No Fur

A PETA demonstration.Photo: Keith Bedford/Reuters/Newscom

Is it true that PETA hates even faux fur?
Actually, PETA doesn’t think it’s wrong to wear faux fur. We do our best to point out synthetics. But we have a number of anti-fur buttons that we encourage people to wear just so that it’s absolutely clear it’s not real.

Do you wear faux fur yourself?
I have a hat that has some faux-fur trim. I can’t remember what those are called, but they kind of have the flaps that go over your ears. And I have a big button on the hat that says FUR and has a big slash through it. Because I don’t want to be promoting a cruel product inadvertently.

Ever accidentally thrown red paint on a faux fur by mistake?
That’s not actually a tactic that PETA uses, throwing the red paint on people, although I think it’s frequently attributed to PETA just because we’re the largest animal-rights organization in the world. When you’re a household name, you become the catchall for animal rights in people’s minds.

What’s your stance on vintage fur?
Good question! Vintage fur is different from faux because it did actually come from an animal that suffered immensely for that product. It sends the same unacceptable message—that it’s okay to allow animals to, you know, have their bones crushed in traps or have their heads stomped on or their necks broken, etc., for the sake of vanity. So we do oppose people wearing vintage fur.

With fur so ubiquitous these days, what’s morale like in your office?
I think with your average consumer, fur is still about as popular as a cold sore. And if we’re seeing a little bit of an uptick in terms of the visibility of fur, there are a number of reasons for that. One of those is that our market is being flooded by cheap imports from China, where there are no laws to protect animals on fur farms. And even if you see fur on the runway, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be in the designer’s retail collection. That was actually the case with Justin Timberlake’s [William Rast] collection not long ago—fur was on the runway but not in the actual line.

It seems like you guys care more about fur than leather. Why is that?
We try to talk not only about fur but about leather, wool, and exotic skins. But during the winter we hammer our fur issue because that’s when fur sales are at their highest. Our approach is seasonal and strategic. For example, we’ve been visiting cities all over the country with people painted as a cow, leopard, and snake, urging people not to wear bits of any animal.

Interview by Catie Keck

No Fur