Should the Fur Trade Take UK Tabloids More Seriously?

 
   
 

UK tabloids and fur

Like most writers, those of us in public relations are prone to vanity. If we can choose between having an op-ed piece in a prestigious newspaper or a column in the local supermarket rag, we choose the former, even if it means far fewer people see our work. So is our professional pride causing us to ignore the power of low-brow publications to change hearts and minds? In particular, should the fur trade be taking the UK tabloids more seriously?

The UK Is a special case for a few reasons, notably:

• Everyone speaks English. There’s no denying the impact of the English language in shaping any debate of international concern, including the fur debate. By all means publish in Russian or Portuguese, but don’t expect a global audience.

• The entire UK is a little smaller than the state of Michigan, so many print tabloids (and of course their affiliated websites) have national circulations. Indeed, two in particular, the Mirror and the Sun, are said to carry more weight in national elections than esteemed broadsheets like the Telegraph and the Guardian.

• The UK is the spiritual home of the animal rights movement. When it comes to activists making life hard for animal industries, only Californians come close.

SEE ALSO: Brexit, fur-trimmed parkas, and trendy vegans in London Town. Truth About Fur.

Check Out the Boots!

Enter the Daily Mail, the country’s most notorious tabloid since the News of the World was forced to close a decade ago. On May 23, the Mail ran a piece on two huge fans of fur, Judi Caldwell and partner Lukasz Dlubek from Northern Ireland, while commissioning Mercury Press to take lots of lovely photos. (We all like photos, but for the tabloids, they are essential, and the more provocative the better. Conveniently, Lukasz looks like a cross between Conor McGregor and a member of Ukraine’s Azov regiment. One look at his boots would send most Russian soldiers running!)

This article was not standard Mail fare, but not unprecedented either. Typically, Mail pieces on fur are negative, and for the last several years have involved recycling old photos from a Scandinavian fox farm, with regurgitated sound bites from animal rights leaders implying they have just concluded an “investigation”.

Sometimes, though, the thoroughly unprincipled Mail will change tack on an issue completely, just to keep readers on their toes. This time it chose to tell us that some people – well, these two anyway – think fur is great.

The headline (if this can be called a “headline”) literally says it all: “Couple who love the ‘classy’ feel of wearing real fur claim they have ‘higher morals’ than the vegans who send them death threats online because it’s more sustainable than fake fabrics.”

Then for good measure, the body reiterates the main points: “The pair believe that not only does wearing real fur make them look incredible, but they also say that it is more sustainable and environmentally friendly than faux alternatives and a lot of vegan products.”

Says Lukasz (of the scary boots): “Real fur lasts for so much longer when it’s cared for correctly whereas fake fur is fast fashion – what do they think happens to all the plastic that is used to make it!”

Judi drives the message home: “Nowadays, there is a lot of ‘green washing’ and a big emphasis on veganism and vegetarianism. We are trying to promote sustainable fashion by wearing fur, but people are quick to jump online and judge us.”

SEE ALSO: Fur is a sustainable natural resource. Truth About Fur.

The point about sustainability is well made, of course, and especially pertinent in the UK where the absurd notion is widely accepted that “vegan fashion” (including clothes and shoes made from plastic) is, almost by definition, more “sustainable” than anything which involves the direct killing of animals.

But as anyone familiar with the Mail knows, it is not in the business of educating people. It just wants outraged readers to go, “Whoa! That’s crazy!” – then share the piece widely and hopefully click on some ads. (If you find this interpretation too cynical, another headline used for the same article by an Indian website tells us exactly what we’re supposed to think: “Bizarre: Couple who wear real fur say they are ‘more sustainable’ than vegans; leaves netizens confused.”)

Then the Mail throws more fuel on the fire by having Judi suggest vegans are psychopaths. “The hate we receive from a lot of vegans online is appalling,” she says, “and I’ve even had messages from someone who was threatening to slit mine and my dog’s throat because we wear fur.”

Incredible Reach

Since money is the only reason the Mail publishes such stories, and almost no one reads the comments that follow, it makes no sense for the fur trade to bother responding. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get in the game. The reach of these stories is potentially enormous, and frequently far greater than anything published by a reputable media company.

For starters, big UK tabloids like the Mail belong to larger media groups with a slew of other outlets, both in print and on the web, including every popular social media platform. The Mail comes under the umbrella of DMG Media, whose stable includes Metro.co.uk, a tabloid website that also ran a pared-down version of the Judi and Lukasz story. And though we have not confirmed this, it seems highly likely that the story also ran in the print version of Metro. This is the UK’s largest-circulation tabloid (though the fact it’s free must help).

Then there’s life beyond DMG Media. Within days of the Mail publishing its story, it popped up on News India Studio, WST Post, Unilad, Granthshala News, News Dubai, and an ominous-sounding site called Internet Cloning. And these were just the links near the top of our Google search.

Only through serious research could we know which of these recyclers are legitimate and which are simply plagiarists. But that’s the problem of DMG Media’s licensing department.

The fact is, though, that the stuff of UK tabloids is perfect fodder for today’s legions of ad-driven websites employing underpaid rewriters to push trending news stories. In short, a shoddily written story, with no redeeming qualities other than a catchy headline and provocative photos, can reach far more hearts and minds than an op-ed piece in a prestigious broadsheet ever can.

The fur trade has always tried to take the high road when it comes to public relations materials. But maybe we should be taking the low road too. Everyone else is.

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If you have a story that you think would be good fodder for the UK tabloids, send it our way and we’ll see if we can get an editor to take the bait! It needs to promote the message that fur is sustainable, and don’t forget the pics. But other than that, anything goes!

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2 Comments

  • I remember going on Daily Mail and seeing the articles they had of some celebrity, perhaps a Kardashian or some British TV star and they would post them being seen wearing a fur coat or something. And it would be big news (I guess?) and there would be so many commenters that would spout out whatever insipid crap about the person. In general from seeing the comments, there were a lot of hateful, spiteful, annoying people, not just on fur posts, but on Daily Mail in general. What I remember most though was there was this guy J_G in the comments and he’d constantly post on these stories and basically call out the BS they’d say about animals being skinned alive for the coats. I joined in on it too, though he was more dedicated than I was. It was pretty clear we were outnumbered.

    In terms of should the fur community look into going through that angle, the “low road” as you put it. I think it’s fine. First of all, we’re discussing a road, a vehicle of getting our message across. And the reality is the fur community is losing on that front. And I want to win. Furthermore, people believe things that are contrary to reality, like as I was looking back at some of those articles several years ago… I saw someone post about how the meat industry is justifiable because it’s humane but the fur industry is not and thus bad. But that’s completely wrong, the fur industry is far better regulated in terms of more humane killing methods.

    So to add to that point, yes. You should take the low road. Everyone else already has. You should be willing to get dirty. I should stipulate, you shouldn’t lie or do anything that is wrong. But you have to think about the end result. You can take the high road and some-odd years from now people believe the wrong things about fur (or more broadly, just any topic you feel comfortable about in general) or you can use whatever works and thus accomplish a better reality that sits in front of you. It’s pointless to take the high road if upon taking the high road everyone thinks fur is evil and your influence and power is gone from society. What’s the point of taking the high road if you eventually have no room for high ground.

    I like fur. And I want other people to know it’s ok to like fur. And I don’t want to other people to think fur is evil. So I think we should try to meet that end.

    The more important question you should be asking is… what types of articles should we be trying to get the tabloids to publish??

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. In answer to your closing question, let me borrow from Justice Potter Stewart, who once said of pornography, “I know it when I see it.” How about an entire family dressed head to toe in matching furs, trapped and crafted themselves, who want to live entirely off the land? I know it’s terribly un-PC, but they should all be good-looking – by which I mean sexy! To give it extra spice for a UK audience, maybe they could be huge supporters of gun rights and be packing semi-automatic assault weapons! As you say, we shouldn’t make stuff up, but families like that do exist 😀

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