From Issue 137 July/August 2012
Boycott Flannels Success
In April, following a short sustained campaign by activists around the country, fashion chain Flannels announced it would stop selling fur products Katy Brown gives a special, in-depth campaign report from the front line.
Flannels is a designer fashion retailer with around ten shops in Northern and Central England. The Boycott Flannels campaign started back in January with the aim of urging the company to end its sale of fur. The fur industry has been exposed many times for cruelty to animals and today fur is widely rejected by the British public.
Flannels initially requested actions to be held off for a short period of time whilst their management discussed the matter and eventually responded to campaigners with an unsatisfactory unofficial statement that they "do not intend to sell fur in 2012".
They refused to make an official statement that they would not sell fur again and refused to sign an official fur-free policy. In response to this, the campaign launched regular demonstrations where activists took to the streets picketing their stores on a regular basis with the public responding very supportively - taking leaflets, signing petitions, complaining to Flannels and voicing their support for the campaign.
Very soon after the routine protests started, the campaign saw three of their stores remove fur from the shelves and send it back to HQ but protests continued outside all of their stores.
As the campaign gained recognition and momentum, support was received from larger organisations which included a call-out in newsletters, action-alerts and websites. Lots of emails were sent to the management as a result, which responded with the same stock response of not intending to sell fur in 2012.
Phone protests were another regular action, with people phoning up Flannels HQ to complain to them about their sale of fur. Flannels' response was to simply tell people to email or saying "no comment".
Day of action
The campaign launched it's first official national day of action - Flannels: It's time to throw in the towel' - in March, which saw visual, focused demonstrations hit every Flannels store on the same day. Campaigners protested outside Flannels with variety of creative costumes, props and stunts, including cages, animal costumes, a skinless human costume, fake blood covered fur coats, zip-face make-up and memorial protests as well as huge banners, placards and more in a unified day of action which received huge support from the public.
Most recently, Boycott Flannels campaigners were out in force at the Flannels Fashion Show at Manchester Fashion Week. Activists protested outside of the venue with costumes, banners, placards, leaflets and petitions as their voices could be heard from inside the venue. Two activists won a competition for a couple of free entry tickets that Flannels unknowingly gave to them so were able to get inside the venue where they jumped up onto the catwalk, unfurled a banner and scattered leaflets.
Jane Samuels, one of the Manchester anti-fur campaigners who managed to get inside the event said that the local animal rights groups Manchester Animal Action had been campaigning against Flannels for a number of years. “When we heard there was a national campaign we were excited to get on board. In the past Flannels have been poor at keeping their promises. They've issued policies but gone back on their word, selling fur the following season. We knew for it to stick we would have to be more public than previous campaigns – hence targeting the fashion week. We're really excited and glad that they've responded to the campaign and just hope they'll stick to it.”
This is a great result for an inspiring campaign which proves that protest is still alive and kicking and that big changes can be made at grass-roots level through co-ordination and solidarity.
To keep up-to-date with campaigning against the fur trade visit the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade website, www.caft.org.uk