Beverly Hills Coalition for NO on A
April 1999 – A growing coalition of who’s who in Beverly Hills has joined with the Chamber of Commerce, restaurants, leather and fur stores and a host of other Beverly Hills merchants and citizens to fight Measure A, an initiative on the May 11 city ballot.
The proposed Measure A would require labels on fur products listing methods that may (or may not) have been used to kill the animals. Measure A proposes a “credit-card sized label in black Helvetica typeface with ‘CONSUMER NOTICE’ in 16 point bold type and the remainder in plain 10.5 point type.”(1) Will waiters, chefs and retail clerks soon be required to label beef, fish, fowl and leather products with a list of the methods of slaughter?
Fighting the outrageous Measure A under the banner of “Beverly Hills Coalition for NO on A” are half a dozen former mayors, school board members, presidents of homeowners associations, city commissioners and other community leaders concerned for the City. This broad coalition is urging citizens to apply for absentee ballots for this special election, to vote from home, and TO VOTE NO on A.
Who’s Using Beverly Hills?
To understand how this beautiful Southern California City became central to this conflict, we must look at the people who want to label Beverly Hills. The main players pushing Measure A include the cleverly-named “Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choices,” which has no history and no affiliation with consumer groups and, at one point, used office space rented by “Campaign Humane”, a California 501(c)(4) corporate shell established in 1997. Supplying the financial base with “in-lieu” contributions is the D.C.–based Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) which boasts an annual budget of over $40 million, a good portion raised from sensational direct mail programs and campaigns much like the Beverly Hills labeling initiative. According to HSUS’s website, HSUS is “not, however, affiliated with any local animal shelters or humane organizations.”(2) Although HSUS may well have raised millions on direct mail in San Diego, no HSUS money is budgeted to help build a new shelter to replace the rotting building which now houses San Diego’s stray pets. Despite its misleading name, virtually none of the HSUS’s huge budget goes to hands-on animal care.
Capital Research Center, which was established in 1984 to study non-profit organizations, “with a special focus on reviving the American traditions of charity, philanthropy, and voluntarism,” states, “An examination of HSUS shows that many of its arguments and allegations are misleading and cannot be substantiated. HSUS uses them to advocate public policies that would deny Americans their right to benefit from traditional, humane uses of animals.”(3)
In 1998, HSUS launched its “Fur Free 2000” campaign, which, according to HSUS’s website, rejects natural fibers and promotes what HSUS calls “Evolutionary Fur,” petrochemical fake fur as manufactured by DuPont and other chemical giants.(4)
The HSUS Fur Free 2000 campaign attempts to blacklist those who compete with petrochemical fur, the retailers of Beverly Hills who supply garments made from organic and renewable sources. In the ultimate irony, due to environmental concerns, drilling for oil, the raw material for producing “Evolutionary Fur,” is illegal off the California coastline next to Beverly Hills.
HSUS’s website plainly states, Fur Free 2000 is a “consumer-driven, activist-oriented campaign designed to bring an end to the use of animal fur in the new century.”
Beverly Hills is now being used as the testing ground and publicity generator for this radical campaign.
Props, Backdrops and Patterns of Deception
To launch the “Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choices” initiative campaign in 1998, a Theresa Macellaro said she bought a raccoon coat from a Beverly Hills retailer, name unknown, and was told the raccoons were “put to sleep like dogs.” Later, says Macellaro, she learned that raccoons are also trapped in the U.S.
Trapping in the U.S. is a government-regulated tool used to reduce outbreaks of disease such as rabies in raccoon populations. Finnraccoon (Nyctereutes procyonoides), a species native to Asia, is raised on farms in Europe. Was Macellaro’s coat produced from farm-raised “raccoon” or from wild raccoons trapped under government supervision?
Existing laws protect consumers from deceptive marketing practices so it is reasonable to ask why Macellaro didn’t call the store for an explanation, attempt to return her coat or ask for redress.
Is the coat a prop? Was it purchased in Beverly Hills? Perhaps Ms. Macellaro will show us the receipt.
Filming and Editing
As with so many of today’s well-funded campaigns, this one includes a highly edited videotape. Dozens of hours of interviews were surreptitiously conducted with furriers and retail clerks, then edited to make nonsense of their answers. Snippets of discussions about farm-raised animals are played off against remarks about trapping. While the many correct and informative answers were edited out, every incorrect answer was used. Luke Montgomery, a leader in the Measure A campaign, stated on National Public Radio that furriers consistently referred him to the fur retailers’ trade association for more information.(5) None of these referrals made it into the final tape.
Measure A campaigners object to the videotaped furriers saying “the animals are killed just like family pets.” The U.S. standards for euthanizing farm-raised mink and fox are carbon monoxide gas and injection, respectively, as recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). These are the same standards for euthanizing pets at shelters in the U.S. While HSUS supports these methods for shelters on its website, it calls U.S. fur-farming practices cruel.(6) Strange, since they are the same methods.
Terms are carefully selected for emotional impact. A lethal injection becomes “poison.” Equally sensationalist words are used to describe methods that are recommended by veterinarians to render animals quickly unconscious without stress.
Several clips in the video originate from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), a 13 million-dollar-a-year corporation opposed to ownership of, and any human benefit from, animals.(7) Included is PeTA footage of a fox killed in a substandard manner, presented – incorrectly – as an example of domesticated fox farming. No mention is made of the fines levied on this operation, which, by the way, was operating under a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) permit as a facility holding wild-caught animals for the production of their scent, not domesticated animals raised for fur. If this were a farm that raised animals for their fur, it would have received an exemption from the required DNR permit and would come under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Agriculture.
“Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choices” spokesman Luke Montgomery traveled to Canada in the spring of 1998 posing as “L.A. Times reporter Gershon Ginsberg” and filmed a fox farm. Dissatisfied with Montgomery’s footage which showed a domesticated fox killed humanely, the campaigners added PeTA’s footage of the inhumane/illegal fox kill. This amalgamation is deceptively presented as the “standard” on domesticated fox farms.
Trapping scenes used in the film, when reviewed by professional trappers, revealed startling discrepancies only trappers would notice.
For good measure, footage is added of a man struggling to kill mink in a highly irregular manner, carelessly tossing the animals into a bucket. This raised the eyebrows of fur farmers who reviewed the tape, not only as to the nonstandard method of kill, but also because animals prized for their pelts would be laid out carefully and separately.
There is no mention in the videotape that laws, in fact, are in place to prosecute anyone who treats animals inhumanely. Noticeably absent in the video are representatives of the State Departments of Agriculture, which maintain jurisdiction over animal farming, and the many veterinarians who work with farmers. Also absent are the agents and biologists of Fish and Wildlife and Departments of Natural Resources who regulate trapping as part of their mission to ensure abundant and healthy stocks of wild animals in the U.S. and under international treaty for the same ends globally.
This highly edited film is a masterpiece of propaganda and deserves to be studied as such. Perhaps one of the local film schools is up to the challenge?
If the past is to teach us anything about such battles, it is that the public should be skeptical when viewing advocacy films disseminated by people with agendas.(8) For the fishermen/seal hunters of Canada, 1964 brought the worldwide broadcast of a seal being brutalized. Following public outcry and investigation, a man in the film signed an affidavit declaring that he was “employed by a group of photographers” to skin a seal while it was still alive. The admission came after the images had generated trade bans that devastated the economies of small communities of Newfoundland and the Inuit communities of the High North.(9)
We in California can recall clips of illegal tuna fishing which were passed off as “representative” of the Southern California tuna fleet, resulting in the HSUS-backed ecologically flawed “dolphin safe” label. It took five major environmental groups and Southern California fishermen five years to redefine that label to something that actually worked for fishermen, consumers and the ecosystem. Recently, videotaped abuse of pigs has been presented as “representative” of the pork industry. Over the years, clips of inhumane conditions or manipulated images have been used to attack responsible pet breeders and animal research scientists. And on it goes. And virtually none of the money collected by giving souls goes to hands-on animal care.
Misleading Labellers Misleading Us
The truth is that the sale of garments made from farmed animals supports the annual recycling of over a billion pounds of food byproducts from the fish, beef and dairy industries, reducing waste. Products made from wild animals underwrite the costs of wildlife management programs, maintain a balance between animal populations and habitat, infuse value into wildlife so people live off the bounty of nature and provide an economic incentive to resist poorly planned development. This is sustainable use as supported by every major environmental organization in the world.
The efforts of the fur industry, which includes such diverse components as indigenous trappers and hunters, fur farming families, designers, manufacturers and retailers, result in an exquisite natural insulator, a long lasting, biodegradable material that is used in some of the world’s most beautiful garments.
We rely on animals for food, clothing, cures for diseases and companionship. Animal use abolitionists want to reduce that natural relationship to “credit card” sized labels designed to confuse the consumer, not clear the air. It will be a tragedy if Measure A passes.
Vote No on Measure A. Don’t Label Beverly Hills
-1. See Humane Society of the United States current campaigns at www.hsus.org/current/beverlyhills.html.
-2. HSUS’s “Mission Statement” is at www.hsus.org/about/mission.html.
-3. Capital Research Service comments on HSUS are at www.capitalresearch.org/ap/ap-1097.html.
-5. National Public Radio interview, 89.3 KPPC-FM, February 11 1999, Talk of the City with Linda Gerard, host. Guests: Luke Montgomery, Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choices; Keith Kaplan, spokesperson for the Beverly Hills fur retailers; and Teresa Platt, Fur Commission USA, representing U.S. mink and fox farmers. Stated Montgomery on the radio, “And the sales people repeatedly, over and over again, said call FICA, Fur Information Council of America.” [Montgomery, a one-time Last Chance for Animals staffer, once briefly ran for DC mayor as Luke Sissyfag.]
-6. See HSUS’s “Seven Basic Policies for Every Animal Shelter” at www.hsus.org/programs/companion/shelter_library/seven_policies.html and www.hsus.org/current/beverlyhills.html
-7. PeTA information at Capital Research Center, Animal Welfare vs. Animal Rights: The Case of PeTA by Daniel T. Oliver, May 1997 at www.capitalresearch.org/ap/ap-0797.html and www.capitalresearch.org/advocacy%20guide/Groups/peta.html.
-8. See “Saving Society from Animal ‘Snuff’ Films” by Teresa Platt and Simon Ward at www.furcommission.com/news/newsC7.htm.
-9. Second Nature, The Animal-Rights Controversy by Alan Herscovici, page 74, ISBN 0-88794-149-4