Q. What does Jewish law say about wearing fur coats?
A. The late Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Chayyim David Halevi, deals with this issue in his volume of responsa (“Mayim Chayyim”, vol. 2, 1995). He reports that a member of the Israeli public approached him after observing a demonstration against fur coats outside a hall in Tel Aviv where a cantorial concert was taking place. Since some of the mostly orthodox concert audience were wearing fur coats, he presumed that they were implying that whatever God created, including the animals, was given to man to use, and therefore it must be acceptable to kill animals in order to make fur coats. The questioner asked, however, why people could not wear woollen garments instead if they wanted to dress well and warmly.
Rabbi Halevi points out in his response that though both man and the animals were created by God, man is the pinnacle of creation and has Divine sanction to use animals for human benefit. Thus the eating of meat, which obviously entails slaughtering animals, is permitted by the Torah, but hunting animals for the purpose of enjoyment or entertainment is not permissible.
Some, but by no means all rabbis allow animals to be killed for the sake of their furs, but even then it must be done swiftly and without causing suffering to the animal. It is forbidden to kill animals painfully “in order to beautify and warm oneself with their skins”. It is clearly better to use wool, since wool shearing does not require the death of the animal.