World Animal Welfare Day – 4th October

By Priyanka Dave, TY B.A., LL.B.

PETA AGAINST LUXURY DESIGNER BRANDS

For many years now, PETA has been trying to spread awareness on animal cruelty, as a result of which many luxury brands and designer houses have stepped up and dispensed with the use of animal products. It has made people realize that the cost for their luxury bag is not just a thousand dollars but a life. Through this article, on the occasion of World Animal Welfare Day, we try to look into what happened to these claims, if they have reached their purpose, replies by luxury brand houses, and PETA’s actions upon them.

Today’s Luxury brand market is hugely dominated by products and brand items mainly coming from France. Brands such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Cartier, Christian Dior, Christian Louboutin dominate the luxury fashion market, be it accessories or clothing. These brands get nothing but more robust and more significant with each passing year. The Luxury Fashion Brand Industry, which billionaires across the planet drool over, is worth a few billion dollars today!

Even though there is much glamour and media’s attachment towards the luxury fashion industry, the businesses also have their fair share of non-supporters associated with animal cruelty-free branding organizations such as PETA. They voice their genuine and severe concerns from time to time and try to awaken and make aware as many people as possible. Their constant urge is to call out the companies that are into malpractices of hurting animals with the ultimate goal of having such companies put an end to using animal products. “Studies show that buying luxury items satisfies some people’s desires to be associated with an elite group. However, owning products made from animals does not elevate consumers to a higher social status—it just demonstrates that they support industries that abuse, enslave, and kill animals.”  

PETA claims and provides evidence that many luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermes make their products out of animals’ fur and skin. They are tortured to serve these brands.

What is PETA?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA, is a Non-Governmental Organization that works towards enlightening citizens about the cruelty that animals have to go through, most of the time for the interests of the people who support the wrong kind of fashion. It is committed to ending the abuse of animals and standing up for them to promote their better treatment and interests. Their belief is, “Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.”

Founded in 1980, this organization has come a long way since its establishment. It has successfully created an uproar and made people aware that the luxury brands that cost hundreds and thousands of dollars do not charge for their craftsmanship. Instead, they charge for the lives that are being lost in order to make up for the ‘fashion’- which are, in fact, invaluable and irreplaceable.

PETA has won the hearts of many across the globe by bravely standing strong against big and established brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermes time and again. They strive to turn these brands into vegan brands, i.e., making them manufacture cruelty-free products and are made from materials that are not derived from animals (plant-based versions).

Creating awareness: –

Ever since its inception, PETA has tried its best to shun the practices of torturing animals and openly called out the luxury brands that do so to put them to shame for the same reason. This, unfortunately, seems to be falling on deaf ears! It was not long ago when an Indian business tycoon’s wife, who is looked up to for her charity work, was in the news for carrying a Hermes bag made with crocodile skin and studded with diamonds. There are many such examples in the global media. This is the reason why, today, PETA ropes in celebrities for their campaigns and makes them believe in their beliefs, and helps them understand how their campaigning inspires millions of people could prevent thousands of animals from being slaughtered.

PETA often uploads and shares videos and news of various tortures that various animals have to go through, only to be recognized as a ‘bag’ or a ‘scarf’ after being killed. It had once uploaded a video of a crocodile wailing in pain as it was being skinned alive for its flesh to be made into what could be a bag or a wallet. In another shocking video, an ostrich was being dumped and thrown into a machine for its feathers to be later used on a hat or an accessory. This is a very minute fraction of the many incidents that have not been video-recorded for the whole public to visualize.

PETA has broadcasted videos and photographs of many animals being tortured tremendously by these luxury brands for their meat, skin, fur, or feathers. They are rammed into boxes and electrocuted for being murdered later. Animal protection laws around the world need to be implemented for them to work. Its often-disturbing visuals are even harder to imagine or think about. If people witnessed such processes for the fun of them carrying a designer bag, they would go hungry the whole week!

What happens once PETA gets to keep the animals?-

As we know, this industry contributes billions of dollars to the world economy, which may be why movements and protests by PETA cannot forbid the buying, selling, production, and trading of these leather goods and brands. There is a long way to go for luxury designers to understand and empathize with the cause that PETA stands for. Hence, it can be said that newer, better, safer, and happier-for-all-beings trends are yet to arrive.

Imagine that all animals have been rescued from being used for making luxury brand items. Even then, do we know what happens to them after that? A few years ago, a report stated that PETA does not take care of the animals it rescues. It kills them once they have reached their shelters. On being asked about this, a spokesperson from PETA had absolutely nothing to say in return. They had, in 2020, put up an article saying they offer ‘free euthanasia’ to rescued animals to end the suffering some of them are in and “put them to sleep, forever.” Its high rate of killing animals does not suggest that there may be so many ailing animals as they claim, which is why many people remain unconvinced with their replies. According to public records, PETA has found an adoptive home for less than one in 300 animals. It is hard to say if there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as we can no longer expect good behavior even from big NGOs such as PETA, the following best way to save innocent animals could only be through sheltering them under local NGOs, where one can personally keep a check.

Alternatives to genuine leather goods:-

It is the 21st century- it is straightforward to find alternatives that may be equally expensive and fashionable to buy. When one buys an animal-derived product, it means they are pretty directly contributing to the painful deaths of harmless creatures. It is not necessary for consumers to forcefully support violence if they want to buy designer brands. Instead, they can opt for vegan brands or vegan products that are equally stylish. As much as PETA wrote about the sufferings of animals, they have also written about the promotion of vegan alternatives and vegan brands of luxury fashion, thereby not only standing up with a red flag to bring up the issue but also coming up with viable solutions which would pave the way for a healthy and non-cruel way of doing business.

While the entire luxury brand industry is yet to get into veganism, several upcoming brands support the cause. Some brands that support PETA in an already-established industry are Burberry, Michael Kors, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, and Gucci have also joined the circle.

There is still a long way to go, but with the presence of organizations like PETA, a step in the right direction has been taken. With the exhaustive work that PETA has been doing, it is only fair that as consumers of luxury brand products, one should refrain from purchasing products that use animal skin or fur as its raw material. To bring about any significant change the society has to work towards the cause in oneness; likewise, to see the light at the end of this dark tunnel, luxury brands, designer houses, consumers, and organizations like PETA will have to work in synergy and only then would harmless animals be set free from serving this ugly side of the business.

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Kirit P. Mehta School of Law Publications