On Saturday, December 7th, several dozen animal rights activists with Caring Activists Against Fur (CAAF) and The Animals Battalion staged an anti-fur protest at Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store in Manhattan. In spite of pending legislation that would ban the sale of fur in NYC and the decision by Macy’s & Bloomingdales to close their fur departments, Bergdorf’s refuses to take fur off of its racks. The protest attracted the attention of thousands of pedestrians on 57th Street and Fifth Ave, the epicenter of Manhattan’s holiday shopping district.
In March, 2019, the Speaker of the New York City Council, Corey Johnson, introduced legislation to ban the sale of new fur products. In spite of widespread support among New Yorkers for a fur ban, the bill stalled after a prominent black preacher in Harlem, Reverend Johnnie Green, decried it as racist.
In op-eds published in New York City newspapers, African American animal rights activists criticized Reverend Green, who was hired by the fur lobby, for using racism to oppose a fur ban. In a Daily News opinion piece Jabari Brisport, a public school teacher running for New York State Senate, wrote “I found it insulting that the fur trade would use my community as a smokescreen. . . I’ve marched with Black Lives Matter in Charlottesville and gotten hit with tear gas by white supremacists. I’ve been arrested while protesting a luxury housing development in Crown Heights. I know what a threat to the black community looks like. This fur ban ain’t it.”
Energized by the recent passage of a fur ban in the state of California, Voters for Animal Rights, a NYC-based advocacy group, has vowed to continue lobbying NYC lawmakers in support of the Council Speaker Johnson’s legislation. At the same time, animal rights groups, including CAAF, Animals Battalion, Total Liberation New York and PETA, continue to target prominent retailers selling fur, including Canada Goose, Nordstrom, Woolrich, Fendi, the Fur Source and Paragon Sports.
There is a perception in the animal rights community that fur consumption is declining when, in fact, it is on the rise.
From 1990 – 2015, fur sales in the U.S. grew by approximately 50%
From 2013 to 2014, U.S. fur sales grew by 7.3%
In 2014, fur sales in the U.K. increased by 20%
From 2011 – 2013, global fur sales jumped by more than 50% – from $16 billion to $36 billion
According to the Fur Information Council of America (FICA), the largest U.S. fur industry association, the number of designers who use fur has dramatically increased, climbing from 42 in 1985 to approximately 500 today. FICA also asserts that 55% of the people who buy fur today are under 44, dispelling the myth that fur is primarily consumed by older people.
A 2015 article published in the Guardian documented the rise of the fur industry.
“The fur industry’s statistics reflect what we’re seeing in the streets — that fur consumption is on the rise,” said Edita Birnkrant, Campaigns Director for Friends of Animals, an international animal advocacy group. “For the sake of the animals, we have to organize and take a more aggressive approach on their behalf.”
Friends of Animals holds in store protests and puts up anti-fur billboards.
The increase in fur sales can be attributed to many variables, including high demand from China; the use of technology to make fur suitable for warm climates; the growing use of fur trim; the increased use of fur in men’s clothing; the growing practice of dying fur; and the consumption of fur among celebrities with a large social media following. According to Mark Oaten, CEO of the International Fur Federation, “…with this increase in demand, farmers are deciding to invest more in fur farms and increase production.”
Dying fur and the growing use of fur trim have led to an increase in fur sales and, by extension, the number of fur farms.
While the animal rights community appears to be losing the war against the fur trade (despite occasional victories), some activists have responded to the increased prevalence of fur by engaging in more provocative anti-fur tactics. During the past several winters, activists Robert Banks and Angela Dee from NYC, the nation’s fur capital (according to FICA), have posted videos on social media in which they publicly shame fur wearers. The videos, which also include graphic footage of animal cruelty in the fur industry, have garnered millions of views. “If people know that by wearing fur they are risking public humiliation, perhaps they will think twice before draping themselves in the skins of tortured and murdered animals,” said Robert Banks.
Many self-proclaimed animal rights activists have denounced their tactics, claiming that they are misogynistic. In response to this allegation, Angela Dee said “It is not our fault that most fur wearers are women. By this logic, shouldn’t protesting rape also be sexist since most rapists are men?”
Anti-fur activists shaming fur wearers
One of their videos has made an especially large impact. It shows a trapped coyote being shot dead juxtaposed with the logo of Canada Goose, a Canadian manufacturer of luxury apparel that uses real coyote fur. After being promoted by PETA, the video, which was viewed over 16 million times on Facebook, triggered a Twitter campaign. Canada Goose took notice and responded with a Facebook post stating, “In response to the recent campaign from PETA, we know and deeply respect that whether or not people want to wear fur is a personal choice…We read and hear all of your feedback.” Canada Goose also claimed that its fur is “responsibly sourced.”
Canada Goose responded to the video and PETA’s campaign with a Facebook post
According to Born Free USA, a national animal advocacy organization, over 50 million animals are killed every year by the fur industry across the globe. Fur farmed animals spend their lives in small cages where they go insane from the stress of confinement and rarely receive veterinary care. The animals are killed in ways that are inexpensive and that do the least damage to their pelts — gassing, anal/vaginal electrocution, neck breaking, poisoning, or by bludgeoning them to death. Wild caught animals can suffer for days in painful traps and snares from exposure to the elements, hunger, and thirst before being shot or bludgeoned to death by a trapper. According to Born Free USA, the number of trappers in the U.S. has increased by 20% since 2004.
Fur farmed animals spend their lives in filthy, overcrowded cages and rarely receive veterinary care.
Most fur comes from China where animal protection laws are virtually non-existent. PETA undercover investigations on Chinese fur farms have revealed animals being skinned alive. They have also shown that dogs and cats are kidnapped and sold into the fur trade.
Investigations on Chinese fur farms have revealed horrific cruelty and that dogs and cats are killed for their fur.
Contact your House representative and ask him/her to co-sponsor the “Public Safety and Wildlife Protection Act” which would “ban the import, export, and interstate commerce of both steel-jaw leghold traps and Conifer traps,” two of the cruelest devices used to capture fur-bearing animals.
If you see someone wearing fur, film your encounter and post it on social media.
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.
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
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
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.
2015 has been one of the harshest winters on record. And it’s not because of the record snowfall.
Wearing fur with no shame
Fur, it seems, is everywhere — on coats, vests, hats, boots, scarves, collars and hoods. And it’s being worn by not only men and women but also children. For activists, the abundance of fur begs many questions:
After decades of anti-fur advocacy, why are people wearing it? Are they unaware of the cruelty, or are they simply indifferent to it?
Has a drop in the number of people protesting on the streets from the 1980s and 1990s fostered an environment where people are comfortable wearing fur?
Do people wearing fur trim on their collars and hoods know that it’s real? Is it possible that they don’t realize they’re wearing it?
Do consumers think fur trim is more acceptable or less cruel than a fur coat?
What should the advocacy community do to stop people from wearing – and glamorizing – fur? Does any one approach work better than the others? Street protests? Pamphlets? Billboards? Ad campaigns? Polite interactions?
TheirTurn will explore many of these questions in upcoming articles. In this report, we look at various methods of fur shaming and ask, does it work? And, is it justified, in light of the fact that the discomfort experienced fur consumers is inconsequential relative to the agony endured by the animals they are wearing?
Rob Banks, a NYC-based animal rights activist, regularly takes to the streets to humiliate people wearing fur: “I strongly feel that publicly shaming those who choose to wear fur is one of the most effective ways to target this cruel industry. The goal is to cause extreme embarrassment, in hopes that they’ll rethink wearing the coat in public again. Once the look is off the streets, it then becomes unfashionable to the public eye.”
Rob Banks photographs fellow activists Michelle (left), Jennifer (middle), and Jaime (right) shaming women in fur
Fur shaming video montage:
Using video footage to publicly shame a fur wearer:
“M’am. This is what happened to those who you are wearing.”
Some activists use a more subtle approach to fur shaming – one that doesn’t use direct confrontation: