Johnny Weir: sometimes it’s easy to make ethical choices.

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Johnny Weir: sometimes it’s easy to make ethical choices.

I’d like to call out Olympic skater Johnny Weir on his  response to people who decried his (cancelled) plans to wear fur trim on his uniform.  The Olympics may be over, but this kind of poor logic exists elsewhere and should be addressed:

I totally get the dirtiness of the fur industry and how terrible it is to animals. But it’s not something that’s the No. 1 priority in my life. There are humans dying everyday. There are thousands if not millions of homeless people in New York City. Look at what just happened in Haiti. I tend to focus my energy, if there is a cause, on humans. While that may be callous and bad of me, it’s my choice.

Every skater is wearing skates made out of cow. Maybe I’m wearing a cute little fox while everyone else is wearing cow, but we’re all still wearing animals.”

It’s hard for me to believe that an adult would come up with an argument this poor to defend their unethical choices.  Yes, Johnny, that is “callous and bad” of you, which is why people were upset.

I would understand, to some degree, if Weir were discussing leather.  Not that leather is  less cruel than fur, really.  Leather is often a byproduct of the beef industry, but it’s such an important byproduct–their most profitable, by far–that some people have gone so far as to refer to it as a coproduct.

That said, though, the skates that Olympic athletes use are probably all made out of leather as a default.  If Weir were to go out of his way to force the manufacture of special non-leather Olympic standard skates, he could, hypothetically, be taking time away from his supposed charitable work in New York City and Haiti.

As it is, though, Weir made a conscious decision to pick fur for his costume–an specific choice on his part, since it’s not a standard part of Olympic uniforms.  And now he’s claiming that while he understands how terrible fur is, he’s more concerned with helping people, so he had to choose to support the fur industry–as if his options were either a) fur or b) beating up an orphan, rather than a) fur or b) …no fur.

Sometimes it’s not so easy to make ethical choices, but a lot of the time, it couldn’t possibly be simpler.  This is one of those cases.  When kinder options are that readily available–at no detriment to ourselves or to others–it’s really our obligation to take advantage of them.  I’ve heard some very positive things about Weir’s progressive attitudes–mostly in regards to his refusal to play the “is he gay or is he straight?” media game, as he (correctly) feels that it’s no one’s business but his own–so perhaps there is hope for him after all.

I really, really do not believe that he "understand(s) the dirtiness of the fur industry."



March 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I do agree with part of what he has to say though. People will jump on the fact that he’s wearing fur, but choose to ignore all athletes’ leather skates. It’s a complete double-standard. In fact, this goes on ALL the time in mainstream society. People ignore leather, but spit on people who wear fur. Leather is just as bad, yet we somehow are more accepting of it. I believe this is because it’s mainstream, where as fur no longer is. And fur is more obvious. As much as I hate peoples’ sport of fur as much as anyone (and am vegan and wear absolutely NO animal products, ever), I respect what this man has to say. He’s right…


March 5, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Hi Danette. Yes, I agree that he was correct in that regard, but it’s sort of a fallacious argument that doesn’t address the actual issue. Just because he wears leather doesn’t mean he has the right to start wearing fur, and if he was already wearing fur, it wouldn’t have given him the right to start wearing leather. Two wrongs don’t make a right (yes, that was kind of a pun), you know? Thanks for commenting.


March 6, 2010 at 12:16 am

Leather is not equal to fur. Fur is created solely because of consumer fashion demands, whereas leather is a bi-product of the meat industry. Activists are reasoning that you can’t presently take down the meat industry but there is no excuse to wear fur. Maybe once people realize that it’s no longer socially acceptable to wear fur, they will look at leather alternatives as well.


March 6, 2010 at 7:56 pm

His argument is poor. It is a “I cant do everything so i wont do anything” argument. It would be like someone who is being criticized for beating his child saying: why should I care about that when so many people are being murdered in the city?

Yes they are all bad but if one cant concentrate on an issue apart from the others nothing will ever be addressed.

Good riddance to the Olympics.


March 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm

One doesn’t have to engage in blatantly avoidable animal cruelty to help humans.

On leather vs fur… I get focusing on fur in the sense that people may see it as more indulgent and be more quickly to give it up. But I think characterizing leather as a co-product of the cattle industry is helpful. It’s part of the business model. If there were no market for leather, it would have a serious impact on the meat and dairy industries. And some leather comes from cows who were killed just for their hides.

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