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September 15th, 2011 | By Alicia Silverstone

Through the years, I’ve struggled to find the right reaction whenever I’ve come into contact with people who wear fur. I have so many strong feelings about this issue that I’ve often become tongue-tied and have not known what to say.
At times, I’ve said things that, even though they were truly what I felt, only angered or alienated people. Other times, I’ve said nothing and just accepted that it’s their choice. But holding it in and simmering in silence didn’t feel right to me either.
What I’ve finally learned is that being warm and kind is the best way to open a dialogue on this subject. Often, people wearing fur expect me to say something harsh that will put them on the defensive. But, if I’m willing to engage with them openly and respectfully (even if I can’t stand the choice they’ve made), it gives us an opportunity to have a friendly conversation, one where they’re far more open to hearing another point of view.
If I feel comfortable, I might ask them in a disarming tone, “Hey, is that real?” This gives them the chance to answer yes or no, but I think just asking the question plants the seed in their mind. If they say it is, I just go, “Ahhh,” or give a look that expresses my reaction – but without judgment or condemnation; I just try and express my truth.
Many times, people will say things like, “Oh gosh, I know- My mom gave it to me,”or, “I struggle with this issue myself!” Whatever their response, by staying compassionate and non-judgmental, I have a much better chance at planting a seed of change in their mind or opening up a dialogue than if I get into an argument with them. I think I’ve wound up having a far more positive effect by calling out my feelings on the issue while not cutting off the chance to have a respectful dialogue. A lot of times, people who wear fur might already have an openness to hearing another point of view, but if you go at them in a way that’s confrontational, they will shut down.
It doesn’t make me hate the fur trade any less, but if my goal is to win over people and eliminate fur clothing for good, then a kind and understanding approach can be the most effective. Living a compassionate life means sometimes even having compassion for people who are making choices that are harmful or ignorant. We don’t have to like or accept what they’re doing, but the most effective way to start changing it is by engaging them in constructive dialogue.
What do you do when you see someone wearing fur? What have you found to be the most effective way to get people to change?

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