Hurley heads campaign for fur house

Animal rights groups vent fury at British actress after she appears in ad wearing black 'baby mink skin'

Liz Hurley should not be surprised: when she wore a white fur coat in 2001, an animal rights activist doused her in red wine and screamed: "You murdering bitch!"

There will be uncomfortable times ahead for the 43-year-old English model and former actress, following her decision to star in the latest advertising campaign for Blackglama – the American fashion house so proud of the pedigree of its expensive mink fur accoutrements. She is pictured fearlessly pouting above a black mink coat.

Over the decades, some of Hollywood's brightest stars, including Catherine Deneuve, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland and Elizabeth Taylor, have featured in Blackglama's famous "What becomes a legend most?" ads.

The attacks on Hurley have become more spiteful – if that were possible. Andrew Tyler, the head of the vegan group Animal Aid, said the label's choice of Hurley showed how furriers were struggling to sign up major Hollywood celebrities to model their clothes.

"If you ask me, promoting fur is in keeping with Liz Hurley's life of facile self-indulgence, but she should pause to remember the enormous animal suffering that fur represents," Mr Tyler said. "This in an international company that would presumably want a public figure of some substance. Liz Hurley strikes me as a rather trivial and decorative figure. It shows how the fur companies and fashion houses that use fur are struggling to attract big names to advertise their brands."

The animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), meanwhile, was equally scathing of Hurley. "It's shocking that she's taking money to wear baby minks, who are skinned at six months old for Liz's luxuries," said Robbie LeBlanc, the director of Peta Europe. "Her wardrobe is now as dead as her film career."

He added: "Millions of animals are electrocuted and skinned alive, suffering terribly for the production of fur. With so many fantastic faux furs available there is no excuse for the wearing of real fur."

Blackglama uses farmed mink to make fur coats, which sell for tens of thousands of dollars. Mink farms have been banned in Britain for more than a decade. Although animal rights groups have long targeted celebrities who wear or advertise fur – Lindsay Lohan was attacked with a flour bomb outside a Paris night club only last week – many of the major fashion chains such as Gucci and Armani still defiantly use it, particularly for trims. Armani unveiled a collection of baby rompers with fur trim this year, and moneyed Russians are particularly fond of the material.

Previous Blackglama models have found themselves facing a string of bad publicity following shoots for the company. Gisele Bündchen, a Blackglama cover girl in 2002, apologised for modelling fur coats after animal rights groups began targeting her catwalk shows. "It was a bad decision on my part because I don't wear fur and I understand their cause," she later said.

Her words echo a similar apology made at the weekend by Gwyneth Paltrow, who angered campaigners by taking promotional work in August with Tod's, an Italian company that uses fur, ostrich and snake skin. Paltrow said that she assumed the fox fur had been fake.