Remember the old joke about the two immigrants who get off the boat in America, walk down the street, and see a group of people buying lunch from a cart that advertises, "Hot Dogs, 10 cents"? One says to the other, "Do they eat dogs here?" The other says, "I guess so -- and since we're American now, we should try it." So they get in line and buy their hot dogs, at which point the first guy looks down at his lunch, looks at the other guy, and says, "Hey ... what part of the dog did you get?"
Happily for our bold gastronomes, sometimes a dog isn't really a dog.
A version of the same debate, however, is going on this morning -- not with respect to food, but with respect to clothing.
Macy's has removed from its web site and its stores 2 styles of Sean Jean hooded jacket after the Humane Society found that they were advertised as being trimmed with faux fur -- which was actually real. Still more shocking are the headlines announcing that the jackets were trimmed with "dog fur," although the actual animal involved is the wild "raccoon dog," which is native to Asia.
According to the Humane Society, tests on coats purchased at stores ranging from J.C. Penney to Saks Fifth Avenue, and on brands from Baby Phat to Calvin Klein and every price point in between, reveal that 9 out of 10 coats labeled "raccoon" or "coyote" are actually made from raccoon dog -- a form of mislabeling that violates federal law. Moreover, although the raccoon dog is not a domestic animal, and more strongly resembles North American raccoons than dogs, the Humane Society will petition Congress to ban the use of its fur because of its genetic relationship to dogs kept as pets.
Sean Jean has, of course, stopped all use of the fur.
Will consumers who have bought the "faux fur-trimmed" jackets line up to return them? Interesting question. Some may be anti-fur in general -- but many diehard animal rights folks won't even wear remotely realistic faux fur, lest their stylish example provoke demand for the real thing. Others may read as far as the headlines about "dog fur," take one look at a cherished pet, and foreswear Macy's forever. On the other hand, some may simply shrug -- after all, if you bought a cubic zirconia ring and later learned it was actually a diamond, would you mind? The media elision between the wild "raccoon dog" and the family dog, moreover, is more than a bit sensationalistic. Would a headline reading, "Macy's pulls Nyctereutes procyonoides fur jackets," have stopped traffic? Hardly Cruella de Vil material.
While the politics of fur are debatable, misleading labeling is simply wrong. Then again, so are misleading headlines.