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Autumn 2008 - Act•ionLine

by Edita Birnkrant | Autumn 2008

They Could Have Lived Free

They Could Have Lived Free: Trimming Away Industry Rhetoric, Finding Real Animals, and Defending Them

We at Friends of Animals are proud to announce our new anti-fur advertisement for Rolling Stone, focusing on fur trim. A lynx gazes directly ahead, as the headline, every bit as direct, asks,“If you believe genuine fur trim comes from scraps, where do scraps come from?”

Not all fur collars you see on coats are real fur, but many are. People might buy such garments anyway, telling themselves they’re only buying the scraps of the industry. But of course, the profits from pieces of pelts add up to a fortune.

Our message will be with viewers as they enter the shops and put their money on the counters. The next time they finger a patch of fur on a garment, they won’t think “fur trim,” or “scrap” but will instead flash back to the image of an individual with a direct gaze, a personal history, and a potentially free life.

This is critical activism. I live and work in New York City, where more people, especially young people, now wear fur trim and accessories year round. A walk in the city can turn into a tour of the ingenuity the fur industry has had in convincing designers to stick bits and pieces of animal pelts in all manner of places. There are boots covered with fur or dangling fur balls. There are fur scarves, headwear, gloves, and bags -- even a knit hat with a full Mohawk-style headpiece made of fur. People who’d never flaunt the full-length coat of yesteryear are now wearing the trendy designs (although model Naomi Campbell has been seen in the full-length versions, making it seem that they too are “in”).

The fur industry claims 55% of fur buyers today are less than 44 years of age. Let’s tune these young people into reality. We’ll never permit the collective conscious to be relieved of the truth that fur comes from living, feeling individuals.

We do have our work cut out for us. In 2007, according to industry figures, people spent $15 million on fur (a figure of $13.5 billion appears in a March 2008 report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation). It’s an increase of 11% from 2006, and part of a nine-year global rise.

And through it all, the industry is borrowing animal protectionists’ language. The International Fur Trade Federation’s “State of the Industry Report” for 2008 states: “Animal welfare is key to the success of the fur industry.”

It’s not surprising to see savvy marketers pick up “welfare” or “sustainability” buzzwords as people become more and more concerned with humanity’s impact on other animals and the environment. The “Origin Assured” label, introduced in December 2007 by the industry and auction houses (the American Legend Cooperative, Finnish Fur Sales, Kopenhagen Fur and North American Fur Auctions), claims that a fur product comes from a country where national or local regulations or standards governing fur production are in force. China has not yet qualified for the “Origin Assured” label. Such distinctions could suggest that buying fur from the right place is like buying shade-grown coffee -- avoiding the issue that all fur represents death for aware beings.

A press release of February 2008 by the International Fur Trade Association quoted its chair, Andreas Lenhart: “Consumers can feel good about buying fur with the OA™ mark.” This, when Karakul fur, a product taken from newborn or even unborn lambs, was granted the Origin Assured label in Namibia.

Don’t buy this, we’ll tell New York City, the North American fashion capital, and we’re taking it to the streets. A rally will kick off Friends of Animals’ advertising campaign, in which 75 Manhattan buses will drive out of their depots on Nov. 24 th displaying our striking, You Look Just as Stupid Wearing Theirs, slogan, with the photo of furry animal faces peering out from under human wigs. Many of these buses travel through the heart of upscale shopping areas, where holiday tourists and residents flock to buy clothes.

Our culture must learn to see through industry spin and past the glitzy models. The way to do that is to simply say no, we are no longer going to be a part of the customs that dominate other animals. The use of animal pelts for everything from boots to coat trimmings reflects a worldview we need to transcend. No matter what methods or practices are employed in fur production, what animals are being skinned, or where, we call for the outright end of this practice.

To keep up with the latest scheduling and location information on our forthcoming New York City event, and to be a part of activism to move people beyond fur this season, check our website (and consider joining our e-mail alert list). New Yorkers interested in volunteering can contact Edita at, or 212-247-8120.


International Fur Trade Federation, “State of the Industry” report; available: (dated 25 Apr. 2008).

“Fur Industry Thriving Despite Campaigns” - ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) News (4 Mar. 2008). Available: (visited 7 Jul. 2008).

Fur Information Council of America (FICA)

Edita Birnkrant

Act•ionLine Autumn 2008

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