Mink Production Meltdown 2020

At last September’s board meeting of the Fur Commission USA, Executive Director and soul patch-wearer Michael Whelan lamented, “A lot of people aren’t sure if there’s still going to be ranching this time next year.”

CAFT USA ordinarily hesitates to praise Whelan in any capacity, but with the recent release of the USDA’s 2020 Agricultural Statistics Survey for Mink, we are overjoyed to give credit where it is due. The fur industry is in existential danger.

A race to the bottom

In 2020, mink production in the United States fell 49%, the largest change in recorded history. It fell to 1.4 million pelts, the lowest in recorded history. Nearly one and a half million minks were spared lives of misery and terror, as compared to the prior year.

Just one decade ago, in 2011, industry revenue was at an all-time high of $292 million. In 2020, it hit $47 million, its all-time low. In that period, the value of a mink pelt dropped from $94.30 to $33.70, beneath the cost of production for many farmers, who are operating at a loss, if they remain in business at all.

Setting the record straight

For decades, the fur industry has stumbled through a balancing act of its own lies. On the one hand, snowflake fur farmers howl about animal rights activists destroying their way of life. On the other, urban charlatans front a propaganda operation depicting fur as a trendy, thriving industry with a bright future.

But the current situation is so abysmal that even the goons at the Fur Commission and the American Fur Council can’t spin it. Since the numbers came out, they have been completely silent, aside from excusing themselves at work to cry in the office bathroom. In fact, the production statistics proudly displayed on the Fur Commission’s web homepage haven’t been updated since 2018.

Still, because lying is their raison d’être, it is inevitable that when asked by the historians (and psychopathologists) of the future, they will cite the global Covid-19 pandemic as the cause of their downfall. The truth is in the data. Production and revenue have been declining for years, with farmers across the country condemned to the tough justice of financial ruin. In 2019, the industry put 48% fewer female minks into breeding production than the year before. In other words, well before Covid hit, the fur industry was in free-fall.

In 2020, the number of female minks put into breeding production fell once again, by another 10%. This was in spite of the fact that fur farmers siphoned off millions of dollars of Covid relief money from public coffers to keep their failing operations afloat.

We have a message for these fur farmers: Wal-Mart is hiring.

A message for the movement

Our message to activists lies in movement history. In the early 1990s, activists made similar progress against fur, setting the prior record for decreased pelt production (-27%). With the exception of a few groups, a self-assured animal rights movement wrote the industry off as dead and shifted focus. The result was an industry comeback.

The takeaway is clear: the latest numbers are a call to action, not a case for apathy. What we are doing is working. We have the opportunity to literally end an entire sector of animal exploitation.

As stated by Whelan, the Fur Commission does “have the reserves to operate for another two years, probably, without any revenue. And we will continue to operate as long as we can, just like I know the ranchers want to continue to operate as long as they can.”

It is our job to make sure that they can’t.

Unfortunately, due to decreased supply, price per pelt is rising sharply, offering an opportunity for the industry to rebound. The way we stop this is to decrease demand – continuing to hammer the fashion retail sector.

In the fur industry, a trapper never takes his foot from the neck of an animal until they stop moving. Now is not the time to take our foot from the neck of the fur industry – it’s the time to press down harder, and do away with fur once and for all.

VICTORY! Oscar de la Renta is going fur free!

Following an intense week of secondary targeting, Oscar de la Renta has informed CAFT that they will be fur free by October 31, 2021:

“Oscar de la Renta does not use fur in its fashion collections or sell fur in its stores, and will not in the future. In addition, once the [fur contractor] license ‘sell-off’ period ends [on 10/31/2021], no new products that use fur and bear the Oscar de la Renta trademark will be offered for sale.”

When he was alive, Oscar de la Renta was notable for his ardently pro-fur stance, which remained steadfast despite pies in the face and protests on the runway through the 1990s. However, when CAFT began this campaign, ODLR had a decreasing number of fur pieces on their website. Like many competitors taking note of industry trends, they had not shown fur on the runway for the past couple of years. When protests began, they even removed the remaining fur from their site.

But they still refused to make any commitment regarding their use of fur. They spoke of their recent years with little fur, and their current moment with no fur, but would not even acknowledge firm requests for information regarding their future. Their claims were a bit slippery, and their framing evasive. Different company officials gave differing accounts. We at CAFT began to feel as though we were being stalled.

So what happened in the week between those communications and this communication detailing a clear commitment to a fur-free future, complete with timeline?

What happened is secondary targeting. In this instance, CAFT made a strategic decision to initiate a campaign against ODLR’s lead investor and 20% owner, GF Capital (the CEO of which also sits on ODLR’s board). GF Capital’s Managing Director of Real Estate received two home demonstrations in one day. Jonathan Adler, a furniture chain owned by GF Capital, found its stores invaded and chalked. And the future looked bleak for GF Capital, with imminent plans directed at GF’s sports division in multiple cities. ODLR home demonstrations were forthcoming, as were more protests directed at their third party retailers (like the handful of luxury bridal boutiques that partner with them) across the country, and licensees like Paperless Post.

We stated this when announcing this escalation:

“Secondary targeting works. ODLR will learn that as long as they sell fur, everything they touch will be tainted by that decision. And the longer they hold out, the more creative we will become at turning them into an industry pariah.

We can’t help but wonder how GF Capital and their investments feel about being held to account for animal cruelty, simply because ODLR pridefully refuses to join the rest of the world and go fur free. We may never find out, but we can be sure of one thing: the executives at ODLR will be hearing a lot about it.”

Secondary targeting did work. ODLR did hear about it. And the result is victory for the animals.

Read the news article from WWD here:

New ODLR Target: GF Capital

Oscar de la Renta Campaign Update:

Oscar de la Renta would like you to believe that change is taking place.

For decades, ODLR has taken a strong pro-fur stance in the face of protests on the runway and pies in the face. But suddenly, after just a little bit of attention from CAFTivists, they have removed all of the fur from their website.

What does this mean? Who the hell knows? But one thing hasn’t changed:

ODLR still refuses to make a commitment regarding their future with fur. No plan. No policy. No dates. Nothing. They refuse to even acknowledge the question.

And if they believe that a non-committal website edit will trick activists into abandoning the animals, clearly they have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into.

ODLR has been playing the victim since this campaign began. Now, they are playing games with animals’ lives. Here at CAFT, we don’t play. It’s time to show them how serious we are.

So CAFT will be hitting them where it hurts: their finances.

New Target: GF Capital

GF Capital Management & Advisors LLC is Oscar de la Renta’s lead institutional investor. They own 20% of ODLR. Their CEO, Gary Fuhrman, is on the board of ODLR. And as financiers of fur, they are now in the same mess as ODLR.

Headquartered in New York City, GF Capital focuses on investments in fashion/design, sports/entertainment, and real estate. Their companies have locations and stakeholders in cities across the country, all of which would love to get a friendly visit from local activists.

And it’s already started. On July 24, activists in Houston did a peaceful home demonstration at the residence of GF Capital’s Managing Director for Real Estate, James Taussig. And after warning the public about the animal abuser in their neighborhood, they came back the same evening during a party James was throwing, to inform his guests. Meanwhile, activists in Los Angeles paid a visit to the Melrose Place location of Jonathan Adler, a luxury furniture store chain owned by GF Capital. With bullhorns blaring and police helicopters overhead, they made sure that their impact would travel all the way up to the GF top brass.

It may feel strange or uncomfortable to protest at a furniture store owned by a finance company, or at a bridal shop holding an ODLR trunk show – but the fact that these entities have no vested interest in ODLR’s fur makes the protest that much more impactful, ramping up the pressure on GF Capital and ODLR.

Secondary targeting works. ODLR will learn that as long as they sell fur, everything they touch will be tainted by that decision. And the longer they hold out, the more creative we will become at turning them into an industry pariah.

We can’t help but wonder how GF Capital and their investments feel about being held to account for animal cruelty, simply because ODLR pridefully refuses to join the rest of the world and go fur free. We may never find out, but we can be sure of one thing: the executives at ODLR will be hearing a lot about it.

And GF Capital is just the first. Since ODLR likes games so much, we can’t wait to show them all the fun we have lined up for them. The message for the rest of the world is clear: deal with Oscar, deal with us.

Activists Start Summer With Blistering Heat for ODLR and YSL

The grassroots anti-fur movement has shown that it is a force to be reckoned with, and if the international week of action from July 5th to 11th was any indication, Oscar de la Renta and Saint Laurent are in for quite the reckoning.

Instead of spending the July 4 holiday relaxing with family, dedicated activists in eleven cities across the US (and Canada) used the long weekend to make signs, plot mayhem, and spread the word about the next big anti-fur campaigns.

The result was 21 hard-hitting actions in one week, an average of three per day, and two per city.

From Honolulu to New York, activists simply owned ODLR and YSL. Malls were invaded, stores were taken over, frenzied security guards were made fools of. And where there weren’t in-store disruptions, there were still dedicated activists demonstrating outside.

Most of this onslaught was directed at YSL. The energy was electric, the pressure tremendous, and the footage on our Facebook and Instagram pages speaks for itself.

Activists came out against ODLR and YSL with patriotic spirit to fight for the native wildlife that these fashion houses imprison and murder. In place of George Washington’s Continental Army drum corps, an army of protesters marched into ODLR’s Manhattan flagship pounding snare drums so hard that the walls shook. Instead of the rockets’ red glare, NYC delivered the red glare of fake blood and chalk outside of ODLR’s boutique. After NYC was done making a mockery out of ODLR they paid a visit to YSL – a target that they were the first to protest years ago.

Texas Animal Freedom Fighters activists staged a pioneering disruption of Houston’s Casa de Novia Bridal shop, one of ODLR’s small club of exclusive retail partners. We emphasize their creativity and bravery in going out on a limb, because against Oscar de la Renta, it is secondary targeting that will light the path to victory.

Chicago was the most active city for this week of action. They held four protests, ranging from in-store disruptions to educational events outside highlighting the cruelty of fur farms with impassioned speak-outs.

In Arizona, the Scottsdale Saint Laurent saw two event. One was hosted by Eradicate Speciesism with a focus on engaging public messaging. The other was a disruption where several activists were cited for trespassing – allegedly. CAFT will post updates on this matter as the case unfolds. Animal liberation will not be achieved by asking nicely, and we commend the dedication and sacrifices of the Scottsdale activists.

Let this week of action mark the beginning of a great transition. ODLR represents the end of an era, one of the last American holdouts stubbornly clinging to the bygone glory of fur. And YSL represents our first strike at the global epicenter of high fashion, the European legacy houses.

We at CAFT have immense gratitude to every city that worked so hard last week to set the tone against the new targets. The determination you all exemplified is exactly the kind of determination we need to win these campaigns. With focus and unity, victory is a foregone conclusion.

Cities that took action:

New York City, Toronto, Houston, Honolulu, San Diego, San Francisco, New Jersey, Las Vegas, Chicago, Scottsdale, and Los Angeles.

July 5-11: Week of Action Against Oscar de la Renta and Saint Laurent

CAFT is today announcing international campaigns against Oscar de la Renta and Saint Laurent, beginning with a week of action from July 5th to 11th.

What makes a good campaign target? A target that is winnable, that is well-suited to build upon for future victories. And together we will win against Oscar de la Renta and Saint Laurent.

We will ultimately beat every designer with proper strategy and timing. But when it comes to building a movement across the Atlantic right now, Saint Laurent is the best target for many reasons. And here at home, Oscar de la Renta is foolish if it does not announce a fur-free policy simply from seeing this press release.

Oscar de la Renta in particular has a storied animal rights history, with runway disruptions stretching back to the 1990s. Oscar, we invite you to contact us – but if not, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

At CAFT, we have only one goal: saving animals’ lives. That means we are singularly focused on maximum destruction against the fur industry. Not what is sexiest for social media. Not what feels good. Only winning – and that alone. Social media follows success. And the best feeling is victory.

Our model for success has proven itself. One aspect of this model is the use of short-term targets to energize more difficult campaigns. Oscar de la Renta represents the remnants of a dying industry in the United States, an industry that we will purge from this continent. And Saint Laurent represents a new era of hard-hitting anti-fur activism against European designers.

Next week, it’s time for the fur industry to learn a lesson. We never miss a beat. We strike with precision. And their days are numbered.

Let’s show Oscar de la Renta and Saint Laurent how the modern animal rights movement deals with fur.

Victory: Neiman Marcus Drops Fur After 67 Days

How long does it take the animal rights movement to defeat America’s top luxury retailer?

Turns out it only takes two months.

Today, Tuesday, June 29, Neiman Marcus Group announced that they are going fur-free, just six days before the upcoming Neiman Carcass National Week of Action.

In nine weeks, Neiman Marcus saw 61 actions across 18 cities – nearly one a day. The amazing activists at Texas Animal Freedom Fighters alone did 15 actions in Neiman’s home state. In Southern California, there were 18. Boston did seven, and the list goes on. This victory is the hard work of every activist that came together for the campaign.

So what factors were at the heart of this historic victory? The same ones that have now been proven again and again: movement unity and strategic focus.

Coordinated national action

The grassroots animal rights movement is multitudes stronger when we work together. Our opponents are national and international. They thrive when we are divided. By choosing a common target, we achieve real results for animals.

This victory is thanks to the dedication of independent local groups in Texas, Florida, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Phoenix, New Jersey, Boston, the Bay Area, North Carolina, Las Vegas, and Southern California.

We did this together. We did it for the animals. And with movement unity, we will do it again.

Results-based campaigning

It’s official: gone are the days of marching up and down high-end shopping districts randomly yelling at stores known to sell fur. If you hold a demo lasting an hour and spend fifteen minutes at each store, or protest a different retailer every weekend for a month, you have had one quarter the impact on each company. What could have been hard-hitting pressure becomes a symbolic exercise.

With results-based campaigning – smart strategy, relentless focus, and winnable goals – our movement becomes stronger and our victories larger.

This is not always intuitive. We choose targets based on research, not popular appeal. We focus on what works, not what feels cathartic. We promise incremental success, not utopian social transformation.

And the result is that we win. As one might expect, winning is popular. It is cathartic. And it is transformational. In 2021, grassroots anti-fur activism has become a national powerhouse.

Timing and escalation

In the case of Neiman Marcus, while we of course hoped for swift victory, we had to be prepared for a lengthy campaign timeline. Neiman had seen remarkably consistent and hard-hitting national action from 1997-2002 and did not budge on fur. It had cut off contact with the national nonprofits. When the campaign began, it sold over 500 fur items from eight different species – many times more than its competitors when they went fur-free. And Neiman’s March 2021 debt refinancing scheme greatly reduced the financial risk of its new owners, decreasing activists’ leverage against them.

At the start of the campaign, only 42% of Neiman stores were within 60 miles of a highly active anti-fur group, and 30% were not even near an active organizer. Thus, the initial focus had to be building up storefront activity – to wear Neiman down, fortify and spread the campaign, and thus maximize the impact of future escalations on Neiman’s organizational and financial pressure points.

From the beginning, there were calls from passionate activists for immediate home demonstrations. But experience dictates otherwise when preparing for a campaign that may be long-term. Let us review two reasons.

First: if our target is likely to hold out against activist pressure, it’s a needless gamble to escalate quickly. Beginning with everything we’ve got leaves us with nowhere else to go strategically or tactically. Escalations are precious. They should be carefully timed to surprise and demoralize a target when they feel weary, or overly confident. They should precipitate turning points when appropriate circumstances develop. And they should re-energize activist enthusiasm over a long campaign. In the age of social media, “likes” for store actions may lull after a few weeks, and those attached to these platforms may call for escalation after this short period. We disagree. What counts in a pressure campaign is whether our timing impacts our target, not a Silicon Valley algorithm.

Second: escalation must be measured against risk. During this campaign, there were two cities in which police or store security called out activists by their full names, to indicate that they knew their identities. In one instance, activists were so intimidated by this gesture that they sat out the rest of the campaign. The lesson here is that we must educate one another about security culture and repression. Home demos are effective when needed, and CAFT shares the excitement around them. But they are also more likely to result in arrests, lawsuits, and other repression, particularly if a quick victory is not certain. CAFT organizers have extensive prior experience with police, federal agents, private investigators, and process servers tailing us in our cars and showing up at our homes, our schools, our jobs, and those of our family members and partners. These consequences are tolerable, but they are never fun. With Neiman, they weren’t needed at all.

A personal note

We at CAFT are rarely sappy, but feel compelled to speak personally here. We look back to the days when we began our campaign against Los Angeles designer Monique Lhuillier, and cannot believe that a mere seven months later we are watching Neiman Marcus topple.

Our joy is deep, and our gratitude is deeper. We are grateful to all of the grassroots activists out there who achieved this victory together, from those who brought fire at large disruptions to those who leafleted or chalked by themselves. We are grateful to the passionate, hard-working organizers with whom we proudly walk as colleagues. We are also grateful to Lydia Nichols, who began the first Neiman Marcus campaign in 1997, with the first incarnation of CAFT. Lydia, your support and belief in us has meant the world.

And of course, we are happiest for the animals on fur farms, animals whom we have seen with our own watering eyes, whose cries we still hear in our dreams, who are now this much closer to liberation.

We did it, everyone. Let’s all take a moment to celebrate. But not too long – there is still a reckoning to be had for a few designers in the States, and many more across the Atlantic.

For every one of those designers still using fur: let this be a warning. We are coming for you – and we will win.

Activists Visit Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills

On April 24, Los Angeles activists added their voices to the campaign against the last American department store selling fur. Neiman Marcus sits less than two blocks from Saks Fifth Avenue, which had seen hard-hitting activism for months before announcing its intention to stop selling fur on April 7. Activists marched through Neiman demanding that they follow the example of their competitors. This event was conducted in coordination with a social media account called Operation Takedown, and involved visits to various designers and retailers in a shopping district. The visit to Neiman Marcus lasted approximately twenty minutes, but we are sure that as the campaign intensifies, Neiman will see the pressure ramp up in Southern California.

Texas Animal Freedom Fighters Take Over Neiman Marcus in Dallas

On April 24, Texas activists took the fight for animals on fur farms directly to the heart of the opposition – Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas, the company’s headquarters. Activists marched into the store to educate customers and employees regarding the plight of the animals whose skin Neiman sells as fabric. Making sure that Neiman feels the opposition in Dallas (also the founding city of the original Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade over two decades ago) is a vital part of the path to victory.

NYC Activists Go Big at Bergdorf Goodman

On April 24, activists from up and down the East Coast converged in New York City for a Fur Season Finale day of action. Neiman Marcus Group was the primary focus of this day of action, and the chosen site was Neiman’s high-end Bergdorf Goodman subsidiary located on 5th Avenue in Manhattan. With a huge turnout, activists took over the store doing speak-outs and chants, before deciding to bring their energy out onto the streets. We suspect this isn’t the last Bergdorf Goodman will be seeing from NYC activists, as long as Neiman Marcus Group continues to sell fur.

Seattle Activists Hit Saks

Submitted by Seattle activists:

After seeing so many incredible activists around the country protesting companies that continue to sell fur, we decided to protest Saks Off 5th in Seattle, Washington. 

The morning of the protest, February 11, it started snowing, but luckily that doesn’t stop Seattle shoppers! So we carpooled to Westlake Center to meet up with a few other activists and had a very quick meeting to go over the plan and what chants we wanted to shout. Four activists hid signs and a mega phone in our coats and walked ahead of the group to enter the mall. The other six activists protested outside. We took two escalators up to the third floor and entered Saks. We hit the alarm on the mega phone to get the customers and employees attention, and then began to speak about why we were there. This was followed by chants as we made three laps around the store then we were peacefully escorted out by six security guards.

After we exited the store, we were happy to see three more activists had showed up to protest outside. Thirteen of us held up signs in front of the mall and continued chanting. We also took this opportunity to hand out flyers and cards encouraging Seattle folks to support the fur ban in Washington. Two activists went back inside of Saks off 5th to leave flyers in the store and do outreach to the employees.

We also had about fourteen activists in total calling the Saks store number, and demanding that Paige Thomas cuts her ties with the fur trade. Most calls went to voicemail, a couple activists were hung up on before finishing the script that was provided for them. This was the first protest we’ve every organized, and we were fortunate to have three amazing activists from two different cities to get started and help find collective confidence in doing this. We are very happy with how the protest went and look forward to organizing more.