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Changemaking Tip: Fur Activism (with Joshua Katcher)

By Visiting Animal — December 24, 2010

In Concrete Catwalk, Joshua Katcher (of The Discerning Brute) prances around Soho posing as a fashion correspondent. Before they know it, the unsuspecting fur-wearers are being told where fur really comes from. The video, much like Joshua, is brilliant and innovative. Joshua recently launched Pinnacle, a new campaign aiming to “breathe life and form into the original NO-FUR icon and draw much-needed attention to the message behind it.” When it comes to fur activism, there is nobody better than Joshua Katcher. We’re delighted to have him share his tricks and tips with us today.

Fur Activism Tips

by Joshua Katcher

I specifically want to address how to approach and engage with people wearing fur, shopping for fur, or stores that are selling fur garments or accessories. If you live in an area that gets even slightly chilly, you’ll probably notice people who are oblivious to the dark side of the fur industry, strutting around in a fur coat, vest, or even hanging an accessory from their bag or belt-loop. The challenge is, how do you approach them in a way that is the is most effective to help animals?

The first rule in all three cases is to make a visual statement that will be taken seriously in a fashion context: dress well. Not only will people take fashion advice from someone who looks like they know about fashion, but it will embolden your own confidence in approaching someone.

Here is a simple, step by step method that I’d recommend.

For the Fur Wearer:

  1. First, approach with a smile, and say “excuse me, I only have a moment, but…”. This statement lets the person know that you will not bother them for long, and it gets their guard down a bit.
  2. Next, engage with a question that demands a response like “do you know how that coat was made?” or “do you hate animals?” or “do you have any pets at home?”
  3. Then, allow them to respond. Most answers are predictable — people do not generally hate animals, many people have pets, and many people subscribe to inaccurate ideas, or have been lied to by stores, about how fur items are made.
  4. Make sure to mix criticisms with compliments. For example “You are a very attractive person, and you don’t need something so cruel, that represents animal suffering, to look good”.
  5. Have supporting materials ready to show them. If you have a smartphone or an iPad, I’d recommend having video footage from undercover fur investigations on your device that you can show people, or a pamphlet that explains how fur is made to give them.
  6. Lastly, leave them with a positive thing they can do. For example, they can donate their fur to the homeless, to the Coats for Cubs program, or they can send it to PETA.

Remember that the goal is not to verbally assault the person. Shaming them in a public setting is the last resort, and only worthy of consideration if they are completely unwilling to engage (for example, a celebrity who you are not able to engage in a conversation, or someone who totally ignores you). In that case, have something short and clever to say, like “if only you knew how that coat was made you wouldn’t be wearing it,” or “You look like you hate animals.”

For the Shopper:

When it comes to approaching someone who is shopping and you see them considering fur, make sure to give your opinion. “Sorry for butting in, but have you seen how they make those things?” Always end on a question that requires a response. Then repeat steps 3 – 6 from above.

For the Seller/Store Manager:

This section is sort of a choose-your-own-adventure novel.

  1. Before you enter the establishment, prepare anything you plan to utilize. For example, have your smartphone ready to play the video you will show the manager or sales rep, or have pamphlets in a convenient location if you plan to leave them. Also decide whether you’ll play the eager consumer who wants all the info, the shopper who was going to make a purchase (until you noticed they sell fur in the store), or the straight up activist who wants to educate the manager.
  2. Enter and inspect the garments in question. You are a shopper just like everyone else… for now.
  3. Once you have determined that the garments are fur, approach a sales rep, or wait for someone to ask you if you need help.
  4. Because most decisions in stores are made based on money, pick out a non-fur item you were going to potentially purchase and bring it up to the register. Explain to the rep (or better yet, ask for the manager) that you were going to purchase this item until you realized that they sell fur, and would they please stop selling fur.
  5. Ask if they know how the fur garments are made or what kind of animal it used to be, and how the animals are killed. Their response is geared towards getting you to make the purchase, obviously, so they will probably lie.
  6. Briefly explain how fur is made. I usually say something like this: “Animals on fur farms are bludgeoned, crushed, or genitally and anally electrocuted, and animals in the wild slowly starve, dehydrate or bleed to death in fur traps.” Then show the video or hand over a pamphlet.
  7. Ask to speak to a manager or person in charge and redo steps 5 and 6.
  8. Finally, ask if they would be willing to take fur off their shelves or find a more compassionate alternative.
  9. Always take a business card and send a follow up email.

I hope this helps make approaching someone in fur easier!


Joshua Katcher

Joshua Katcher started The Discerning Brutein 2008 as a resource for intelligent men who want to make ethical, informed decisions concerning their lifestyles. He launched the PINNACLE initiative and the Brave GentleMan online mens shop in 2010. Joshua is a committed environmentalist, vegan, and social justice advocate. He is critical of unbridled consumerism, backwards classical economics, and most things that do more damage than good. Joshua encourages skepticism, conscientious hedonism, critical thinking, and accountability.

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