NEWS AND COMMENT: It looks as if Gucci has tripped up big-time. The company has a new range of clothes, accessories and shoes named after the tiger as it is the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Great but their advertising material has caused a huge backlash because it has included genuine tigers wandering around fancy sets behaving like pets. It is the kind of thing that animal advocates hate to see. It is disrespectful of this wonderful, iconic animal.
I think we have to bring into the mix: American Humane. This is a major animal welfare charity which has been committed to ensuring the welfare and well-being of animals for nearly a century. Gucci say that they were on the set monitoring what was going on and verifying that no animals were harmed. In other words, they were implicitly condoning this exploitation of tigers. I wonder what they have to say about that? I will try and contact them and ask them.
PETA appears to be disgusted. They would be and they should be because this kind of exploitation truly irritates PETA. Elisa Allen, director of PETA has accused Gucci of exploiting the tiger and quite rightly they argue that this sort of campaign encourages the illegal trade in what is a highly endangered species. Tiger parts are continually being traded for Chinese traditional medicine in breach of international treaties. Use and abuse is the motto. China’s president has endorsed their medicine which is based on superstition.
It’s about promoting a certain attitude. This kind of imagery promotes a poor attitude with respect to humankind’s relationship with tigers. It undermines the respect that we should have for the tiger. It encourages us to believe that they exist to be used and exploited; that we can make money from tigers, that’s the message you get. For Gucci the tigers dress up an event and a place visually. It’s just the wrong attitude to have. It perpetuates an already deeply entrenched bad attitude towards the tiger and conservation.
“Gucci must urgently commit to never using wild animals in its campaigns – because cruelty is totally out of style. While it’s at it, it needs to stop slaughtering animals for their skin, too, which PETA has shown causes extraordinary suffering.”
Commenters online have also lambasted Gucci. The Youth for Animals (YFA) organisation said that “Tigers are NOT props. Your collection and promotion does not celebrate the Year of the Tiger – it shows them off as property and makes it look fashionable to own these wild cats. BE more responsible.”
In defence Gucci said that no animals were harmed during the photo shoots. They state that nature and wildlife is particularly important to Gucci and that they joined The Lion’s Share Fund in February 2020. They describe this as a “unique initiative raising much-needed funds to protect endangered species and their natural habitats”. That sounds like greenwashing: pretending that they are concerned with conservation when they are not.
And as mentioned they state that American Humane monitored the set. They also state that the “tigers were photographed and filmed in a separate safe environment complying to Gucci’s policies and then featured within the campaign”. This implies that the tigers were filmed somewhere else and through the use of CGI were featured in the campaign. I don’t get that and it doesn’t look as if it’s true. But perhaps my interpretation of their words is incorrect.
P.S. These are probably Bengal tigers, the most populous species of tiger on the planet today but still with very low numbers (about 3,500 in the wild).
P.P.S. The new Gucci film has failed too. It was directed by Ridley Scott, an enormously talented director but House of Gucci is a failure in terms of takings by his standards.