I hate to complain about anything done at the Fall Festival, as I know the parents who organize it work very hard, but there was something which appalled me and upset my daughter Iris this year. It was the fur covered toys for sale at the fairyland area.
We was shocked to see real fur used in toy kittens, and these fur toys were displayed very prominently. They were the dominant item at the fairyland area. Iris and I had gone to the fairy area on our arrival at the fair, and we had actually intended to make at least one purchase there to add to our fairyland at home (we had bought a fairy house the year before). Iris, a sensitive animal loving child, was so disturbed by the fur that she asked to leave. This cast a pall over our afternoon at the fair, as Iris couldn't get her mind off the dead rabbits used to make these toys and asked me such questions as "Why do people hate rabbits?" and "Why can't the bunnies be smart enough to escape? Why do they have to die?"
I was rather disturbed by the hypocrisy that the children were being encouraged to pay to pet and feed live rabbits at the petting zoo, just yards away from where they were being urged to buy the skins of other rabbits, who had met an unkind demise in order to make cheap toys.
There was another level of hypocrisy, which I suspect but can't prove: the fur-covered toys were from China. Not all of the fur appeared to be rabbit fur. It is an established fact that in China, cats --- the same sort of cats we keep as pets -- are commonly raised for the fur trade. [See, e.g., http://www.furisdead.com/feat-dogcatfur.asp]. Some of the kitten toys I saw at Burke's appeared to me to have been covered with cat fur (as a long-time cat fosterer and rescue volunteer, I know cat fur). It's frankly hideous to sell a toy cat to a girl which required the death of a real cat to make.
Fur has become controversial in our society, with an increasing awareness growing that the animals raised for fur are killed in spectacularly inhumane ways (the most common way is anal electrocution so as to preserve the fur). I am glad Iris doesn't yet know about that aspect of the fur trade, but I suspect some of the upper school girls do. Is that something Burke's wants to be affiliated with? Is that something to teach our girls, that although we enjoy petting rabbits, we think it's good to kill them in an agonizing way to make a toy that will be probably discarded when the girl tires of it?
I expect to see fur if I go to Neiman Marcus, and I make my shopping decisions accordingly. I don't expect to see it showcased at a Burke's family festival, though, and I am disappointed in the school. Please consider making a policy that fur won't be sold at future festivals.
While I'm on this uncomfortable subject, I should also state that I've been troubled -- but have hitherto held my tongue -- about the practice of giving out the goldfish at KDBS. It's a common sight to go to a Burke's family home and see a large number of goldfish being kept in a tiny, undersized globe. These fish should have a lifespan of 30 years if cared for properly and require a large, aerated tank for comfort. The way they are given out, as though they were disposable, seems callous and definitely doesn't teach the girls to respect animal pets and care for them accordingly. At the very least, there should be a sheet of instructions for the proper care of goldfish given out with the fish. (I would be happy to draft such a thing). I also witnessed parents being displeased when their child showed up at their side with a fish. It seems inappropriate to give out a living creature to a child without the parents' consent and implicit commitment to keeping the fish.
I hope Burke's can do better than this.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
a letter to our elementary school
Today I'm waiting for a call back about whether I can return my dear foster kittens, Helen Keller and Ray Charles, today. Poor Helen and Ray, unaware of their impending eviction from their happy childhood home, are curled up in my lap. I couldn't bear to disturb them and took advantage of their snuggling time to write the following letter to the head of Iris and Lucy's elementary school: