A challenge to the Kate Moss: help us stop cruel trade in animal skins

Kate Moss has become embroiled in a new controversy over her work for fur-promoting label Burberry. Jonathan Owen reports on the debate that is dividing the fashion industry
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The Independent Online

Just when she may have thought the worst was over, after the "cocaine Kate" scandal, supermodel Kate Moss is now in trouble with animal rights protesters furious over her "flogging" fur for what they describe as a "cruel and violent industry".

A new internet protest by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), launched today, attacks the Burberry advertising campaign being fronted by Moss. Graphic images of skinned animals feature beside the models on the stylish black and white adverts. The move already has a growing number of critics condemning Moss over her stubborn refusal to forsake fur.

The move comes amid a growing backlash against soaring sales of fur, exclusively revealed in The Independent on Sunday last week. Sales of fur clothing are up 30 per cent on two years ago, with £40m of new fur products being imported every year in a market now worth an estimated £500m in the UK. Figures compiled for the IoS by HM Customs and Revenue show that approximately 1,000 tons of fur are being imported each year. The global market for fur is now worth almost £7bn.

"By wearing fur for payment she is one of the people pimping this cruel product. People like her have a responsibility to set a good example and not promote what is a violent industry," said Peta campaigner Anita Singh.

"We have met with Burberry and showed them evidence of the cruelty in fur and they remained unmoved. Their continued use of fur has made their name synonymous with cruelty to animals."

She added: "Anyone who has a heart would not want anything to do with a company that promotes fur products. Any person who wears fur or promotes it really needs to sit down and watch undercover footage showing how these animals are treated. We would like to see everyone stop wearing fur."

Burberry expects to face demonstrations outside its stores in Britain and abroad in the coming weeks, when the graphic images that have been launched today will feature on billboard posters around the country. Furious senior executives at the company are considering taking legal action against the images, which will go online at www.bloodyburberry.com today.

The company refused requests for an interview, but a spokesman said: "There will be occasions where the use of fur will be ... important to the design and aesthetics of a product. We will not use fur if there is a serious concern that the fur has been produced by the unacceptable treatment of the animals concerned."

Some campaigners have accused Moss of hypocrisy over modelling for a company that uses fur while also designing for another - Topshop - which has an anti-fur policy. Louise Stevenson, from Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, said: "It is hypocritical and it shows that she does not have any ethics but is willing to take money for whatever she can get."

The World Society for the Protection of Animals is joining calls on fur-wearing celebrities to set an example to others by turning their backs on fur. But the fashion world is notoriously fickle and there is no guarantee that any new converts to the anti-fur cause will not renege on their stance. Recent examples of this have included Elle McPherson and Cindy Crawford. Once famous for preferring to go naked than wear fur, they have both done fur advertising campaigns in the past three years.

Heather Mills has now entered the debate, saying: "People often don't realise that they are actually buying fur, making the assumption that the trims on their coats are actually fake. If they knew it was real fur many of them would be disgusted. If this really is an issue that people are passionate about then it is up to them to make a stand and not buy fur in any form."

And starting this week, anti-fur protesters will be holding daily demonstrations outside Harrods in the run-up to Christmas. Organisers have won a legal battle for their right to protest against the store for selling fur.

New figures show that fur, once taboo after high-profile campaigns, is making a massive comeback. As real fur continues to be bought and sold, imports of fake fur have dropped from £3m in 2002 to £1m in 2006. In contrast, 88,000kg of mink worth £16m came into the UK last year.

The fashion world has been drawn into a bitter debate on the issue, with top models beginning to break ranks and condemn the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell for wearing fur.

"What matters most to them is the money - unfortunately, there are some people who have no morals," said model Elektra Kuznetsova, 21. "People like Naomi had a huge responsibility and they really messed up and they would have done it out of greed. They did the 'I'd rather go naked' adverts because it was fashionable and not because they cared about the animals."

More than 50 million animals will be killed for their fur this year, most of which will have spent their short lives in miserable conditions on fur farms before they are killed, sometimes being skinned while still alive.

The British Fur Trade Association has hit back at what a spokeswoman called "bullying" tactics by campaigners. "In a democratic society, we believe that it should be up to the individual to make their own choice about buying and wearing fur," she said. "The views of animal rights organisations should not be forced on others." She went on to accuse some campaigners of having hidden agendas and seeking to "ban every animal use by man".

Although animal welfare activists welcomed the decision earlier this year by Ralph Lauren to drop fur, the vast majority of his peers are continuing to use it. Top designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier remain unrepentant. As his spokesman put it: "Jean Paul is using fur because he likes working with fur and he likes the technique of the fur. Of course he's only using fur acceptable to use. The minks, rabbit, fox, you know, all the animals you can have in farms."

Art colleges are reporting a revival of interest in the material by their students. Willie Walters, director of fashion at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, said: "In the past few years there has been a resurgence of interest in fabrics like fur."

But fur will never be fashionable for Brazilian supermodel Fernanda Tavares. "Fashion is supposed to be fun, but there is nothing fun about breaking animals' necks and killing them with genital electrocution - common fates for animals destined to become fur coats," she said. "The fur industry butchers animals and pollutes our environment. I could never wear fur."

Additional reporting by Lauren Veevers, Sonia Elkes and Renee Knight

The fur files

Sales of fur are on the increase, but some within the fashion industry are prepared to take a stand.

"There's nothing fashionable about a cruelly killed dead animal"

STELLA McCARTNEY, FASHION DESIGNER

"People don't appreciate the severe cruelty involved. Many animals are skinned alive"

HEATHER MILLS, CAMPAIGNER

"Fashion should be fun, but breaking animals' necks isn't funny"

FERNANDA TAVARES, SUPERMODEL

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