Fighting fur on the air
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2000:
NEW YORK – – U . S . retail fur sales soared 30% 1999, says the Fur Information Council.
Receipts for the year rose to $1.57 billion––the most since 1988, when sales peaked at $1.85 billion. Adjusting for inflation, however, 1999 sales came to only 60% of the 1988 figure.
Other economic indicators hint that the retail surge may have resulted chiefly from heavy discounting to dump a fur glut caused by the 1998 devaluation of the Russian ruble, which brought the collapse of Russian demand for imported pelts.
Illinois wild fur exports to Russia, for instance, fell from $3 million worth in the winter of 1996-1997 to just $1 million worth in 1998-1999.
The average price of mink pelts at the Copenhagen Fur Center fell 31% from March 1998 to March 1999, and 46% from April 1998 to April 1999.
The 439 U.S. mink ranches skinned 2.94 million mink in 1998, down only 2% from 1997, but sold the pelts for 26% less.
Eager to avoid allowing fur to make a price-driven comeback, Last Chance for Animals, the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, and the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (Fur-Bearers) in November 1999 introduced new TV and radio ad campaigns.
Historically, air time has been hard for anti-fur groups to buy, partly because of the disturbing nature of depictions of animals in traps or incarcerated on fur farms, and partly also because TV and radio stations have been reluctant to risk losing accounts with furriers.
“Years ago when we tried TV,” recalled Fur-Bearers president George Clements, “CBC would not allow us to purchase commercial time, and private stations said we could have time only after nine p.m.”
This winter, however, Clements said Fur-Bearers was able to air “about $40,000 worth of commercials in British Columbia showing a fox struggling in a so-called padded leghold trap. Our telephones lit up as soon as the ad was aired. We used BCTV in Vancouver, and then bought some extra time in Victoria and Kelowna, as well as radio and print ads. Then one of our supporters in Edmonton helped purchase more TV time there, as well as a billboard.”
Fur-Bearers also aired the anti-fur commercial for two weeks in Kingston, Ontario.
LCA and CAFT meanwhile broadcast a 30-second radio spot which according to former LCA executive director Eric Mindel “features the actual recording of an animal being killed for fur.”
Although many stations declined the ad, Mindel said it was aired from November 26 through December on outlets in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Burlington, New Jersey. “KFWB–Los Angeles sold us ad space and accepted a prepaid contract to broadcast our ad during Larry King Live, ” Mindel said, “but then pulled the campaign a week before it was supposed to have started.”
Shock-jock Howard Stern broadcast the LCA/CAFT commercial in full on December 6 as part of his regular programming, after hearing about it on a WCKG-Chicago talk program.