The fur is flying among animal-rights activists in Toronto, as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stages a fur coat giveaway days after the Animal Liberation Front vandalized two downtown stores.
PETA will distribute 30 fur coats to women from four homeless shelters at John Innes Community Centre Thursday, hoping to send the message that only Toronto’s most needy citizens should ever wear fur.
“We can’t bring the animals back, but we can bring a little warmth to people in desperate need,” said Emily Lavender of PETA.
PETA receives hundreds of donated coats every year from people who have had a change of heart about fur. Their so-called “fur kitchens” have been held in the U.S. since 1988, but Thursday’s giveaway marks a first in Canada.
But the event comes on the heels of an attack on two stores that sell fur and leather. Four Seasons Fur and T.O. Leather Fashions Ltd. — within a three-block radius near Spadina Ave. and Adelaide St. W. — both had a foul-smelling chemical sprayed into their stores early Tuesday.
“This is what you get for profiting off of violence and suffering. This was your first attack but will not be your last,” an anonymous ALF member wrote in an email to activist magazine Bite Back.
The letter is signed, “Until every cage is empty, Toronto ALF.” A New York-based spokesperson, Will Hazlitt, confirmed the email was written by an ALF member.
ALF and PETA are not affiliated, and Lavender insisted that her organization does not condone illegal or violent tactics.
“The animal rights movement is trying to end violence, but within any movement there will be factions that engage in extremist activity,” she said.
PETA is known for its shocking campaigns, including lettuce-bikini protests and people lying in fake human-sized leg traps on the sidewalk.
Thursday’s “fur kitchen” is not a shift away from that style of protest, but in fact a result of those campaigns, said Lavender.
“We’ve got these stockpiles from people who have had a change of heart, so this is a way to do something good with all these coats.”
But Liz White, director of the Animal Alliance of Canada, said there’s a degree of exploitation to the stunt. She suggested PETA donate the coats to line the cages of animal sanctuaries instead.
“I understand the idea. You’re trying to get warm clothing to homeless people so they don’t freeze. But why wouldn’t you do it with all kinds of coats?”
As for Toros Torossian, owner of T.O. Leather Fashions Ltd., he doesn’t understand why ALF would target his store. He sells sheepskin and leather, not fur.
“I think they need to do their homework first,” he said. “I feel sorry for them. They don’t know the truth.”
He discovered a horrible, rotten-egg smell and a clear liquid covering the floor Tuesday morning. Security video taken at 1:30 a.m. shows a woman in a hoodie spraying a substance through a crack in the door.
None of his merchandise was damaged, despite ALF’s claim in the email that the chemicals “will destroy anything they come into contact with.”
PETA and ALF take opposite strategies in anti-fur fight - thestar.com