CAFT Announces Senior Organizer Sidney Jesperson and Communications Manager Alexandra McCardell

After three rapid-fire victories in less than five months, Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade today announced Sidney Jesperson as Senior Organizer and Alexandra McCardell as Communications Manager.

Sidney Jesperson comes to CAFT with over a decade of organizing experience on behalf of animals. A well-known figure in the animal rights community, Sidney has established herself as one of the leading grassroots organizers in the Western states. Her tireless activism has seen her serve professionally at regional and national organizations, and in a grassroots capacity overseeing campaigns in the San Diego and Denver areas. Sidney’s focus has been the captivity of wildlife in fur farms and marine parks. Her experience with diverse strategies and tactics makes her an ideal candidate to ensure the growth of CAFT’s work long into the future as the organization’s Senior Organizer.

Alexandra McCardell has an extensive background in creative project management and design, including seven years of professional expertise in these fields. Her commitment to animal liberation began in 2013, from which time she has engaged in bicoastal activism and experimented with multiple methodologies for social change. A New Jersey native, she is currently based in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. As Communications Manager, she will expand CAFT’s online presence, engage new and legacy media, and establish a long-awaited materials program to fortify grassroots street activism.

As Sidney and Alexandra come on board, Tyler Lang will continue to serve as Campaigns Director. Additionally, CAFT has approved a new Harassment and Misconduct Policy, crafted with input from organizations experienced in these areas.

These announcements come as CAFT implements its six-month plan for organizational expansion, growth of grassroots anti-fur activism, and development of a theory of change rooted in results-based corporate campaigning. These changes will increase the organization’s strength as it continues on the path to total destruction of the fur industry in North America.

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.

Los Angeles Kicks Off Week of Action Against Saks

Submitted by Animal Defense League Southern California:

Sunday, February 7, was the beginning of an international week of action against fur, and we knew the perfect way to kick it off: by returning to our friends at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.

We’ve been to this Saks location many times before informing the public about the horrors of the fur industry, and yet the employees at this location seem immune to the suffering of animals. In fact, they are so unashamed by the crimes they perpetrate against American wildlife that they hire guards and lock their doors to close themselves off from our message about the reality of their actions.

No worries – we will just have to keep coming back until they understand.

And that is exactly how we started off the week of action against fur here in Los Angeles. As per usual, our protest was a victory before it even started, because Saks locked their doors as we were crossing the street. We still decided not to leave them disappointed, and stayed outside of the store peacefully exercising our First Amendment rights for the better part of two hours.

Every time we visit Saks and they shut down in this manner, the entire building feels like such a lonely ghost town. Don’t worry, Saks – we’ll be back soon to keep you company.

New Jersey Activists Disrupt Saks

Submitted by New Jersey Animal Save Movement:

On Sunday, January 31, a group of compassionate NJ activists, including several parents and children, walked as a group into Saks Off 5th within a mini-mall in Shrewsbury, NJ.  This action was well-planned and organized as a peaceful yet attention-grabbing disruption to send a strong clear message that animal torture and death in the name of fashion is unacceptable.

Upon arriving through the door of the store, the lead speaker, using a megaphone and holding a fake “dead skinned animal body,” spoke out about the truth behind the fur industry, emphasizing the pain and torture that animals endure such as vaginal and anal electrocution and being skinned alive. Security personnel hovered around the lead speaker but took no aggressive action. Additional activists spread out around the front of the store holding signs like “Marc Metrick has blood on his hands,” calling upon the CEO of Saks to go fur-free, as well as signs reading, “Fur is Dead,” and “Animals are Not Ours to Wear.” One activist held a monitor which played continuous video of graphic images of live animals like rabbits, wolves, coyotes, foxes, minks and chinchillas being restrained while their skins are painfully cut off their bodies, and other common practices within the fur industry.

Eventually this group of dedicated activists exited the store and formed a line outside the front door.  They continued speaking out through megaphones including loudly chanting “Stop the torture, stop the pain. Saks Fifth Avenue is to blame,” and “Saks has blood on their hands.” Activists chanted together, held signs and banners and brought attention to passersby and customers of Saks. Police officers were called and remained present with the activists for the duration of the protest appearing to do so to keep order and safety. The activist believe this was another step in the right direction toward a cruelty-free world for animals.

Miami Activists Mob Saks Fifth Avenue

Submitted by Miami activists:

On January 30, twenty-five activists gathered near Saks Fifth Avenue in Downtown Miami ready for action. We grabbed our signs, turned on our megaphones, and marched towards the Saks wing of the Brickell City Centre mall. Awaiting us, we found a panoply of guards and police, nearly ten at every store entrance. We knew then that it was going to be a fun day.

We began our peaceful and orderly protest on 8th St by the Saks valet area and entrance, and our impact was palpable. Our chants about the fur trade echoed through the downtown area. Our signs caught looks from countless drivers on this busy artery.

Witnessing our success, the sad, small men in uniform tripped over themselves trying to invent one reason after another why we could not stand on this public sidewalk. We finally tired of arguing, and decided to give them what they were asking for. Marching around the complex to 7th St, we found ourselves chanting by the side entrance of a mall courtyard full of customers enjoying lunch.

Seeing their error, the geniuses in blue went into conniptions. They immediately began threatening arrest, and when asked for cause, said that the people eating didn’t want to hear us. But the last time we checked, protesting on public property near a place of food consumption is not a crime in this country. With American flag patches on their uniforms, these cops and cop wannabes were in a frenzy to deny us our First Amendment rights. Their true objection was not the time, place, or manner of our protest – it was the protest itself. We were not about to be intimidated by these traitors, but realized once again that complying with their illegal requests was in fact to our advantage.

That’s because the remaining street was Miami Ave. On 8th, we had been able to make our message heard by the public. On 7th, by a select set of diners. But on Miami, our voices echoed through the entire mall courtyard.

We stuck around for another hour or so, with the mall cops scratching their heads and erratically throwing Red Bull-fueled tantrums. We knew they had lied to us about applicable laws in the prior areas, but had simply outfoxed them. (And thankfully, gathered their names for our attorneys, should they choose to lie to us and violate our rights in the future.) And our message rang through downtown Miami on behalf of animals on fur farms, with shoppers on every level of the mall coming to the side of the walkway to look down and see what we had to say. With all the harassment, we still kept the message 100% on the animals – all to the great embarrassment of Saks. One passerby even stopped to take a picture with us and show her support.

See you next time, Saks!

Victory: Alice + Olivia Gives up on Fur After 11 Days

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Yesterday, Alice + Olivia contacted the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade to say that they are going fur-free. After 18 actions and 11 days, we win.

In fact, A+O pulled all fur from its stores and website in the first week of our campaign, but refused to officially go fur free until today.

Stacey has bragged about using fur without remorse for years. An actual billionaire with unlimited resources to fight us. And it took her two weeks to decide that giving up part of her business was a better option than dealing with us.

And this is only the beginning.

A strategy for success
We were ready to take on Alice + Olivia’s executives, board members, investors, their other companies, even charities on the boards of which they sat. And we were ready to further diversify our tactics, within the bounds of the law. But we achieved success by focusing on A+O storefronts alone. The victory was thus the result of aspects of our strategy built into its architecture from the first day:

Coordinated national action
The animal rights movement is strongest when we work together. Our opponents are national and international. By choosing a common target and making it a focus for every city, we win. This victory was made possible by independent local groups in Chicago, Boston, New York, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Connecticut, Los Angeles, and Orange County.

Forceful and tactically diverse action
Alice + Olivia experienced 18 actions in 11 days. And we know of at least six more that were planned prior to our week of action against fur on February 7. Tactics ranged from a day of phone calls to chalking to disruptions to demonstrations to a special alarm-based action from a lone rabbit. One independent street art activist made “Wanted” posters of Stacey Bendet, but this victory came too quickly for them to put them up around her city. While we may not be able to maintain this pace with longer-term targets, the important take-away is that Alice + Olivia was under a state of siege. On Monday mornings, management’s email inboxes were full of reports from stores in different cities about “the activists.”

Results-based campaigning
We began as a few people with a theory. With results-based campaigning – winnable goals and smart strategy to achieve them – we build our movement and build momentum for future victories. Let’s break down these two goals to see if the theory holds up.

Building our movement
The Monique Lhuillier campaign began with only a few cities. After that victory, over a dozen cities were ready to take action. And our structure – total autonomy for local groups with our full backing and support – empowers local activists and ensures a diversity of tactics as we move into the future.

Building momentum for future victories
We beat Monique Lhuillier in 14 days. And after seeing what we achieved, Stacey Bendet – a designer with almost twenty times as many stores as Monique – went fur free in 11. Now, our reputation precedes us as we move to larger designers and retailers.

Onto the next
We will not achieve animal liberation with wishful thinking and positive intentions. We will achieve it by using incremental victories as stepping stones. We are knocking down the fur industry brick by brick, and together we will watch it crumble. Join us and make history.

Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade – United States

Atlanta Activists Give A+O a Surprise

Submitted by Atlanta activists:

Alice + Olivia has seen massive protests nationwide, but still will not commit to going fur-free. So we decided that the best way for us to relax on a winter Sunday afternoon would be to head over to their Atlanta boutique and express ourselves with our full capabilities.

When we arrived in Buckhead Village, we found that A+O had posted two guards outside of their store, one stationary and one roving. Clearly, the hard-hitting actions across the country in the prior two days had an impact, and our hearts filled with joy at the thought of increased overhead for animal abusers.

We’re not sure what A+O thought they were accomplishing, but they certainly didn’t darken our day. When we returned after some food and coffee, their hired goons had left. And we made our move.

Entering the store with megaphones blaring, our message was immediately clear: stop tormenting innocent animals on fur farms. We stayed inside chanting and educating employees until our friends in the Atlanta PD arrived and asked us to move our protest to the sidewalk out front.

Despite our compliance, the police couldn’t resist cooking up some trouble in an effort to intimidate us out of exercising our First Amendment rights. But their shenanigans disrupted store operations and called the entire block’s attention to A+O’s animal cruelty better than we could have hoped to on our own. Thanks, officers. See you next time.

Alice + Olivia, you know that fur is cruel and outdated. Go fur free.