Well, I am relieved that you are still interested in my blog after my previous doom and gloom post. I even depressed myself and started to wonder why I am focusing on such a dismal topic as the fur industry. There are so many blogs with stunning photographs of nature in all her beauty, politics, powerful poetry and delicious recipes. Of course there are those who, too, focus on the plight of our nonhuman companions and fight for their rights. Thank you ~ we can only do this together. However, everyone who reads this blog is a compassionate person who cares about the well-being of nonhuman animals.
So here is my gift to you, and my ritual offering of palm fruit to the ancestors, gods, fairies, angels, saints and other beings who work towards ending the exploitation of nonhuman animals.
Photograph taken in Zanzibar a while back
This is what gives me hope:
The Shembe church (SA) embraces fake fur to protect leopards
-The Shembe church has more than five million members and tens of thousands of followers attend a special service every January.
-Worship is through prayers and dances. Older men, with their warrior shields, go through the steps of a traditional religious ritual to the rhythmic sound of drum beats.
-According to Lizwi Ncwane, spokesperson for the church, participants must wear the customary ceremonial attire. This includes a loin cloth of monkey tails, a leopard skin belt, bracelets and elaborate headgear with ostrich feathers. As leopard skins symbolise power, pride and royalty it is essential that a leopard skin is slung across their naked chests.
-Leopard hunting permits are available in South Africa, but only to the extremely rich. So how do these thousands of Shembe worshipers obtain their leopard skins?
-Sadly, it is through an illicit leopard skin trade that, because of its cultural links, is ignored by the law. Guy Balme, Africa leopard programme director with US-based conservation group Panthera claims, “This is the biggest display of illegal wildlife contraband on earth”. The big cat populations are now near extinct because of loss of habitat and poaching,
-When Tristan Dickerson, a leopard conservationist for Panthera, was invited to attend a gathering of the Shembe church in Durban he saw hundreds of leopard skins.
-As a full leopard skin costs up to R6 000, Dickerson noted that some of the less well-off dancers were wearing a substitute of cow and impala skins painted with leopard spots. -Furthermore, Dickerson noticed that there were some followers and their children who wore inexpensive Chinese replicas. This inspired his innovative plan to find a realistic, synthetic alternative.
-Panthera in recent years has worked to develop authentic-looking fake leopard skins.
-The fabric is produced in China, then shipped to Durban where it is sewn into the final product.
-Initially there was resistance to this project but after much talking between conservationists and church leaders the church has now endorsed the alternative. As Dickerson points out , “It has taken four years to get to the point where we are now, where they are accepting the furs and they are using them”.
Tristan Dickerson – a lone crusader
-Panthera aims to distribute 6 000 free synthetic furs in July 2014. Already around 10% of Shembe members’ furs are estimated to be fake.
-Wearing his own synthetic leopard fur, spokesperson Ncwane predicts that up to 70% of dancers will have given up real skins within two years. Hopefully loin cloths, bracelets and belts will follow suit.
–Although this change of tradition was motivated by economic necessity and the need to conserve the leopard population, it still illustrates that a mindset can change.
Now it is our task to convince people that all nonhuman life is valuable and that wearing real fur for a perceived status symbol is unacceptable.