Wear Fur, Save the Wetlands

| 5/19/2011 5:30:48 PM

Tags: New Orleans, Louisiana, fur, environment, OnEarth, Margret Aldrich,


Would you wear a swamp rat around your shoulders? Michael Massimi, the invasive-species coordinator at the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program (BTNEP) in southeast Louisiana, hopes swamp rats—properly known as nutrias—will become part of your wardrobe, reports Barry Yeoman in OnEarth.

The scruffy, long-tailed rodents, originally from South America, were brought to Louisiana in the 1930s for their fur. As the demand for pelts decreased, nutrias became a serious threat to the state’s 6,600 square miles of wetlands, which are disappearing at an alarming 25 square miles a year. Yeoman explains:

Nutrias, which reproduce quickly, eat freshwater marsh vegetation down to its roots. “They’re the termites of our coastal wetlands,” Massimi says. “This is an existential issue. The marsh ain’t big enough for the two of us.” Nutrias also eat young cypress trees in Louisiana’s swamps and burrow into hurricane-protection levees, destabilizing them.

With mangy brown fur and long orange teeth, nutrias are not pretty animals. Nonetheless, Massimi and New Orleans designer Cree McCree, of the Righteous Fur project, have staged fashion shows in New Orleans and Brooklyn featuring nutria-fur hats, a nutria bikini, a nutria-lined robe, and a backless nutria teddy to highlight the animal’s potential in the fashion world. Already, high-end designers like Oscar de la Renta and Billy Reid have taken notice, incorporating nutria into their collections.

So what happens in the unlikely event that nutria fever spreads throughout the fashion world? “Massimi knows there’s a paradox in developing a nutria fur market,” Yeoman writes, as Massimi tells him:

We’re defeating the purpose if there’s an economic incentive for people to, say, farm nutria. That’s absolutely not what we want to do. But, frankly, that’s a problem I would love to have.

Source: OnEarth 

earth ling
5/26/2011 1:21:12 PM

THANKS UTNE! As I have come to expect, you have once again given readers food for thought. An intelligent response to help solve coastal erosion is to control the nutria population. I am normally very liberal, but on this issue "animal rights" must take a back seat. This is a great, workable idea for saving America's wetlands..... and the swamp dwellers will make it work because of its economic benefits. Many people already eat them..... so we could help feed a hungry world while snuggling up in their comfy fur.

frances crutchfield
5/25/2011 2:11:40 PM

Dear Utne, For years I have loved you, but I am ashamed of you for publishing this article. Slaughtering helpless creatures for clothing is beneath me and should be beneath you. Furthermore, I think the Nutria is cute. This piece is an abomination.

linda f.
5/25/2011 9:11:00 AM

Cool idea. One way to get rid of the critters and use their fur at the same time. A good eco-task of recycling.

corrina mccarron
5/23/2011 9:10:01 PM

This article is offensive and disgusting. There are many other ways to reduce the nutria population other than making profit from killing them and wearing their skin. I am very disappointed that Utne would run such an uninformed, misleading article.

5/23/2011 1:51:25 PM

So I guess if the nutrias had been described as "pretty", we would be reading a different story. This is a horrendous idea and I find it offensive that you would even publish such garbage. There are humane ways to remove unwanted animal populations and anal electrocution is not one of them. Please stop encouraging barbaric behavior, humans already have an image problem.

peggy muszynski
5/23/2011 1:51:11 PM

Wow! What an absolutely disgusting and dispicible idea! How horrific to actually encourage people to wear the skin and hair of another being just because some think they're an inconvenience! Humans have a very speciesist viewpoint when it comes to our planet and its inhabitants. Why don't we aim our focus on ways in which we can share this planet respectfully with all who live here? I am just repulsed by this.

5/23/2011 1:02:27 PM

And I forgot to say... very disappointed in the Utne Reader for giving this ridiculous idea press.

5/23/2011 1:01:22 PM

"Not pretty" is in the eye of the beholder, and I'd say any garment that comes from suffocating, anally electrocuting and other methods used to kill animals for fur is a lot less pretty. Who needs a backless nutria teddy? And "Righteous Fur Project"? Give me a break.

5/23/2011 12:53:20 PM

What horrible logic! To encourage people to wear fur is absolutely disgusting and discredits any environmental organization. I am tired on humans creating environmental problems and then want to punish animals as a result. There are other ways to reduce nutria populations through time to help with this issue. Giving people an excuse to wear fur does nothing but spread the message that animals can be killed for vanity and ego. Not ok!