Reflections on the Anti-Fur Movement
from No Compromise Issue 20

By Lydia Nichols

Just imagine: it is the year 2025 and fur is dead. Really dead. People who once wore items made from animals hold their heads in shame for once flaunting such cruelty. Companies that some time ago sold fur products recover from the negative public image they gained by selling animal skins for fashion. Trapping for “wildlife management” and “fur trapping” is a dusty memory. History books now narrate a dark legend of a wicked industry that massacred animals for fur.

A remarkable change in history, but is it possible? Right now it is just a vision.

It is now 2003 and the fight against the fur trade is one of the oldest campaigns in the animal rights movement. The rage against fur intensified in 1980 and carried on successfully for many years. By the late ‘80s, fur campaigns were diluted for a variety of reasons. The campaigns strengthened yet again in the mid ‘90s and assisted in building the momentum until recent time. At present, anti-fur campaigns are dead.

What happened to the spirit of our anti-fur campaigns? Fewer organizations are implementing concrete anti-fur projects if any at all.

Groups are moving towards campaigns that are fresh and sexier than the norm. This transformation has caused a devastating impact on the anti-fur movement and helped the fur industry gain back a force of fur fashion. The fur industry is well-financed and employs that advantage against our efforts. The AR movement cannot afford to allow the fur industry the lead on convincing the public that fur is a “fabric” or that animals are not harmed for their skins. If the AR movement does not rebuild our anti-fur efforts rapidly, then we can just prepare to give up this struggle to defend the animals killed for their skins.

We have made progress in the past, and we can continue to do so. Fifteen years ago, most every department store sold real animal fur. It was common to walk into these stores and see racks and racks of mink, fox, beaver, and raccoon. Fortunately, times have changed. Because the animal rights movement successfully educated the public that fur farms and trapping inflict unnecessary suffering, many major retailers such as Bonwit Teller, Robinson-May Co., Bon Marche, and others have vacated the fur business. Then there are the notable, prestigious department stores that still sell fur and, in fact, many of them are major proponents of the fur industry.

Retailers like Nordstrom, Hudson’s, and Lazarus have closed dozens of fur departments, but have not gone entirely fur-free. Of course, there is Macy’s West that closed all its fur departments west of the Mississippi, but its sister company, Macy’s East, continues to operate full-scale fur shops in over thirty locations.

Our efforts are best utilized when targeting large department store chains. Substantial efforts in multiple cities have the best chance of generating national, and international news coverage. Over the last few years, the three main anti-fur campaigns have been Burlington Coat Factory, Federated Dept. Stores (Macy’s East, etc.), and Neiman Marcus.

Anti-fur campaigns can and will come alive again, but organizations will need to re-energize activists. During the peak of the anti-fur movement, groups organized regional meetings and conferences for the grassroots activists. This provided a retreat for grassroots activists to share and cross-train skills, tactics, and strategies. It also offered an opportunity for activists to network with others working on similar issues. Many of these events were effective for recruitment of newcomers and supplied them with excitement and energy to join the movement. A good solid activist base is crucial to making our campaigns effective and strong.

If every organization selected an effective and well designed anti-fur campaign, the fur industry would feel our labors and we would make substantial progress. These campaigns need to be built on a solid foundation based on truth, reason, and a high-quality strategy. It is imperative that groups develop a solid campaign strategy formulated in advance to achieve specific goals and objectives. The result will shower us with victories. Implementing an anti-fur strategy that prepares organizers to utilize volunteers, staff, money, equipment, and other resources will save valuable time and lives.

The anti-fur movement needs to expand and become more effective and more powerful than any of our opposition. It is fantastic news that national groups are taking on more serious fur campaigns this year. However, the grassroots movement plays a key role in obtaining our victory. Over the years, activists have committed to campaigns and vowed to not stop until a victory was achieved. Some activists surrendered the fight, but others have continued their dedication and stood by their vows. Long-term campaigns can be strenuous, dreary, agonizing, and disheartening, but the dedicated keep fighting because they have no choice. These are the champions in the movement. It takes patience, determination, innovative ideas, and a good solid commitment to make campaigns successful.

Everyone who is concerned about animal rights has a place in the movement. Everyone has the ability to make a positive contribution to anti-fur campaigns. Everyone has they key to success to make our goals a reality once and for all.

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” - Lou Holtz