Personal choice is one of the bedrocks of our society and I react very strongly when I see it being eroded. I have no issue in people standing up for a cause and being heard but I do take issue when the approach is overly militant in its nature or even intimidating and takes no account of the other side of the argument. It smacks of arrogance and in a modern democracy that's just not how things should work.
So I was disappointed to see Paula Reed's sudden departure as fashion director at Harvey Nichols following pressure applied by PETA on the retailer who under Reed's tenure has recently reintroduced a range of clothing with fur trim. Clearly many people will decide that fur is not for them and that is a decision I completely respect. However, whatever happened to personal choice and what of those consumers who would actually like to be able to buy fur? Believe me, they do exist! Over 400 fashion designers use fur in their creations and the season's catwalks featured it heavily.
Now those who have read my blog posts in the past will know that my role as chief executive of the International Fur Trade Federation involves me promoting the fur industry. So cynics among you will of course take the attitude, 'he would say that, wouldn't he,' and that's fine. What I do feel passionate about is having the opportunity to tell the fur industry's side of the story. We take animal welfare and environmental issues extremely seriously, and anyone who is ready to read beyond the strident claims of our opponents will want to explore the evidence for themselves. Campaigning to ensure that the best possible animal husbandry practices are in place is absolutely a good thing but banning something on the basis of shaky evidence is a different case all together.
But back to personal choice. A quick scan of the comments below the Harvey Nichols story on the Daily Mail website shows a balance between those who approve of Reed's departure and those who actually quite like a bit of fur, thank you. So let me ask you who is standing up for the latter group of people? Do we really believe people can't make up their own minds as to what they do and don't wish to buy?
Then there's the whole hypocrisy thing. The animal rights people might claim that most British department stores have no fur policies but a quick trawl online reveals that House of Fraser and Selfridges among others carry items from the Ugg® range which includes shearling.
And it's not just here in the UK that we see a chipping away of personal freedom. The USA has always been proud to consider itself the land of the free, so it is ironic that customer choice seems to have suffered a significant blow in West Hollywood of all places. WH has recently passed a law making it the first city in America ever to ban the sale of fur. Does anyone smell the whiff of hypocrisy again, particularly in a city that has always been more liberal than most throughout its colourful history?
Everyone needs to decide for themselves where they sit when it comes to fur, but let's provide accurate information on which they can base their decisions. Whether or not to buy and wear fur is an issue of consumer freedom and in West Hollywood and in London that freedom has come under attack.