There’s no question that the animal-rights movement has successfully altered America’s attitude toward fur; coats composed of pelts are no longer a de rigueur status symbol for those with too much money on their hands. So why, then, is mink production ramping up to virtually unprecedented levels? Because the newly affluent Chinese covet fur coats to the same degree as the Eisenhower-era wives of industrial tycoons:
China imported nearly $126 million worth of U.S. mink pelts last year, making it the second most lucrative mink export market for American fur farmers behind South Korea, according to FAS. The North American Fur Auction, which touts itself as the largest fur wholesale auction house in North America, said nearly three quarters of the 700-plus buyers who attended its Toronto auction in February were Chinese.
Zhang Yiren, a 25-year-old medical magazine employee, tried on a fur coat in a Shanghai shopping mall recently with her parents. “I have had two fur coats and bought them for myself,” she said. “The angora one cost me 1,600 yuan ($250), and I love the style. It is beautiful and keeps me warm.”
Herein lies a difficult challenge for the animal-rights movement—namely, how do they modify their message and tactics to reach Chinese consumers? Cheeky shock tactics may not work quite as well in the Middle Kingdom.