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fur-killsThere has been a lot of great news about animal-based fur in the last couple of years. Not only did California just become the first state in the U.S. to ban the production and sale of fur, but it banned fur trapping. New York City is also considering a ban on fur sales. Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s made headlines this month when they announced they would no longer sell fur, adding their names to an ever-growing list of department stores, designers, and fashion houses—including Burberry, Calvin Klein, Georgio Armani, Gucci, Michael Kors, Prada, and Ralph Lauren—that have gone fur-free. In 2018, designer Donatella Versace, long known for her support of fur, said, “Fur? I am out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.” Meanwhile, Norway and Slovakia recently said they are closing their fur farms, joining more than a dozen other countries in Europe that are banning fur farming and removing an important link in the supply chain. Even London Fashion Week ditched animal fur last year.

With all these advancements for fur-bearing animals, it’s tempting to think fur is finally dead. Sadly, it’s not, and activists can’t make the mistake of believing we’ve crossed the finish line—yet.

Just as many people are surprised to learn that whales are still being killed—they ask, “Didn’t that end in the eighties?”—activists have not put the final nail into fur’s coffin. After anti-fur campaigns in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, it looked like the industry was on its last breath, but fur made a comeback in the 1990s, buoyed by newly affluent buyers in China, South Korea, and Russia. By 2004, the global fur industry was worth $11.7 billion. Now, according to the International Fur Federation, the industry is valued at $40 billion. In the U.S., fur hit a 17-year high last year with $531 million in sales, up from $337 million in 2014.

So what happened? Part of the answer is that the fur industry found new markets for its cruel products. They began targeting the next generation of consumers with dyes to create a “modern” look. They hired new celebrity models. They looked beyond coats, gloves, and hats and used fur to adorn household items like furniture as well as shoes, keychains, pillows, scarves, and cat toys. And they created thinner fur garments that could be worn in warmer climates.

They also got into design schools, subsidizing the fur used by students—even in high school.

One of their biggest efforts has been the greenwashing of fur. As I discuss in Bleating Hearts, to divert consumer attention away from animal cruelty, the industry now touts fur as the ultimate “eco fashion,” such as in the Fur Council of Canada’s print ad featuring a model decked out in fur beneath the headline “Environmental Activist.” The ad copy explains that “wearing fur also helps protect nature, by supporting people who live on the land.” By “people” they mean trappers, who “depend on nature for their livelihoods.” Absent from the ad is any mention of the millions of “trash” animals trappers routinely kill while they are being “stewards of Earth.”

Indeed, the Council would have us believe that fur garments and accessories only come from animals caught in the wild. “In nature, each plant and animal species generally produces more offspring than the land can support to maturity,” reads the their website. “Like other species, we live by making use of part of this surplus that nature creates.” This is a preposterous lie, as far as the fur industry is concerned, because the majority of fur used in the trade is produced in farms from animals specifically bred for this purpose, and they know it. (Canada’s market for fur-farmed animals is three times the size of its wild-fur market.) A 2011 study on the environmental effects of mink-fur production found that it takes 11 animals to produce 1 kilogram of fur, and that the industry has a higher impact than other textiles in 17 of 18 measurement categories, including global warming and toxic emissions.

But fur’s carefully orchestrated comeback goes even deeper.

“The animal rights movement once before underestimated the fur industry and prematurely celebrated its supposed imminent demise,” says Ryan Shapiro, PhD, a longtime animal rights activist and now executive director of the transparency organization Property of the People. “Not only did this allow the industry to rebound, but the fur industry is just as committed to eliminating the animal rights movement as we are to ending it.” Ryan notes that documents he has obtained from one of his many Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the FBI reveal it was the resurgent fur industry in the late-1990s that secretly met with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to coordinate a federal assault on the animal rights movement. “It was the fur industry that pushed the DOJ and FBI to target the animal rights movement as a terrorist threat. It was the fur industry that gave the DOJ and FBI lists of activists and organizations it wanted neutralized. And it was ultimately this lobbying behind closed doors by the fur industry that gave rise to today’s Green Scare. The fur industry poses a double menace, both to animals and the movement for their liberation. We cannot rest until this vicious industry is entirely eradicated and consigned to the dustbin of history.”

Not everyone agrees that recent victories mean activists might shift their efforts to other campaigns.

Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote in California, says she doesn’t believe the state’s new anti-fur legislation will slow down activists. “I think if anything success like this re-inspires people to stay engaged and continue pursuit of related issues—especially if they’re tapped into email alerts from organizations like ours to stay apprised of what other issues need attention.”

And Camille Labchuk, executive director of the animal law organization Animal Justice and one of Canada’s leading animal rights lawyers, told The Star that the recent fur-related bans in the U.S. and Europe have created an “unstoppable momentum” that she hopes will extend to her country, where activists continue to take action against outdoor clothing company Canada Goose for its use of down and coyote fur.

I hope they’re right. We’ve come a long way, and we do indeed have momentum, but I fear we could see a repeat of the nineties, with fur coming back strong, especially if the industry has the FBI and DOJ watching their back.

“Activists need to keep the pressure on fur to make sure that it stays away for good,” says animal rights advocate lauren Ornelas, who attended her first anti-fur protest in 1987. “We just need to keep reinforcing the fact that non-human animals are not ours to exploit.”

What You Can Do

Looking to get involved but don’t know where to begin? One place you can start is the Fur Free Alliance, an international coalition of animal protection organizations working to end the deprivation and cruelty suffered by fur-bearing animals both in wild trapping and industrial fur farming. They offer a number of fact sheets that you can use in your activism, which can be as simple as talking to family and friends about this issue, sharing information on social media, or signing petitions like this one, this one, or this one. You can write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Or you can participate in a Fur Free Friday protest on November 29 (do an online search for an event in your area). You can even speak directly to retailers that still sell fur and tell them you won’t shop there until they remove the cruelty from their racks. And you can contact fashion brands that use fur in their designs and tell them you won’t support them. Of course, you can also contact companies that have ditched fur and thank them! Whatever steps you take, large or small, each one makes a difference for the animals.


Donna Karan did it. Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren did, too. In fact, many fashion designers have acknowledged the cruelty of fur and decided they don’t need to use it.


So what’s up with über-cruel Karl Lagerfeld? The chief designer from fashion house Chanel recently attracted the ire of animal activists everywhere by defending fur. In an interview with the UK’s Telegraph, the designer said the fur industry is justified because the “beasts'” fur comes from would “kill us if they could.”


As PETA’s Michael McGraw points out, “Lagerfeld seems particularly delusional with his kill-or-be-killed mentality. When was the last time a person’s life was threatened by a mink or rabbit?”


Lagerfeld was quoted as saying that hunters who have learned no other skills depend on the fur industry to make a living. Yet 85 percent of fur comes not from hunters, but from Chinese fur farms, where there are no laws to protect the millions of animals who are routinely beaten and skinned alive.


Fortunately, plenty of designers, including Stella McCartney and Marc Bouwer, are showing the world it’s fashionable to go fur-free.


Lagerfeld better hope he comes to his senses before he meets a killer rabbit in a dark alley.



Mezzo-soprano star Katherine Jenkins was greeted by a chorus of boos when she arrived to open the winter harrodssale at London’s Harrods department store on Saturday. Protesters shouted “shame on Katherine” as she pulled up in a horse-drawn carriage. Harrods has long been the target of activists because the store sells real fur.


“We are gathered here because of our disgust at Ms. Jenkins, who professes to be against animal cruelty and the fur trade,” said John Wilson of the Coalition to Abolish Fur Trade, which organized the protest. “We understand that Harrods is now the only major store in the UK to sell imported fur,” even though the production of fur is illegal in the UK.


Jenkins was ushered into the store by Harrods chairman Mohamed al Fayed.


Earlier this year, British singer Leona Lewis turned down a lucrative offer from al Fayed to preside at the store’s summer sale opening. Various reports have suggested Lewis had been offered £1 million to attend the event. But Lewis, a vegetarian, turned him down. “I’m totally against animal cruelty,” she said. “I don’t have clothes, shoes or bags made from animal products.”


Harrods protests take place regularly at the store in London.

PETA is reporting today that designer Donna Karan has announced that her fall 2009 lines will be fur-free and that she has “no plans” to use fur in the future. This announcement came days after PETA launched their (now offline) Web site and after fashion guru Tim Gunn sent Karan and designer Giorgio Armani a video that he narrated for PETA showing animals skinned alive for their fur and urged them to shun fur in their designs. 


“Any designer in the fashion industry who does not want to watch the PETA video and see exactly what happens to animals and how they’re treated and how the product that they use comes to the marketplace, I believe, is egregiously irresponsible,” said Gunn in an interview about the video.


PETA and other activists have been working for nearly a year on dk1the Donna Karan campaign ― protesting outside her boutiques, crashing her runway show and exposing her cruel use of fur online. PETA spokesperson Michael McGraw said that Armani and Karan were singled out because “they have both made pledges to be fur-free, but have gone back on their word when it comes to rabbits, as if rabbits aren’t fur-bearing animals.”


In response to the claims, an Armani rep said, “Despite the fact that we have previously sold products made from animal fur, the Armani Group has now decided to renounce making such items with the exception of those in rabbit fur, the by-product of an animal that is a staple source of food… We must stress that PETA is exploiting our name to stir up public opinion without acknowledging that we actually include very few fur items in our collections, while certain competitors of ours base much of their business on furs.”


Please contact Armani to tell him that while the meat of gentle rabbits killed for their fur in China is sold to be eaten, the suffering they endure is exactly the same.

PETA’s long-running campaign against Donna Karan was just kicked up a notch. For years the pressure group has been working to get the designer, who runs the fashion labels Donna Karan and DKNY, to honor her one-time promise to stop using animal fur in her collections. To help put an end to Donna Karan’s fur cruelty, PETA has launched a new parody Web site, (Warning: graphic images.)


The new site allows activists to take action, watch and share videos, grab wallpaper for your computer and stay up to date on PETA’s campaign to stop the Bunny Butcher.


PETA launched this campaign to help animals on fur farms, who spend their entire lives confined to cramped, filthy wire cages. Fur farmers use the cheapest killing methods available to end the lives of animals, including neck-breaking, suffocation, poisoning and anal or vaginal electrocution. Many animals on fur farms are electrocuted by having rods inserted into their rectums and 240 volts of electricity sent through their bodies, frying the animals from the inside out in order to keep from damaging the pelts. The animals convulse, shake and often cry out before suffering painful heart attacks.


There are many ways that you can share this information, which will help countless fur-bearing animals. A couple of simple ways are by emailing PETA’s parody Web site to friends or by adding one of PETA’s new “Donna Karan: Bunny Butcher” videos to your own Web page or online profile.


Please be a voice for these defenseless animals! Tell Donna Karan you will boycott her collections until she no longer uses the skins of dead animals. Please write to or call Donna Karan now.


Please send polite comments to:

Ms. Donna Karan
Donna Karan International, Inc.
550 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 10018
212-789-1856 (fax)


Other ways to help stop the Bunny Butcher:


  • Join PETA’s A-Team if you want to be on the front lines to help stop Donna Karan from selling fur and to get involved in other animal issues at local and national levels.
  • Support PETA’s work to help them put an end to Donna Karan’s support of killing rabbits in ways that would break your heart.
  • Ask your friends, family, and coworkers to contact Donna Karan to build even more support for the boycott.
  • Post a banner to your personal Web site or your MySpace or Facebook page to let the world know that Donna Karan butchers bunnies for their fur.
  • Join the “Donna Karan, Bunny Butcher” cause on Facebook, and tell your friends to join too.
  • Share the videos on MySpace or Facebook—or wherever you are online. Whether you have five friends or 5,000, sending the video to your friends is a great way to expose the cruelty that goes into wearing the skins of dead animals.
  • Subscribe to the official PETA YouTube channel so that you will be the first to know about their newest videos.

lindsay_flour_bombShouting “Fur hag!,” an animal rights activist in Paris showered celebrity Lindsay Lohan with a bag of flour early Saturday morning (November 15). Lohan, wrapped in a mink stole, had just arrived at a club when a French activist rushed toward the actress, dumping a hefty bag of white flour all over the shocked star. The activist, possibly associated with PETA, was momentarily detained but broke free and ran off down the Champs-Elysees.


A statement from PETA reads, “Lohan has enraged animal lovers by appearing in at least two different fur coats in recent days, despite PETA’s repeated pleas that she consider how animals suffer for every fur garment and stop wearing their skins. She was named on PETA’s annual Worst Dressed List earlier this year.”


PETA Europe spokesperson Robbie LeBlanc added: “There is nothing remotely ‘fashionable’ about the torture and death of animals killed for fur. Lindsay Lohan might be able to ignore images of bloody animals skinned alive for their pelts, but we hope a dash of flour will help her rise to the occasion and forsake fur once and for all.”


Lohan’s girlfriend Samantha Ronson posted a rant on her MySpace page about the incident, calling the activist “an animal” (she sure knows how to make things worse, eh?). Ronson recently caused a stir in the activist community when she complained Californians care more about chickens than gay people because voters passed both Prop 2, which bans animal-confinement devices, and Prop 8, which bans same-sex marriage in the state.


Naturally, the flour-power incident has been posted on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

Recently released from prison, animal rights activist Peter Young has offered $2,500 in legal aid to anyone who is arrested after the release of 6,000 mink from a ranch in Kaysville, Utah, on September 21.


“Raiding fur farms in the middle of the night is one of the most effective tactics we have against the undeniably cruel fur industry,” says Peter. “I hope these activists remain free to carry out other liberations, but if it proves necessary, I pledge $2,500 towards the legal fees of anyone arrested.”


Peter Young served two years in federal prison after being arrested in 2005 for his role in the release of 8,000 mink from six fur farms in South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. On the first leg of this campaign, he cased several farms in Utah.


Commenting on the media coverage in the wake of the Kaysville release, Peter refutes fur industry claims the animals do not survive in the wild, will die of heat exposure and don’t travel long distances when released.


“Ranch-raised mink have been shown to thrive in the wild,” he says. “The industry is lying to the public to distract them from the inherent cruelty of the fur trade.”


Peter is no longer carrying out fur farm raids due to law enforcement surveillance after his release from prison. He has shifted his focus to voicing support for groups like the Animal Liberation Front that still work outside the law to rescue animals.


“The activists behind the Kaysville mink rescue are compassionate freedom fighters who risked their freedom to give animals theirs. This $2,500 is my gesture of support for those working outside the law to make this world a better place.”


Peter adds, “I am intending to make further offers like this in the future when there is a significant ALF action to stimulate media interest and hopefully get to talk about the plight of animals to a large audience.”

Welcome to the official blog for Striking at the Roots by Mark Hawthorne, your source for interviews, profiles, and advice for more effective animal activism.

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