Fur fashion challenged on Rodeo Drive
Animal rights activists marched through Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills today to increase awareness that fur is still being sold in the famous shopping district.
According to the district’s official Web site, Rodeo Drive is the “epicenter of luxury fashion” and holds “more than 100 world-renowned boutiques.” Of those stores, more than 17 sell fur, according to activists.
According to a statement released by Last Chance for Animals (LCA), the organization visited several Rodeo Drive stores last week and confirmed that such furs as fox, rabbit, mink, chinchilla, sable, lynx, lamb, coyote and even lion skin were being sold. Some of the offenders listed were Georgio Armani, Michael Kors, Bally, Valentino, Coach and Prada.
“Rodeo Drive tries to market themselves as a glitz, glamour capitol of the world, but when you look beyond the storefronts, this place is awash in the blood of tens of thousands of murdered animals,” said Bryan Monell, Senior Investigator for LCA. “This is truly one of the ugliest streets in all America.”
According to activists, animals are sometimes skinned alive or killed by gassing, trapping, neck breaking and anal electrocution. LAC estimates that over 40 million animals are killed each year for their pelts.
Not surprisingly, the fur industry has a much more rosier opinion of fur. The Fur Information Council of America (FICA), a lobbying group headquartered in nearby West Hollywood, boasts an increasing popularity of fur. FICA doesn’t view wearing fur as wrong per se, but as a “natural, responsible choice.”
On its Web site, FICA goes so far as to call animal rights activists “criminals” and “domestic terrorists” that use “false propaganda and fabricated materials” to mislead the public. The organization argues that killing animals for their fur is environmentally sound compared to faux fur, an alternative offered by animal rights activists.
“There is also a strong point to be made from an environmental point-of-view as most fake fur is made from natural resources (such as oil) that are limited in availability, while fur is a renewable resource,” states FICA. “The manufacture of fake fur also releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.”
FICA negates claims that animals are treated cruelly by arguing that the fur industry, at least in the U.S., is regulated by state and federal agencies, such as the various departments of agriculture, natural resources or animal welfare. However, according to LCA, no federal laws exist that regulate how animals should be killed for their fur leaving the door wide-open for abuse.
Also, what is considered legal and cruel may be two different things. For instance, according to an LCA Web site, for mink and foxes captivity does not come easy.
“Wild mink instinctively range a territory of approximately 741 acres in size,” states the site. “In contrast, ranch-raised mink are confined to a 12” by 18” cage. This type of intensive confinement can result in self-mutilation, cannibalism, and high-level stress that weakens the immune system and makes animals more susceptible to disease.”
Due to what he sees as cruelty, Monell maintained that fur is an issue that has no compromise and that the ultimate goal is the end of the fur-trade.
“I can’t believe we are still debating this,” he said. “[After seeing] 10 seconds of a killing or … the conditions these animals live in, I can’t imagine anybody in their right mind, any sane person, would buy furs or sell it.”
The group of approximately 200 protesters gathered at Beverly Gardens Park and marched along Rodeo Drive. Activists would stop at known sellers of fur and shout chants like “There’s no excuse for animal abuse.” The event, known as Fur-Free Friday, has been held every Friday after Thanksgiving for the past 22 years.
LCA sponsors the event, but several organizations, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Band of Mercy and In Defense of Animals, were present.
Bill Dyer, Regional Director for In Defense of Animals, helped lead the march. He says that much of the fur coming from China comes from dogs and cats, an illegal practice that is circumvented by not labeling the fur or labeling it incorrectly.
He feels animal rights issues are important, even in a country that is ailing economically and burdened by perpetual war, as animal rights are part of the broader issue of violence.
“The killing of 50 million animals a year throughout the world is obscene,” he said. “It’s filled with violence. We must turn away from violence. It permeates our whole society.”
It is a sentiment that is shared by Monell, who also sees a double-standard in the way pets are treated versus the way wild or farmed animals are treated.
“If you saw your neighbor anally electrocuting somebody’s dog or skinning it alive, you would have him thrown in jail,” he said.