Fur trade body seeks agency for global 'fight back' PR campaign

A trade body for the international fur trade is seeking a PR agency to handle a global PR campaign to counter what it calls "attacks from animal rights activists", PRWeek has learned.

©GettyImages
©GettyImages

The London-based International Fur Federation (IFF) said it is interviewing agencies to launch a "pre-prepared campaign", with pitches sought from agencies that "can show strong media connections in all continents".

The IFF, which represents 55 members in 38 countries, said it is "preparing a full campaign aimed at PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] and other animal rights groups".

The IFF said it has been running global campaigns focused on fashion and sustainability, avoiding direct confrontation with the animal activists. The "tougher stance" follows moves in recent months by a several designers including Jean Paul Gaultier, and brands including DKNY and Coach, to announce they will stop using fur.

The comms response is being handled by IFF director of communications Neville Thurlbeck, the former News of the World news editor who founded PR agency Clear Vista Media in 2015 after his journalism career was famously derailed by the phone-hacking scandal.

Thurlbeck, who joined the IFF two years ago, told PRWeek: "The fur industry has taken a lot of unfair flak from animal rights activists in the form of vicious vegan propaganda, myths and sometimes downright lies.

"Chief among the lies is the claim that we skin animals alive. The barbaric images which accompany these claims are stunts and now we can prove it. The fur industry has made giant leaps forward and is now one of the most sustainable industries in the world. It also has rigorous standards through its FurMark certification process.

"This covers sustainability, animal welfare and the dressing and the dyeing of fur, so consumers can be certain fur meets recognised national and international standards.

"The agency we are looking to hire will take these messages to the media worldwide. As well as the mainstream media, we will be taking this message to legislators and brands.

"The next time an animal rights gang knocks on their office door with a bag full of myths and propaganda, they will soon have a fuller, more accurate picture."

Thurlbeck reports to IFF CEO Mark Oaten, the former Liberal Democrat MP.

The IFF said fur retail sales total $30bn per year.

PETA’s anti-fur campaigns have featured celebrities including Eva Mendes, Twiggy, Lucy Watson, Tim Howard and Simon Cowell.

The campaign group said Calvin Klein, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood and Tommy Hilfiger are among the designers who never use fur in their collections, and said most high-street stores, including Topshop, AllSaints and ASOS, are fur-free.

See a recent campaign from PETA, below, narrated by singer Paloma Faith:

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