Major Fashion Brands Must Respond to Cruelty on Rabbit Farms


photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

When a story broke last week via Sparrow Media showing disturbing images of rabbits on fur farms in Spain, it quickly began to gain mainstream media attention. Seventy farms and two slaughterhouses were investigated by Last Chance for Animals, and management of the operations at Curticub and Galaico Catalana explicitly claimed they supplied U.S. designers Marc Jacobs and Diane Von Furstenberg, as well as international designers Burberry, Dior, Armani, Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton with rabbit pelts.

The investigation video is below:

When it came time for the industry to respond after WWD ran the story, setting off a chain reaction in the fashion media, deny deny deny was the PR mantra. In the WWD article, Dior claimed that “The House of Dior is deeply shocked by the documented images, which are against our values and practices.”

Burberry followed suit saying they have "no relationship with the farms featured and we are sure that Curticub is not part of our supply chain... Burberry will not use fur if there is concern that its production has involved the unacceptable treatment of animals.”

In an article for Vogue on Sept 16th, the label Saint Laurent, which lists Spain as a source of rabbit fur on their website, said, " Saint Laurent teams are continuously working to find ways to ensure high standards of animal welfare."

It's not surprising that these designers are denying and distancing themselves from the activities caught on camera of farm workers bashing sick rabbits to death, crippled, diseased and severely wounded rabbits left to suffer in small, crowded cages with hard metal bars for floors with no medical treatment, or rabbits being bludgeoned to death or slammed to the floor before being skinned. Who would dare claim financial support of such callousness? But denial only goes so far. Surely these large suppliers are selling to someone. And where there is big business, there is a paper-trail. It's only a matter of time before those doing (or having done) business with them are confirmed.

The most frightening thing about these images beyond the abhorrent cruelty is the fact that this is business-as-usual.

The most frightening thing about these images beyond the abhorrent cruelty is the fact that this is business-as-usual. All seventy farms and two slaughterhouses investigated are currently having animal cruelty charges brought against them. Every single one. Therefore, the cruelty is indicative of industry-wide practices, not rare exceptions that can be avoided. In other words, fur farming is inherently cruel. The following is a list of acts and situations included in the list of the complaints: 10606401_840745109290676_6040953662223181536_n

photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

  • ·throwing live rabbits into trash containers to die with rabbit corpses ·killing by blunt force trauma with repeated strikes against the cages or the floor ·killing by crushing their esophagus and abandoning them to die by suffocation ·ill and injured rabbits, some with open, infected wounds, who never receive veterinary treatment ·violation of hygienic-sanitary conditions, where feces is left to accumulate, lack of mandatory bio-security suits ·abandonment of live animals in piles of feces who later die of starvation or dehydration

There is a myth that humane fur farms exist. That regulations protect animals on fur farms. But let me be clear: if you design with or wear fur, it is delusional to think that there is a kind way to confine, gas, anally electrocute, bludgeon, poison, suffocate, slit throats or snap necks. The laws and regulations established by the European Union are merely guidelines that are not enforceable. The guidelines are vague and often left open to interpretation. ((Council Directive 93/119/EC ))((Council Directive 98/58/EC  ))((Ley 32/2007, de 7 de noviembre ))((Real Decreto 348/2000 de 10 de marzo ))((RD 441/01 del Consejo de 27 de abril)(general animal welfare law) ))((Reglamento (CE) Nº 1/2005, del Consejo de 22 de diciembre de 2004, (general transport of farmed animals) ))((Reglamento (CE) nº 1099/2009 (Regulation on how farmed animals should be killed) )) They suggest taking "reasonable steps" to prevent "unnecessary pain, suffering or injury", but who determines what steps are reasonable and what injuries or sufferings are necessary? Even the industry's most stringent and much-touted Origin Assured certification has fallen short of even the most basic ethical standards when investigations surfaced in recent years of farms in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, as well as trapping the USA. 15099522036_76ce87b7a9_b

photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

...the mortality rate for rabbits on farms in Spain is a whopping 22%.

Spain's Agricultural Ministry is supposed to monitor these farms, yet some farms were documented claiming that they've not had a vet visit in over five years. Not surprisingly, the mortality rate for rabbits on farms in Spain is a whopping 22%. There are no regulations for raising and killing rabbits, no regulated cage sizes or considerations for biological differences in rabbits to specifically address their physiological needs. In Spain, like in most countries (with Germany being the exception) there are no laws that specifically protect rabbits being raised for meat and fur. This is shocking considering that almost 70 million rabbits are killed annually in Spain's 3,369 rabbit farms. Globally, over one billion rabbit pelts are produced each year, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. It goes against common sense to believe that a rabbit's complex social and veterinary needs could ever be met at this scale while still making a profit. Rabbits are social creatures that live in large groups, dig and build warrens, and play. Companion rabbits enjoy the same privileges and kinship as dogs and cats. Caged on a farm, every instinct and desire is stifled.


photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

Cruelty, neglect and suffering are unavoidable aspects of large-scale animal industries, and it disingenuous for the brands who have released statements to feign concern for the barbaric treatment of rabbits documented in this investigation when these cruelties are widespread and disturbingly ordinary. If Burberry deems that this is "unacceptable", if Dior claims this treatment of animals goes "against [their] values, if Saint Laurent wants to "ensure high standards of animal welfare" certainly they all must simply stop using animal skins. The cognitive dissonance here is disgraceful. disingenuous for the brands who have released statements to feign concern for the barbaric treatment of rabbits documented in this investigation when these cruelties are widespread and disturbingly ordinary.

Investigators reached out to these brands weeks before releasing the investigation. Marc Jacobs, who also openly lists Spain as a source of rabbit fur, has still not commented on the subject. Therefore it is necessary that Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Furstenburg, Armani and Louis Vuitton respond. Fur is more than a naughty, indulgent, luxury status symbol. The raising and killing of animals for their skins is an ugly, painfully mainstream and archaic business. 14935777659_e5a59b5735_b

photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

The future of fashion, however, is bright and rebellious. The most exciting innovations in textiles are happening in the realms of bio-based organics and hi-tech and recycled synthetics. We can grow leather in a lab. We can make hi-tech, low-impact future-fur that is far more customizable than, yet indistinguishable from animal hair. Technology is always evolving and getting more efficient, more refined, more green and more visionary. In this sense, fur is simply bad design. It decomposes, it smells, it needs to be preserved in chemicals and refrigerated in the summer and checked for infestations. It requires the inefficient raising of animals and the messiness of having to actually kill them and rip their skin off. It will never evolve or change. There is no good reason that we need to keep caging animals for their entire lives in order to make luxury products. We are better designers than that.