Wrap Yourself in a Swamp Rat

by Liz Colville

First things first: swamp rats aka nutria (also sometimes called coypu, which is sweet) are not indigenous to the US, but were brought here in the 1800s from their native South America so they could join in the fur trade fun along with our friends the mink, beavers, foxes, et al. Nutria, let’s get this out of the way, sounds like a weight-loss system or a chocolatey hazelnut paste, but what they really are is the cute friend to the left with the insanely bright tongue teeth. In the 1980s, interest in wearing furs declined, so the nutria population grew and grew. And the creatures eat the plants that “hold the coastal wetlands together,” so if no one wants to wear pretty furs, the nutria eat all the plants.

But again, why are they here in the first place? Our lavish loser forebears, sorry forebears. But the point is nutria are back — back to being dead, that is, and incorporated into clothing. Thanks to designers including someone named Cree McCree (Dickens at work from the grave?!), who started a company called Righteous Fur, nutria are cool again. They’re being pegged by C. McC. as “guilt-free fur that belongs on the runway instead of at the bottom of the bayou.” Alliteration makes everything sound more humane.

Several of the designers who have signed on to this trend went “Ew” at first but have since recovered. As one of them put it, “I’m not like a PETA person, but still, I had to take a deep breath now and then. I’d never worked with something that had eye holes.” Yes, and at one point even eyes.

And as another said, “I personally don’t want to be in a position where I have to kill an animal. But if it’s them or us, I don’t want to be a lily-livered sissy about it.” Are you saying your life is under threat from a nutria, therefore you had to kill it and turn it into an accessory? Lost. Lost.

This article brought to you by That Section. And by a person who loves animals more than people.

Photo via Le Aree Umide Della Toscana Settentrionale. That’s right.