Early this year, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“PETA”) announced that it had acquired a single share in French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. While a single share seems virtually meaningless, it is not. That small ownership stake grants PETA access to LVMH’s shareholder meetings, which the group has already taken to attending in order to further pressure the conglomerate – parent to Louis Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy, Celine, Loewe, and Marc Jacobs, among other brands – to stop using alligator and crocodile skins to make its products.
This is hardly the first move of its kind from PETA. As noted by Racked earlier this year, when the animal rights organization, which is famous for its shocking media campaigns, began expanding its operations roughly 20 years ago, it "realized the fashion industry was an area that could attract a lot of media attention."
Focus on Fashion
With that in mind, "the organization started by focusing on fur, which involved a lot of literal letter-writing in the days before email and protesters trying to land themselves in front of TV cameras. While a few retailers caved before Calvin Klein, the brand was the first marquee name to stop carrying it."
"Twenty-two years later," Racked writes, "PETA is still relentless." And such relentlessness is taking the form of these small-scale acquisitions. In addition to LVMH, PETA acquired a single share in Hermès in 2015 for $360, after which a representative from PETA confronted Hermès' chief executive officer at the company’s annual general meeting that year. Isabelle Goetz, a French spokeswoman for the non-profit animal rights organization, attended the brand's annual general meeting in May and asked CEO Axel Dumas if Hermès planned to stop using exotic skins, including those of ostriches.
Dumas responded to PETA's concerns by reiterating that Hermès, which is best known for its pricey Birkin and Kelly bags, ensures its suppliers respect international regulations in addition to its own rules of ethical conduct.
He said in the meeting: “You have a number of concerns regarding the treatment of animals. We respect them, but we don’t necessarily share your position regarding farming. Farming conditions strictly comply with international regulations because we want to apply the best practices in this field, and I think that Hermès has always been at the forefront of wanting to pay attention to ethics and the treatment of animals."
LVMH, on the other hand, was allegedly a lot less welcoming. PETA claims that it was refused entrance to an April 2017 LVMH shareholder meeting after announcing that it would challenge the use by the conglomerate’s fashion brands of crocodile and ostrich skins for their accessories.
But PETA is undeterred. “Every PETA exposé of the exotic-skins industry has found sensitive living beings crammed into filthy pits, hacked apart, and left to die,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “From demonstrating on the street to speaking up in the boardroom, PETA will push LVMH to stop selling any bag, watchband, or shoe made from a reptile’s skin.”
Hermès and Prada and LV, Oh My!
In addition to stakes in LVMH and Hermès, though, PETA has similarly bought into Prada, taking a stake in the Italian design house in 2016 in order to pursue its protest over ostrich leather handbags from within the luxury fashion group. According to a statement from the activist group at the time, "Peta USA is taking the fight against cruelty into Prada meeting rooms where it will able to ask the company to end forever the use of ostrich leather in its bags."
Also in 2017, in addition to protesting at down jacket marker Canada Goose's initial public offering, PETA acquired a stake in the company, as well, and a sizable one. PETA said it had bought $4,000 worth of stock — roughly 230 shares — at $17.15 a share in order to submit shareholder resolutions and speak at annual shareholder meetings.
"PETA's first order of business as part owner of Canada Goose? To pressure the company to stop using fur from cruelly trapped coyotes and down feathers from slaughtered geese," the company said in a statement.
Its likelihood of success? Well, it is pretty high. Just ask the those that formerly used angora rabbit wool in their products. After releasing a harrowing video in November 2013 of Angora rabbits being tortured, China's exports of the wool products dropped by nearly $20 million dollars and retailers (from $23 million in 2010 to just over $4 million in 2015), and more than 120 brands and retailers ranging from Nasty Gal and H&M to Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.
While old-school picketing and red paint may still work in some cases, it is 2017, and PETA has obviously seen a need to incorporate new protest tactics into the mix, including good old fashioned luxury retail therapy. PETA, however, does its shopping on the stock market and in the name of animal rights.