Hotline for attacks on fur wearers sparks animal rights fury

PETA activists perform in front of the Paris Opera, on March 7, 2011

The French fur industry and animals rights activists have clashed over a new hotline for people who are insulted or attacked in the street for wearing fur. The French Fur Federation went on the attack this week against what it called the "misinformation of animal activists. "Every week fur lovers are attacked in the street verbally or physically by radical militants," it said in a statement to AFP. It announced plans for a new information centre in Paris and a hotline, SOS Animal Activist Attacks, offering "support and legal help" for anyone who had been harassed. The federation also lambasted the "hypocrisy" of some fashion houses who have "suddenly started denigrating fur to improve their image but who still use other animal products." It warned that labels that this strategy was short-sighted. "Tomorrow silk, wool and leather will be the target for animal activist attacks," the federation claimed. But the main anti-fur group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), hit back late Tuesday saying the "real victims" of violence were the animals. "In this cruel industry minks, foxes, chinchillas, raccoon, cats and lots of other creatures live confined in cages and then are gassed, electrocuted or beaten to death," it said in a statement. It said that there were plenty of alternatives to fur and leather. Many major fashion labels no longer use animal pelts, including Gucci, the latest to say that it was going fur-free. British designer Stella McCartney, a vegetarian, has never used fur and has banned leather from her collections, developing instead "vegetarian leather" which she claims is as good as the real thing. But the French Fur Federation warned of the environmental dangers of animal rights groups promoting "synthetic materials to make fake fur from non-biodegradable substances often derived from petrol, which will benefit the petrochemical industry." It said that 90 percent of its members used suppliers "certified by the WelFur label for minks and foxes farmed in Europe" aims by 2020 to have all certified. Rather than being on the decline, the federation said the French fur industry was growing with a turnover of 300 million euros, and employing nearly 2,500 people.