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Macy's Bans Fur, but Is Faux Fur an Environmentally Friendly Alternative?

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Macy's Bans Fur, but Is Faux Fur an Environmentally Friendly Alternative?
Animals most targeted by the fur industry include minks, foxes and rabbits. Hal Trachtenberg / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Macy's announced Monday that it will stop selling fur by 2021, The New York Times reported.


The ban will apply both to its namesake stores and to its Bloomingdale's department stores, and will mean that Macy's 34 Fur Vaults and Bloomingdale's 22 Maximilian salons will close. The company made the announcement alongside the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which has been pressing it to drop fur for more than 10 years.

"We are proud to partner with the Humane Society of the United States in our commitment to ending the sale of fur," Macy's, Inc. CEO and Chairman Jeff Gennette said, according to The Guardian. "We remain committed to providing great fashion and value to our customers, and we will continue to offer high-quality and fashionable faux fur alternatives."

Macy's' decision builds on a growing shift away from fur in the fashion industry, The Guardian pointed out. Prada, Ralph Lauren, Gucci and Burberry have all stopped using it, and California became the first U.S. state to ban the sale and manufacture of new fur items earlier this month. Fellow retailers CPenney and Sears have also already banned fur, but Macy's is the largest U.S. retailer to do so.

"It's just a changing tide," P.J. Smith, director of fashion policy at the Humane Society, told The New York Times. "Consumers care about animal welfare more and more, and the idea of luxury is changing, where it's more about who's the most socially responsible and the most innovative."

More than 100 million animals suffer and die because of the fur industry every year, according to HSUS figures reported by CBS News. The animals most targeted include minks, foxes and rabbits, Smith told The New York Times, and they are often killed by gassing or electrocution.

The ban doesn't mean that Macy's will stop selling all animal-based clothing, however. The chain will follow the guidelines of the Fur Free Alliance, which allows the "use of fur that is a by-product of domestic farming to feed our society," CBS News reported. Therefore, ethically-sourced sheepskin and calf hair and cowhide will still be sold.

Macy's said it was partly following its customers in making the decision, arguing on its website that they were "migrating away from natural fur and we are aligning with this trend."

Technological changes also made the decision easier.

"With the rise of new fabric technology, alternatives like faux fur and other fabric innovations make this a seamless transition for our customers," Macy's said.

However, some have expressed concern in recent years that faux fur isn't exactly an environmentally-friendly alternative to the real thing. That's because it is made of plastic, and sheds microfibers.

"It's going to put more small, tiny fibers into the ocean," Jeffrey Silberman, chairperson of the textile development and marketing department at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, told HuffPost.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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