Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time


Fur Flies at Anti-Fur Protests in New York City

December 18, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

As tens of thousands of New Yorkers and tourists descend upon the Fifth Avenue shopping district in NYC during the holiday season, animal rights activists are staging confrontational, educational, disruptive and highly-charged protests to curb the consumption of fur.

On December 13th, Caring Activists Against Fur demonstrated at the entrance of the Fur Source of New York, using video, posters and handouts to turn away potential customers while shaming those who dared to enter. During the two hour protest, the 15-20 customers who entered the store left empty-handed.

This woman said that she entered the store "to spite" the activists, even though they engaged with her politely before she entered.

This woman said that she entered the store “to spite” the activists, even though they engaged with her politely before she entered.

In early December, Friends of Animals unveiled a “Flip Off Fur” billboard in Times Square and staged a highly-charged in-store protest at a retail store called Prato. According to Edita Birnkrant, FOA’s Campaign Director, the owner “flipped out,” and all of the customers evacuated the store.

Animal rights activists occupy the NYC fur store Prato

Animal rights activists occupy the NYC fur store Prato

After occupying Prato, the activists staged a disruption at the Manhattan showroom of notorious fur designer Jason Wu. The employees, who locked themselves in, hid behind the mannequins as activists pasted the entrance with “Flip Off Fur stickers” and used a bullhorn to explain why they were targeting Jason Wu.

Activists paste "Flip Off Fur" stickers at the entrance of the Jason Wu showroom

Activists paste “Flip Off Fur” stickers at the entrance of the Jason Wu showroom

Michael Dolling (left) and Bernard Jones "flip off fur" near the FOA billboard in Times Square

Michael Dolling (left) and Bernard Jones “flip off fur” near the FOA billboard in Times Square

In late November, Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnChained documented the confrontations between activists and fur wearers during a Caring Activists Against Fur protest at the luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman. While encouraging shoppers to watch the video being displayed by the activists, one man told Velez-Mitchell, “I’d like to punch you in the face.”

On December 11th, several anti-fur activists blocked Lady Gaga’s SUV as she left a gala in NYC and used a megaphone to confront her about the cruelty of her fur consumption. In less than one week, the video has been viewed by over 80,000 people and has received over 1,100 comments.

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Fire Department To Host “Squirrel Slam” Killing Contest

February 20, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

A fire department whose motto is to “save lives” is hosting a shocking event to end them.

On February 28th, the Holley fire department in upstate New York is hosting its ninth annual “Squirrel Slam,” a squirrel hunting contest that raises funds for the fire station. Hunters who kill the heaviest squirrels win cash and other prizes.

Hunter carries dead squirrels to the weigh in

Hunter carries dead squirrels to the weigh in

Hunters hang dead squirrels on hood of truck and out the window

Hunters hang dead squirrels on hood of truck and out the window

The “Squirrel Slam” is nine years old, but animal right activists only learned about it two years ago. In 2013, Friends of Animals (FOA) offered to host an alternative fundraiser that would raise more money that the squirrel hunt, but the fire department turned them down. In 2014, FOA staged a demonstration that attracted 60 people. Video shows hunters and their supporters taunting, harassing and, in a couple of cases, threatening the protesters.

Activists have also been working to cancel the hunt online and in court. For the Love of Alex, a charity that provides veterinary care to pets in urgent need, sent a letter to the Mayor of Holley offering to pay the fire department to call off the hunt:

“We, as citizens, look to our government, police and fire officials to set examples of conduct and decency, of fairness and compromise. For a fire department to sponsor and organize the mass slaughter of innocent living beings in the name of fun is really the wrong message to send your constituents and our children, who you have invited to participate. We implore you to consider permitting our 501c3 org to donate to the Holley Fire Dept. the amount equivalent to last year’s net proceeds from the event, which we understand to be the sum of $4,000, in exchange for cancellation of the event.”


About 60 people protested Holley’s 2014 “Squirrel Slam.” The 2015 slam is being held on 2/28

On the legal side, an area resident filed a lawsuit to block the hunt on the grounds that it violates the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which prohibits the destruction of large quantities of vegetation or animals in a confined geographic area. On February 19th, a county judge heard arguments and dismissed the case.

Counter-protesters support the hunters during 2014 Squirrel Slam

Counter-protesters support the hunters during 2014 Squirrel Slam

When activists brought the squirrel hunt to the attention of state lawmakers, several introduced legislation to outlaw all killing contests in New York. At a press conference announcing the bill, Senator Tony Avella said, “Running a contest in which participants must kill as many small and defenseless animals as possible to win prizes, including guns, is a disgrace. What kind of message are we sending to our youth, especially in light of the increasing gun violence in this country.”

FOA's Edita Birnkrant & State Senator Tony Avella announce bill to ban wildlife killing contents

FOA’s Edita Birnkrant & State Senator Tony Avella announce bill to ban wildlife killing contests

Your Turn

1. Sign the petition to the Mayor of Holley and to the Holley Fire Department asking that they cancel the 2015 “Squirrel Slam”

2. Sign the petition to State Lawmakers to support the legislation to end wildlife killing contests in New York.

3. If you live in New York, please ask your state legislator to support the legislation prohibiting wildlife killing contests.

4. Call the Mayor of Holley, NY and explain why the “Squirrel Slam” should be cancelled. Dial 585-638-6367 and press 5 to reach a live person or leave a message.

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In Battle to Save America’s Wild Horses, Activists Engage in Disruption

January 26, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

The U.S. government is waging a war on America’s wild horses, and Friends of Animals (FOA) is getting increasingly aggressive in its efforts to stop it.

FOA asserts that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – the federal agency charged with protecting wild horses – is wiping them out on behalf of powerful ranchers who want the public land to graze their cattle. The government either sterilizes the horses with PZP or uses low-flying helicopters to chase them into fenced-in traps which bring them – and their freedom – to a screeching halt.

Helicopters chase terrified horses into traps (photo:

Helicopters chase terrified horses into traps (photo:

“The BLM is exterminating wild horses because cattle ranchers regard them as pests,” said Edita Birnkrant, Director of Campaigns for Friends of Animals. “But we’ve reach a tipping point. To save those who remain, we must disrupt business as usual.”

At a recent BLM meeting in Nevada, Ms. Birnkrant seized control of the microphone and announced that the “BLM is managing wild horses to extinction through roundups and PZP” and “pimping our land out to ranchers.” Within minutes, she and her colleague Nicole Rivard, who filmed the protest, were escorted out of the conference room and expelled from the hotel, in spite of the fact that they were paying guests.

The Nevada disruption was not FOA’s first act of civil disobedience. In September, 15 protesters with FOA occupied the BLM’s Wyoming office and temporarily blocked the entrance to a nearby holding pen for wild horses.

Activists block entrance to horse holding pen

Activists block entrance to horse holding pen

In an effort to protect the remaining horses, FOA isn’t just relying on provocative protests. In June 2014, the organization filed a petition it with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list North American wild horses as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. They expect an answer within the next five months.

The BLM vehemently denies allegations by horse advocates and claims that it works to “ensure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands.” But the “smaller print” on its website reveals the conflict of interest that FOA and other groups describe: “The BLM monitors rangeland conditions . . . to determine the number of animals, including livestock and wildlife, that the land can support.” Why does federal government allow privately-owned “livestock” on public land in the first place? Also, isn’t the BLM’s use of tax dollars to round up wild horses on behalf of cattle ranchers really just a meat subsidy covered in horse blood?

Cattle graze on public land (photo:

Cattle graze on public land (photo:

On it’s website, the BLM also states that it “gathers excess wild horses and burros from areas where vegetation and water could become scarce if too many animals use the area.” What it fails to mention, of course, is that private cattle who are brought onto the public land consume far more water and vegetation than the wild horses.

Before Ms. Birnkrant disrupted the BLM meeting in Nevada, she heard a cattle rancher tell a BLM representative that he “wants to open a horse butcher shop.” The two of them, she said, had a big laugh.

Wild horses in BLM trap (photo:

Wild horses in BLM trap (photo:

Your Turn

Please ask U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to list North American wild horses on public lands as “threatened” or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This designation represents their best hope for the survival. We can also help the horses by going vegan. If we put the cattle ranchers out of business, then they will no longer steal public land inhabited by the wild horses.

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Anti-Fur Activists Risk Arrest With Bold, In Store Protest

December 15, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

Activists with Friends of Animals (FOA) staged a bold, in-store protest in the Fur Vault at New York City’s Macy’s, the world’s largest department store. Edita Birnkrant, FOA’s Campaign Director, said, “We entered the Fur Vault and, while chanting into the megaphone, I unraveled the crime scene tape and laid it across the coats. At that point, the manager yelled, ‘Call 911’ and another employee answered ‘I already did.'”

fur yellow tape macys

Birnkrant and her three partners in crime (compassion, really) took their anti-fur, pro-kindess message inside the store because “people wake up and think in a more heightened way when they encounter a protest where they don’t expect it and where it’s not supposed to happen — on private property.”

During their seven minutes at the Fur Salon, Birnkrant asked shoppers to make the connection between the fur coats and the animals who were skinned to make them. And, of course, she and her fellow activists chanted: “Hey, Macy’s, what do you say? How did you get your fur today? Gassing, trapping, anal electrocution.” Shortly after they arrived, Macy’s security ushered customers out of the Fur Vault and shut the doors, temporarily halting business on one of the business shopping days of the year.

FOA's Edita Birnkrant pays her respects

FOA’s Edita Birnkrant pays her respects to the victims (video screen grab)

The response from shoppers who gathered to watch was mixed. Some applauded, and others challenged them: “As I was chanting ‘Please reject the violence of fur,’ one woman angrily asked “How about the violence to human beings? In response, I said, ‘We can have compassion for people and animals. How we treat each other, how we treat animals, and how we treat the planet are all connected.”  As expected, one shopper shouted, “Plants feel pain too.” There’s one in every crowd.

Woman tells protesters to help people instead

Angry shopper tells protesters to help people instead (video screen grab)

Birnkrant knew that she and the others might be arrested and wrote the name of a lawyer on her arm just in case: “I honestly had no idea what to expect. Would we be jumped by cops, thrown to the ground and hauled to jail for doing this?” Fortunately, luck was on their side that day: “We were able to pull off a 7-minute in-store protest with a megaphone without getting arrested, and I’m happy about that.”

Asked why she took the risk, Birnkrant said, “Non-violent civil disobedience has been used by other social justice movements that we all admire. Direct action is needed for the animals who have no voice. We need to be loud, aggressive and disruptive to get peoples’ attention, but we should always be respectful. We’re trying to reach people with a message of compassion, so it can’t come across as simply rage.”

FOA organized the protest in Macy’s Fur Salon, or “Chamber of Horrors,” as Birnkrant refers to it, to coincide with the unveiling of their gigantic “Flip off Fur” billboard in Times Square.

Billboard company forced FOA to blur the middle finger.

If only this fox could jump off the billboard and bite the people who are wearing his friends

Jane Velez-Mitchell reports on the billboard and the protest on Jane Unchained:

Your Turn

An anti-fur petition created just three days ago has already amassed over 90,000 signatures. Gap Inc.’s Intermix stores sell garments made from raccoon dogs, foxes, rabbits, mink, and kangaroos. Please sign the petition asking Gap Inc. to make all of its stores fur fur-free.

fur animal

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ALDF Reveals Carriage Driver “Hit & Runs” and Other Unreported Crashes

October 29, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

NYC carriage drivers have committed more than a dozen “hit & runs” over the past five years, according to allegations in police records that the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) obtained by court order from the City of New York. Jane Velez-Mitchell speaks to Chris Green, Legislative Director of ALDF, about the news:

One of 14 "hit & run" complaints filed with NYPD

One of 14 “hit & run” complaints filed with NYPD

At a NYCLASS press conference at City Hall announcing the reported “hit & runs,” ALDF’s Legislative Director Chris Green said that the group also discovered “several alarming incidents” that had not been publicly reported. In one instance, a child was rushed to the hospital after falling out of a carriage and being run over by a wheel. The police report stated that the victim “suffered injuries to stomach, chest and head.”

Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) announces "hit & runs"

Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) announces “hit & runs” at NYC press conference

In another incident, a carriage driver “was thrown to the ground” and found by police “laying in the street, not moving.” In the photo below, a  driver was ejected from carriage and hospitalized in a coma when his horse spooked and collided with a station wagon. Unlike many other accidents, this one was reported because witnesses took photos and informed the press and local advocacy groups.

Dead carriage horse

Crash in midtown shows danger of mixing horses and cars (photo: Catherine Nance)

With the help of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and the local office of Friends of Animals, the ALDF filed a successful lawsuit against the City of New York to release the “hit & run” and other records, which show that “children, cyclists, pedestrians, carriage drivers passengers and NYPD officers have been physically injured by accidents involving New York’s horse carriages.”

Tensions ran high at the press conference, as members of the opposition, including reporters who favor the industry, asked hostile questions of the speakers, including NYC Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who spoke in favor of removing carriages from the streets.

NYC Council Member Tweets Support of Horse-drawn Carriage Ban

NYC Council Member Tweets Support of Horse-drawn Carriage Ban

The effort to ban horse-drawn carriages has been an uphill battle, in part because the NY Times, NY Post and Daily News have published editorials in support of the trade. Nonetheless, local and national animal rights groups continue to advocate relentlessly on behalf of the horses. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who agrees that carriages do not belong on NYC streets, has stated on multiple occasions that he intends to “end carriage rides” in NYC.

Your Turn

If you live in NYC, ask your Council Member to support the Mayor’s plan to end carriage rides in NYC

Sign the two petitions to ban horse-drawn carriages: Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn CarriagesNYCLASS

To keep apprised of developments, subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages by sending an email to

Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS: The Truth Behind the Tradition that exposes the truth behind the tradition of NYC’s infamous horse-drawn carriage trade:

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