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Animal Rights Group Unhappy With Weir Wearing Fur

January 26, 2010 | Fur

The NY Times
By NANCY ARMOUR AP National Writer
Filed at 9:59 p.m. ET

Johnny Weir has set fur flying again.

Friends of Animals has posted an open letter to the figure skater, criticizing him for having fox on one of his costumes and asking him to stop wearing fur. The animal advocacy group also contacted his costume designer, Stephanie Handler, on Tuesday.

''I totally get the dirtiness of the fur industry and how terrible it is to animals. But it's not something that's the No. 1 priority in my life,'' Weir said Tuesday night. ''There are humans dying everyday. There are thousands if not millions of homeless people in New York City. Look at what just happened in Haiti.

''I tend to focus my energy, if there is a cause, on humans. While that may be callous and bad of me, it's my choice.''

Weir loves fashion, and his costumes tend to be on the avant-garde -- some would say extreme -- side. When the three-time U.S. champion redesigned his free skate costume before nationals, he had Handler add a tuft of white fox fur to the left shoulder.

Weir said he thought the costume was ''lovely,'' but Friends of Animals disagreed. Foxes are electrocuted or beaten, and their pelts are obtained by skinning the animals alive.

''He's a role model for a lot of people, including other skaters,'' said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. ''When he makes fun of the suffering of animals that are consumed for this frivolous fashion industry and whose lives are sacrificed so he can wear little tufts of fur on his outfit, that's fair game for comment.''

Weir finished third at nationals, qualifying for his second Olympic team.

Friends of Animals is not the first group to target Weir. He said he's gotten letters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and people have sent him videos depicting how animals are treated by the fur industry.

But Weir said this is the first time someone has contacted Handler.

''She did what I asked her to. It wasn't her choice to make me a costume with fur,'' Weir said. ''At least directly come to me and yell at me. Don't attack my peeps.''

Weir said he understands the groups' objections, but he doesn't share their point of view.

Besides, he's not the only skater wearing animal skin products.

''Every skater is wearing skates made out of cow,'' Weir said. ''Maybe I'm wearing a cute little fox while everyone else is wearing cow, but we're all still wearing animals.''

Comments

I am not a fan of slaughtering animals just for their skins but consider this; If people hadn't thought to use animal fur to keep warm, everyone would have frozen to death before commercial fabrics were made. Therefore none of us would be here to complain about anything that anyone else does. FoA Comment: Choosing real fur and other skins nowadays is pretty archaic. With the options available all around us now, one cannot remotely imply that these items are deemed necessary anymore.

I like Priscilla's comment about awareness. That is totally spot on.

I did not intend to imply that it necessary any longer. I do not condone the use of fur or leather. There are many better options readily available now. I was simply stating that at one time the use of animal skins was a necessary evil for survival.

In reply to Jess, Friends of Animals agrees that there's simply no need, in the 21st century, to take the lives of Arctic foxes, coyotes, wolves, red and grey foxes, ermine, lynx, raccoons, beavers, seals, rabbits, chinchillas or other animals who were born in their fur. Other mammals, like us, want to go about the business of living. Their fur belongs to them and so does their freedom. 60 minks are skinned to make one coat. 45 foxes are tortured to make another coat. Why should furriers be rewarded for causing their deaths? When caught in leghold traps, foxes and other animals will fight to free themselves. When animals caught in snares try to escape, the wire cuts more deeply into limbs, necks or bodies. Friends of Animals' video footage of Alaska wolves caught in snares appalled viewers who watched them on national news broadcasts. Our mink neck-breaking video shot on a Northwest fur farm was aired on 60 Minutes. Awareness is the key to reversing the trend of young people who are most of today's fur buyers. Consumers of all ages should know that buying any amount of fur means sustaining an industry that farms or traps, kills and processes animals who deserve to have lived full, free lives. Johnny Weir is right about one thing: Fur is a dirty business. Priscilla Feral

I don't understand one of the statements above, where the editor writes that, "coyotes, raccoons, wolves do not run free in nature." Please tell me that you are not being serious. Where are you from? Where I come from, we not only have coyotes, wolves, and raccoons, but we have deer, elk, bears, foxes, antelope, bobcats, mountain lions (or "cougars"), skunk, porcupine, pheasant, turkey, badgers, and I'm probably forgetting some. .. [Blog editors' note: You've misread the comment. Foxes and other animals trapped for the fur trade are a part of nature, so your interference into their lives is objectionable. Some minks, foxes,wolves and other animals are confined on fur farms and suffer hideously. Johnny Weir is right about one thing Friends of Animals has long said: Fur is a Dirty Business. Also, it's an industry that should be abolished, not rewarded by wearing pieces of fur that supports a gruesome trade with no respect for animals.]

He is an arrogant egotistical idiot. He shouldn't be allowed to represent the United States or any decent respectable orginization. I wish someone would post the companys that sponsor him so I can send letters of protest.

As to Johnny Weir's professed humanitarian concerns, let him "put his fur where his mouth is." Johnny, sell all your furs and donate that money to humans in need. Surely you care more about humans than wearing fur.

“Foxes are electrocuted or beaten, and their pelts are obtained by skinning the animals alive, said Anai Rhoads, spokeswoman for the group.” I've never heard of this. What proof do you offer to support this claim? FoA Comments: In a BBC documentary, you will see that foxes are, in fact, skinned alive. We should note that our intentions were not to target a piece of fur, but the use of fur overall. Johnny Weir wears full-length coats, has adorned his apartment with reindeer pelts and other items that were derived from animals. He has not been shy about his intentions and we need him to be mindful how these furs were obtained. Killing an animal for mere decoration, whether it be for a coat, hat or furniture - should not be acceptable to anyone.

The comments by Natasha and Weir-y of this Person really struck me. I have to admit, I've never given a lot of thought to the animal rights movement, though I consider myself to be a very socially-conscious person. The points Natasha makes about extending compassion to ALL living creatures are so pertinent. As a society, we need to examine the wide-range and long-term effects our excessive consumption has on this planet and its inhabitants. Very well put, Natasha! I was initially intrigued by this article from an LGBT perspective. I always hope when an LGBT person (especially a young gay man like Weir) comes into the public eye, he or she will prove to be a great ambassador/role model for the larger LGBT community. Clearly, Johnny Weir is not this type of young gay man, as Weir-y of this Person pointed out. Comments about homelessness and the Haitian earthquake, both grave issues, coming from Johnny Weir seem too mundane and are used to deflect attention from the fur question. And it seems contradictory that someone so apparently in-tune to human suffering would talk about death and tragedy with the same breath that he uses to describe the aesthetic value of the fox-fur trim he had added to his costume. His flippant remarks reveal him to be another shallow, poorly-informed young gay man. I wonder how many filling meals and potable water could be purchased for the cost of that fox fur trim. Did that occur to Johnny?

I am so glad, once again, that you are addressing issues of cruelty to animals in areas where most people would not think to look. What does homelessness and the tragedy in Haiti have to do with our responsibility not to inflict horrible pain and suffering that could be avoided on animals? And look how he shirks his responsibility as a world-wide role model in terms of his clothing and acts like anything he wears has nothing to do with any of his own possible hidden agendas--with or without ice skates. His achievements on the ice are very impressive--which makes it even more imperative that he take responsibility for his actions and intentions towards animals that cannot possibly defend themselves. Thank you again. I can always trust FoA to "be there" where most others would not even notice anything wrong.

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