why not go all out? Maybe the market should expand into children's skin, because you know how soft that is! And hey, it could be an efficient way to use all those AIDS orphans.

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