Major Fashion Brands Must Respond to Cruelty on Rabbit Farms


photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

When a story broke last week via Sparrow Media showing disturbing images of rabbits on fur farms in Spain, it quickly began to gain mainstream media attention. Seventy farms and two slaughterhouses were investigated by Last Chance for Animals, and management of the operations at Curticub and Galaico Catalana explicitly claimed they supplied U.S. designers Marc Jacobs and Diane Von Furstenberg, as well as international designers Burberry, Dior, Armani, Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton with rabbit pelts.

The investigation video is below:

When it came time for the industry to respond after WWD ran the story, setting off a chain reaction in the fashion media, deny deny deny was the PR mantra. In the WWD article, Dior claimed that “The House of Dior is deeply shocked by the documented images, which are against our values and practices.”

Burberry followed suit saying they have “no relationship with the farms featured and we are sure that Curticub is not part of our supply chain… Burberry will not use fur if there is concern that its production has involved the unacceptable treatment of animals.”

In an article for Vogue on Sept 16th, the label Saint Laurent, which lists Spain as a source of rabbit fur on their website, said, ” Saint Laurent teams are continuously working to find ways to ensure high standards of animal welfare.”

It’s not surprising that these designers are denying and distancing themselves from the activities caught on camera of farm workers bashing sick rabbits to death, crippled, diseased and severely wounded rabbits left to suffer in small, crowded cages with hard metal bars for floors with no medical treatment, or rabbits being bludgeoned to death or slammed to the floor before being skinned. Who would dare claim financial support of such callousness? But denial only goes so far. Surely these large suppliers are selling to someone. And where there is big business, there is a paper-trail. It’s only a matter of time before those doing (or having done) business with them are confirmed.

The most frightening thing about these images beyond the abhorrent cruelty is the fact that this is business-as-usual.

The most frightening thing about these images beyond the abhorrent cruelty is the fact that this is business-as-usual. All seventy farms and two slaughterhouses investigated are currently having animal cruelty charges brought against them. Every single one. Therefore, the cruelty is indicative of industry-wide practices, not rare exceptions that can be avoided. In other words, fur farming is inherently cruel. The following is a list of acts and situations included in the list of the complaints:

photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

  • ·throwing live rabbits into trash containers to die with rabbit corpses
    ·killing by blunt force trauma with repeated strikes against the cages or the floor
    ·killing by crushing their esophagus and abandoning them to die by suffocation
    ·ill and injured rabbits, some with open, infected wounds, who never receive veterinary treatment
    ·violation of hygienic-sanitary conditions, where feces is left to accumulate, lack of mandatory bio-security suits
    ·abandonment of live animals in piles of feces who later die of starvation or dehydration

There is a myth that humane fur farms exist. That regulations protect animals on fur farms. But let me be clear: if you design with or wear fur, it is delusional to think that there is a kind way to confine, gas, anally electrocute, bludgeon, poison, suffocate, slit throats or snap necks. The laws and regulations established by the European Union are merely guidelines that are not enforceable. The guidelines are vague and often left open to interpretation. ((Council Directive 93/119/EC ))((Council Directive 98/58/EC  ))((Ley 32/2007, de 7 de noviembre ))((Real Decreto 348/2000 de 10 de marzo ))((RD 441/01 del Consejo de 27 de abril)(general animal welfare law) ))((Reglamento (CE) Nº 1/2005, del Consejo de 22 de diciembre de 2004, (general transport of farmed animals) ))((Reglamento (CE) nº 1099/2009 (Regulation on how farmed animals should be killed) )) They suggest taking “reasonable steps” to prevent “unnecessary pain, suffering or injury”, but who determines what steps are reasonable and what injuries or sufferings are necessary? Even the industry’s most stringent and much-touted Origin Assured certification has fallen short of even the most basic ethical standards when investigations surfaced in recent years of farms in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, as well as trapping the USA.


photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

…the mortality rate for rabbits on farms in Spain is a whopping 22%.

Spain’s Agricultural Ministry is supposed to monitor these farms, yet some farms were documented claiming that they’ve not had a vet visit in over five years. Not surprisingly, the mortality rate for rabbits on farms in Spain is a whopping 22%. There are no regulations for raising and killing rabbits, no regulated cage sizes or considerations for biological differences in rabbits to specifically address their physiological needs. In Spain, like in most countries (with Germany being the exception) there are no laws that specifically protect rabbits being raised for meat and fur. This is shocking considering that almost 70 million rabbits are killed annually in Spain’s 3,369 rabbit farms. Globally, over one billion rabbit pelts are produced each year, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. It goes against common sense to believe that a rabbit’s complex social and veterinary needs could ever be met at this scale while still making a profit. Rabbits are social creatures that live in large groups, dig and build warrens, and play. Companion rabbits enjoy the same privileges and kinship as dogs and cats. Caged on a farm, every instinct and desire is stifled.


photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

Cruelty, neglect and suffering are unavoidable aspects of large-scale animal industries, and it disingenuous for the brands who have released statements to feign concern for the barbaric treatment of rabbits documented in this investigation when these cruelties are widespread and disturbingly ordinary. If Burberry deems that this is “unacceptable”, if Dior claims this treatment of animals goes “against [their] values, if Saint Laurent wants to “ensure high standards of animal welfare” certainly they all must simply stop using animal skins. The cognitive dissonance here is disgraceful.

…it disingenuous for the brands who have released statements to feign concern for the barbaric treatment of rabbits documented in this investigation when these cruelties are widespread and disturbingly ordinary.

Investigators reached out to these brands weeks before releasing the investigation. Marc Jacobs, who also openly lists Spain as a source of rabbit fur, has still not commented on the subject. Therefore it is necessary that Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Furstenburg, Armani and Louis Vuitton respond. Fur is more than a naughty, indulgent, luxury status symbol. The raising and killing of animals for their skins is an ugly, painfully mainstream and archaic business.

photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

The future of fashion, however, is bright and rebellious. The most exciting innovations in textiles are happening in the realms of bio-based organics and hi-tech and recycled synthetics. We can grow leather in a lab. We can make hi-tech, low-impact future-fur that is far more customizable than, yet indistinguishable from animal hair. Technology is always evolving and getting more efficient, more refined, more green and more visionary. In this sense, fur is simply bad design. It decomposes, it smells, it needs to be preserved in chemicals and refrigerated in the summer and checked for infestations. It requires the inefficient raising of animals and the messiness of having to actually kill them and rip their skin off. It will never evolve or change. There is no good reason that we need to keep caging animals for their entire lives in order to make luxury products. We are better designers than that.

Ursa Major, Israeli Animals, NFL Anti-Fur Dudes & John Corbett Talks Pig

• Ursa Major is a Vermont-based men’s skincare line that has gained a cult following in men’s shops throughout the states. Their packaging design is quite appealing, featuring the namesake,  The Great Bear. The products are vegan, not tested on animals and the ingredients are sourced from sustainable farms and are organic at least 50% of the time. They are gluten, petrochemical, sulfate, paraben and synthetic fragrance-free. Not to mention they’ve won accolades including Esquire Magazine’s “Best Shave Cream” of 2012.

Speaking of things not tested on animals – many of the major brands who already tested on animals, and even the ones who used to be against animal testing, but have buckled under pressure from China to test their products on animals, will not be welcomed into any Israeli markets or stores. Starting January 1st of 2013, Israel has effectively outlawed the import, sale and marketing of any and all cosmetics and household products tested on animals. This is the most significant law of it’s kind in the world. The EU passed a similar ban, which was also scheduled to take effect in 2013, but has been delayed. What’s wrong with vivisection (animal testing) you ask? Click here.

The Israeli Knesset in session

• Two NFL strongmen, Buffalo Bills defensive end Shawne Merriman and New York Jets safety, Brett Lockett both showed some inked skin for Peta’s “Ink not Mink” campaign – proving that strong men are kind to animals – and probably think you look like an ignorant, jerk in fur. And yes, the ball is synthetic.

• Another famous dude who is speaking up for animals is John Corbett (Sex and the City, United States of Tara) in a new video for Farm Sanctuary.

“In “The Doctor,” John Corbett’s famous voice brings us the story of a charismatic pig who earned his name for his endearing assistance to medical caregivers at an emergency rescue site.”


O! The Sacrifices

• “Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world’s population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages,” according to a new article in the Guardian. While this dire news is certainly good motivation, I simply prefer bragging about what I eat. Gosh, being vegan is (excuse me while I shove this chocolate chip cookie, coconut-cream ice-cream sandwich into my face) so hard. It’ll be (sorry, just let me take one more bite of this grilled wild mushroom paté burger with heirloom tomato, basil leaves and rosemary aioli) such an exercise in deprivation and sacrifice. I just don’t know how we’ll do it (pass the aged cashew cheese platter, please… Oh wait, the tapioca cheese gravy fries…. No! NYC’s best doughnuts, which happen to be vegan).

Germany’s Strongest Man, Tofu is Gay & Vegetables Terrorize Men

The Evolution of Man: Patrik Baboumian

“The Evolution of Man” series is based around the article I wrote for VegNews Magazine’s “The Man Issue”. In this episode I interview strongman, Patrick Baboumian, who won Germany’s Strongest Man 2011 Competition. Baboumian currently holds the German crown in strength sports and is vegan.

But It doesn’t matter that Germany’s Strongest Man is a vegan. When it comes to identifying with meat-eating, there seems to be an association with masculinity that reaches across many cultures.  And likewise, when it comes to eating vegetables (or specifically avoiding meat) it’s considered feminine or gay. According to the gay European news website “Pink News” a German ad agency recently was “outed” and forced to apologize for a 2009 ad that surfaced, labeling tofu as “gay meat”. Not only is this homophobic and sexist (insinuating that both femininity and homosexuality are to be rejected as inferior) but it’s also using those popular isms in an attempt to insult those who eat tofu.

Deutscher Strongman Meister 2011 - Patrik Baboumian - Deutsche Strongman Meisterschaft - FlashreportAn den Kugeln konnte er nach 4 Punkten Rückstand im Kopf-an-Kopf an Daniel Wildt vorbeiziehen - Deutsche Strongman Meisterschaft - Flashreport

Scholz & Friends designed the ad, which shows a steak branded with the words ‘Tofu ist schwules fleisch’ for a restaurant chain, but it was never used in public, Der Spiegel reported.

A spokesman for Scholz & Friends told Der Spiegel that the firm apologised for the steak advert, which has been hosted on the Art Directors Club website after the campaign won a prize in the competition it was designed for.


This example is a much more obvious form of the themes I’ve addressed again and again on The Discerning Brute. Typically the homophobic sentiment surrounding vegetarianism and veganism is underhanded. This ad, however, went with bold clarity. They apologized to the gays they offended (but not to women or those who eat tofu).

There was also a recent study conducted in the Journal of Consumer Research, and the conclusion was, not surprisingly, that consumers are influenced by a strong association of meat with masculinity.

“To the strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American male, red meat is a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing, All-American food,” the authors write. “Soy is not. To eat it, they would have to give up a food they saw as strong and powerful like themselves for a food they saw as weak and wimpy.”


The Pugilists, Kowtow & Under Armour Strives for Eco

• What could more soothing than a pair of comfortable, organic, fair trade, drawstring cotton shorts? New Zealand’s ‘Kowtow‘ features basics like tees, tanks and shorts in all organic and fair trade cotton.

• Under Amour is striving to go green, which is good news for athletes. They are incorporating more and more recycled materials. According to the site, “In 2011, we estimate that we will convert over 2,000,000 one liter plastic bottles into performance products.”

• BJJ black belt and vegan David Meyer took the gold in his division at the 2012 American Cup Brazilian Jiujitsu Finals.

He was quoted on Fuel For the Fighter saying, “I began eating only foods close to the source, eliminating meat and fish from my diet in 1985, and now I eat no dairy or eggs.  I’m 49 years old and in top physical shape, still competing full force against fighters half my age.”

Take at look at the match:

  • In other MMA news, vegetarian Georgi Karakhanyan won his match in only 53 seconds! He now has 18 wins in a 21 fight career, and was quoted on Fuel for the Fighter saying “I am a devoted vegetarian and I give this a lot of credit for my strength.  The reason why I became a vegetarian is because I do not like animals being hurt. but I also believe that being a vegetarian is a healthy way to live.  As for people who say, “You can’t fight if you’re a vegetarian!” I say, I don’t need to eat meat to kick their ass!”

• Vegetarian wrestler Sushil Kumar is going to London after qualifying for the Olympics. The wrestler from Delhi is a PETA India supporter who said,”Look at me, I defeated non-vegetarians from America and Kazakhstan in the Olympics. So, you can see that vegetarians have a lot of strength”.