07/13/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

First Ladies of Compassion

The fur trade is a global challenge for the animal protection movement, with baby harp seals clubbed in Canada, raccoon dogs skinned alive in China, and designers and manufacturers selling garments across international borders. That's why I was so pleased to see two of the international community's most stylish and glamorous women tell the world unequivocally that their closets are fur-free.

France's First LadyAccording to Stephanie Green and Elizabeth Glover of The Washington Times, France's First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy--a former supermodel--says she doesn't wear, buy or own fur, or accept fur pieces from designers who lend her clothes for public appearances, even when the garments are only trimmed with a small amount of fur. And here in the U.S., Michelle Obama's deputy press secretary confirmed that the First Lady doesn't wear fur.

Wayne Pacelle wrote earlier this year about the important tone set by incoming First Ladies when it comes to fur apparel. And we were extremely pleased on Inauguration Day--cold and wintry here in Washington, but charged with excitement--that Michelle Obama chose not to wear fur. Her inaugural gown, in fact, was designed by Jason Wu, who later canceled his own plans for launching a fur collection this fall. 

First Lady, Michelle Obama

First Lady, Michelle Obama

With the many warm and fashionable alternatives available, designers, retailers, and people in the public eye are making the right choices, and setting the right example for others. BCBG Max Azria, Calvin Klein, Ed Hardy, Foot Locker, JC Penney,, and Tommy Hilfiger have stopped selling fur recently after discussions with HSUS. Others like Andrew Marc, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Rocawear, and Sean John have pledged to stop using raccoon dog fur, curbing the cruel killing of animals resembling wild dogs.

Until all corporations do the right thing, we need stronger laws like the Truth in Fur Labeling Act so consumers can be sure that the "faux fur" jacket on the store rack is not actually mislabeled, or falsely advertised animal fur. Surely consumers deserve the right to make informed purchasing decisions. And we need more role models like Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who send an important message to the world: Compassion is their fashion.