Until today I knew very little about PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I’m an animal lover, as are my children, having raised bunnies, cats, dogs, birds, fish and chickens from as soon as I could walk and being vegetarian since the age of five. When I was recently put in contact with PETA regarding an angora wool protest taking place in London I attended blind with no prior knowledge of the campaign because I wanted to experience a peaceful protest for what it truly was, to stand on the front line and understand the emotion and actions that takes place without the influence of other peoples opinions or comments beforehand. And so I attended the protest with an open mind and heart for something I have never experienced before.
Arriving outside of Benetton, Regent Street, a fashion label chosen because it still stocks angora fur items despite knowing how it is horrifically sourced, I waited amongst the gathering crowd of protestors for the demonstration to begin. Dressed all in black I was relieved to see that many others were in plain clothes, no psychedelic t-shirts, weapons, drugs, spray paint or fire, just everyday people who felt moved by such ill treatment of animals that they chose to stand up and be counted. Upon speaking to a few people it seemed that everybody around me were either vegetarian or vegan and opposed to fashion turning a blind eye to the suffering of animals when stocking fur and leather items in their stores simply for profit, as nowadays there are many manmade faux fur alternatives that can be used.
As placards reading “Benetton: Drop Angora” were handed to each protestor, along with white fluffy toy bunnies covered in blood, I asked the staff of PETA what would happen if the police were to arrive or if the store staff should come outside to see what the fuss was about, as I had visions of being arrested, rioting and burning bras and shoes, but I was shocked by their response. They advised that they had already informed the police and store, and were very respectful and considerate of the law, being mindful of the public whilst informative and polite to state their cause. The security guards asked the protest to remain away from the footway for pedestrians, and then watched on calmly as a member of PETA took to a megaphone to the attention of the gathering crowds.
Around fifty men and women gathered to show their support by holding placards, with passing members of the public also joining in, clapping and chanting along. The representative of PETA spoke calmly of the Angora rabbits in China that were tied to wooden boards by their paws, panicked and unable to move as their long fur is torn out in handfuls to screams of pain like that of a child in order to make hats, socks, scarves and jumpers. When all of the fur is removed the rabbit is bloodied and distressed, locked in a small metal cage until its fur regrows before the process is repeated over and over again. This continues for as many years as the rabbit can survive, some die of the shock and others are slaughtered when their fur fails to regrow properly from constant plucking.
China is the worlds largest producer of Angora wool, and these clean and gentile rabbits are caged for the entirety of their lives, in filthy industrial surroundings, sleeping in their own waste as the wire cages cut into their paws and leave no space to hop or play. Living in constant fear and shock, the majority of rabbits die within one to two years, and those who are spared the plucking and are sheared instead face the same horrific process of being stretched and tied to boards by their paws, or suspended in the air as they pant and struggle to get free, with shears cutting at their skin, wounding their ears and legs.
If the rabbits survive five years of such treatment then they are deemed too old and have their necks broken, their throats slit and are hung upside down to be sold to local meat markets. Rabbits are such wonderful pets to my children, they love hopping around our garden, nibbling on carrots, stretching out in the sun and nestling up on laps for a tickle. They happily hop from the garden into the kitchen to touch noses with our cat and dog and spurt off back up the garden kicking their legs and running at lightening speed because they’re so happy they simply can’t contain their excitement. Until today I didn’t know that rabbits can scream, and they chillingly sound just like a young child. When they’re caged, abused and screaming in pain they are subjected to a life of misery and horror in the name of fashion. These beautiful, smart and social animals are imprisoned and alone, constantly in fear of their routine torture where they are manhandled, tied down and their bodies left bloodied and raw as fistfuls of fur are pulled out. The thought of waxing my legs makes my palms clammy, let alone the memories of catching a fistful of hair whilst playing as a child, or getting a rubber band or chewing gum tangled in a pony tail. What these innocent animals go through is nothing short of barbaric, and all for the financial gain of retailers.
After what I witnessed today I feel compelled to stop this from happening. Although as individuals we can’t go directly to China to protest at the rabbit farms, we can refuse to support the angora industry by voting with our feet and being mindful not to buy items that are made from rabbit fur, because if we take away the demand within the industry then the stores will no longer stock it. 90% of the worlds Angora comes from China where there are no penalties for the abuse of animals, nor regulations for their treatment and this is something that sickeningly has to change. Thankfully retailers are starting to drop angora from their stores, but more still continue to stock furs and skins regardlessly. The best action you can take is to refuse to buy angora and ask that your friends and family please do the same. You could also make a telephone call to the stores who stock animal fur and inform them that you will not shop there whilst they continue to support cruelty to animals.
UPDATE: Benetton Drop Angora Following PETA Protest
I am beyond elated right now to have been informed that because of our peaceful protest Benetton have officially announced that they will be dropping the use of angora in their fashion. It is such a wonderful feeling to know that this cruel trade will continue to diminish until there is no longer a demand for the fur of these beautiful gentle creatures. Together we can make the biggest difference, so please stand up and be counted. Peaceful protests save lives.