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Faux Ethics

Is a fake ever superior to an original?  Perhaps, at least with respect to claiming the moral high ground.

Take furs.  With the onset of winter weather and holiday parties, the minks, chinchillas, and sables that spent the summer in cold storage have returned to the streets.  In one of fashion's eternal cycles, pelts that were once considered the province of dowagers or Cruella DeVille are once again high fashion. 

This year, PETA has responded with somewhat more clever tactics than the flinging of dead animals or cream pies.  A holiday card sent to Vogue staffers depicted editor-in-chief Anna Wintour in one of her customary furs; the card opened to reveal a skeletal Anna in her lingerie flashing the reader and declaring, "Without fur ... I am nothing."

Yet the New York Times, in last week's Thursday Styles section, took the opportunity to remind us that as recently as 1989 "fun furs" were the preferred wrap of the stylishly dressed, or at least those who feared the red paint brigades.  This faux elegance raises questions that are more than skin deep, however:  Were the women photographed by the NYT some 16 years ago secretly longing for the real thing?  Indeed, do excellent copies exacerbate demand for natural furs?  At the end of the day, can humans really be expected to deny our status as clever carnivores at the top of the food -- or fashion -- chain?  Or, for the anti-Darwinists among us, what's up with that Genesis story -- does God prefer furs to fig leaves?

In short, which is "better" -- real or fake?