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Vegan robes

The robes and hoods are issued by the Dean’s office, and students usually return them immediately after the ceremony. Since before dean of residence Nick Hatt can remember, students have been able to choose between the standard real fur hood and one made from synthetic materials.

On May 14, King’s graduates will don their academic robes and hoods, and will be conferred at the Cathedral of All Saints, bagpipes blowing in the background.
The Encaenia ceremony — “commencement” in Greek — is a ritual steeped in Oxford tradition. Each graduate must wear the proper academic regalia, including a three-inch border of authentic rabbit fur.

(Photo: Haleigh Atwood)

The robes and hoods are issued by the Dean’s office, and students usually return them immediately after the ceremony. Since before dean of residence Nick Hatt can remember, students have been able to choose between the standard real fur hood and one made from synthetic materials.
Essentially, if a graduate so chooses, they can wear vegan regalia.
Monica Farrell, receptionist at Alexandra Hall, has handcrafted many of these synthetic hoods — sewing faux fur linings onto plain robes. Others have been collected over the years from different suppliers.
The original rabbit fur hoods were ordered from Harcourts Ltd. in Ontario, which has a 168-year history of manufacturing gowns. The fur they use for the undergraduate hood is usually shipped from Spain.
“The company began with legal regalia, and expanded to clerical and academic,” Brian Weese, vice president of Harcourts, wrote in an email. They have hand-made garments for Queen Elizabeth II, as well as the political elite throughout CanadThe robes and hoods are issued by the Dean’s office, and students usually return them immediately after the ceremony. Since before dean of residence Nick Hatt can remember, students have been able to choose between the standard real fur hood and one made from synthetic materials.a and the United States.
Weese says Harcourts has offered the synthetic hood option over the past five years.
It is up to the customer to specify what the synthetic fur will be made from; usually the material is a combination of polyester fabrics.
Requests for synthetic hoods have become more frequent among customers. Weese believes this could be a result from increased interest in animal welfare and sustainability. However, he claims the synthetic material can be just as environmentally damaging.
“Synthetic materials are often made of petroleum products and are not necessarily more sustainable than farm-raised or wild animals from which we get pelts.”
These petroleum products usually consist of treated polyester. According to the International Fur Trade Federation, the industrial process used for making synthetic fur uses three times more non-renewable energy than real fur.
Regardless of the ethical debate, there are usually 10 students each year who request a synthetic hood. For many, it is because they happen to be allergic to the rabbit fur lining.
As all students must wear both a robe and hood to graduate, it is pleasantly reassuring that the option to go vegan is available.

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

One reply on “Vegan robes”

Happy to see this article here. More and more people are becoming aware of the ethical issues surrounding real fur, and I’m pleased to learn more about what King’s is doing to respond to that. Well done!

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