A protest by animal rights activiists CAFT (Coalition to Abolish the Fur trade) against the use of fur by the Fashion industry blockades one of the venues for London Fashion Week in the Aldwych.Anti-Fur Protest, London Fashion Week, UK - 17 Sep 2017

During London Fashion Week the disruptions were many, but the loud — and at times violent — fur protestors were among the most visible ones.

Gathering en masse outside shows, wearing eerie skeleton costumes and screaming “Blood on your hands” or “Shame on you” at showgoers (who were not wearing fur), the protests cast a shadow over the catwalks, and left guests rattled as they took their seats. The protests in London followed a similar antifur demonstration outside the Banana Republic presentation during New York Fashion Week as people protested against Banana Republic collaborator Olivia Palermo’s wearing of fur (Banana Republic itself does not use fur).

In London, protestors, organized by the activist group Surge, gathered outside the Burberry, Versus Versace and Gareth Pugh shows, although none of the labels used fur for their spring 2018 collections. But what did that matter? They seemed to be less concerned about targeting individual designers and more about making their presence felt during the five-day event.

After all, their ultimate goal is to persuade the British Fashion Council to ban fur from the London catwalks.

“Every year the fur industry is responsible for the death of 1 billion rabbits and 50 million other animals. Most of these animals are raised in fur farms. On fur farms the animals quite literally go insane, performing psychotic repetitive behaviors such as circling in their cages, cannibalism and self-mutilation,” said Lucy Watson, Surge ambassador, as part of the organization’s latest campaign addressing the BFC.

“In the U.K. the production of fur is now illegal; however, London Fashion Week still continues to provide one of the largest platforms for fur in the U.K. By banning fur from the catwalk, the British Fashion Council has the opportunity of preventing countless animals from being sentenced to a lifetime of unnecessary suffering. This industry is outdated and has no place in modern society, and definitely not on the catwalks of London.”

Even before London Fashion Week began, Surge was gathering signatures for a petition and continuing to organize protests, with the next one set to take place at Canada Goose’s new Regent Street flagship later this month.

The British Fashion Council is holding its ground, and is refusing to bow to Surge’s demands. “The British Fashion Council does not dictate what designers can or cannot design and has no control over their creative process. We encourage designers to ensure that if they choose to work with fur, they work with reputable organizations that supply ethically sourced fur,” said a spokesperson at the BFC.

Caroline Rush, the chief executive officer of the BFC, added that London Fashion Week provides an opportunity for increased media attention for animal rights organizations and the BFC’s priority is ensuring that the protests remain peaceful.

Some brands appear to be listening, however. Less than a month after London Fashion Week, Gucci ceo Marco Bizzarri revealed the brand’s plan to stop using fur during a talk in London, calling it “outdated.” Although Gucci’s decision might have been a long time coming, the timing of the announcement was pertinent.

Young British designers are divided on the issue. Hannah Weiland built her Shrimps label on a foundation of colorful faux-fur coats.

“There is more variety in terms of what you can do than with real fur. You can use any color under the sun, make prints, play with texture and the quality really is just as soft and as good as real fur. There is very little argument left for real fur,” said Weiland in an interview.

“A lot of our customers are vegan and conscious-minded, but we also have customers that wear real fur as well and just love the product. But I do agree that the younger generation are more ethically minded, and we do see more and more younger customers making the proactive choice not to wear real fur.”

Other, more established labels such as Christopher Kane, Burberry, Astrid Andersen and Roksanda often showcase real fur in their collections, sourced from the Finland-based ethical fur supplier Saga Furs.

The company said it has an extensive certification process that provides full traceability of its products and ensures animal welfare.

“We need to separate what is animal welfare and what is animal rights. Our certification and sustainability processes are about animal welfare; nobody is more concerned with the welfare of the animals than the farmers and we represent the farmers,” said Charlie Ross, head of sustainability at Saga Furs.

Ross added that the company has been selling its mink, which is now 100 percent certified, at elevated prices and keeping engaged with young designers and the new generation of consumers. “The fastest-growing fur trend, fur-trimmed accessories, is being purchased by Millennials. The increase in online fur sales around the world is astronomical and that is also being driven by Millennials,” he added.

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