Karl Lagerfeld Had a Point: If You Are Not Vegan, Why Do You Protest Fur?

Gary L. Francione
3 min readFeb 21, 2019

I am an advocate for animal rights. I have been a vegan for 36 years. I do not eat, wear, or otherwise use animals. Karl Lagerfeld, who died on February 19, 2019, was, perhaps, the most famous fashion designer in the world. He used fur and other animal skin in his designs. That was, without question, morally wrong. And Lagerfeld’s sexist, misogynistic, racist, and Islamophobic comments were insidious.

But Lagerfeld had a point when he said, in an interview in 2015 with the New York Times: The problem with fur. … For me, as long as people eat meat and wear leather, I don’t get the message.

There is no morally coherent distinction between fur and any other animal products. Indeed, leather is animal skin with the hair removed. Fur is animal skin with the hair still on. The animal is dead in both cases. Meat involves dead animals. Milk and eggs involve dead animals. All of these “products” involve animal suffering.

So if you are not a vegan and you object to fur, you really need to rethink your position. If you think that fur is morally wrong because it involves imposing unnecessary suffering and death on animals, the very same thing could be said about using animals for food or for other sorts of animal clothing. We eat animal products because we like the taste. There is no necessity. We wear leather and other animal clothing because we like the look of it. There is no necessity. Indeed, if you believe that animals matter morally and you are not a vegan, you need to ask yourself why you are not a vegan.

Animal welfare groups, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), are celebrating Lagerfeld’s death. At the same time, PETA relentlessly promotes a ton of non-vegans. For example (one of many), PETA promotes Paul McCartney. McCartney is not only not a vegan (listen here at 12:55), but he promotes the consumption of animal products through his promotion of Linda McCartney foods, 22% of which contain animal products.

What sense does that make? That’s a rhetorical question. It makes no sense. But McCartney supports PETA. So his animal exploitation is okay. Lagerfeld’s exploitation wasn’t. PETA’s promoting McCartney and other non-vegans while seeking headlines to condemn other non-vegans such as Lagerfeld reveals what a cynical and hypocritical entity PETA is. But PETA is not alone here. Most, if not all, of the large animal welfare charities praise and promote non-vegans — when it is their financial interest to do so.

It is not uncommon for people who are not vegan to have no problem criticizing those who wear fur. But that is like someone who eats beef criticizing someone who eats pork. Or someone who eats meat generally criticizing someone who eats foie gras. Wait. Some people do exactly that!

We should never celebrate anyone’s death. But there is something very troubling when “animal lovers” who are not vegan rejoice at the death of some animal exploiter. They fail to recognize that, if they are not vegans, they are participating directly in animal exploitation.

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Gary L. Francione

Gary L. Francione is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law at Rutgers University and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Lincoln.