In November 2002, an international campaign was begun against the German clothes chain Peek & Cloppenburg (P&C), with 4 outlets in Austria, to persuade the company to stop selling fur.

Austria: Victory for anti-fur campaigners as P&C announce plans to stop selling fur

August 21, 2006

In November 2002, an international campaign was begun against the German clothes chain Peek & Cloppenburg (P&C), with 4 outlets in Austria, to persuade the company to stop selling fur.

the 1930s, there were in the region of 3000 fur shops in Vienna alone. When the anti-fur campaign started in 1985, the number of furriers dramatically decreased. During the late 1990's and early years of this century, the fur trade spiraled further into decline following the ban on fur farms in Austria in 1998. In 1998 there were about 250 furriers left in the whole of Austria. Today there are only 130. But the trade in fur garments was started by some of the large retail clothes chains like P&C, who sold mainly fur trim but in such a large amount that the overall fur trade started to increase again, despite the decline in fur shops.

After successful campaigns against Kleider Bauer and C&A, both fur sellers, in November 2002, a consistent and inventive campaign with regular demos began against P&C. Though most of the demonstrations took place in Vienna, other cities where P&C operates also saw demonstrations and actions in front of and inside their stores. From the official start of the campaign through August 2006, more than 240 demos were held outside P&C stores in Vienna alone and an additional 30 in Linz, whilst pressure was maintained in other Austrian towns and cities. A similar, intense campaign was maintained in Germany.

The demos often consisted of run-ins, blockades, roof-top protests, and disruptions of P&C promotional events, as well as home demos at managers' houses and direct action with butyric acid and locks being glued. Another tactic adopted was the use of etching fluid and sling shots against the big display windows. This summer saw at least 3 demonstrations take place every week outside P&C stores in Vienna alone, as well weekend demos at other stores.

P&C were forced to install permanent additional security day and night and also employed a number of detectives in an attempt to harass and intimidate legal activists. As the campaign became more and more costly for the company, P&C in turn filed a libel suit against the Austrian animal rights group Verein Gegen Tierfabriken (VGT), claiming that VGT had falsely reported that P&C were selling dog fur.

With legal and financial matters seeming to stack up against animal rights activists, a sudden recent victory against Vienna police forces became an indicator that the tables were about to turn. In December 2004, VGT activists in Vienna, as part of an ongoing demonstration, had placed a 15 m long string across a P&C store front, placing pictures of suffering fur animals on the string. The string extended across the front of a display window. On 20th and 22nd December, police forcibly removed the string with the pictures and charged activists with a public order offences as they sought to protect the interests of P&C.

"SHAME" VGT subsequently sued the police for wrongful removal of property. On the 26th July, 2006, the courts ruled in favour of VGT, stating that: "To put up pictures of tortured animals on a string is allowed due to the fact that it is an expression of an opinion during a demo and such forms of campaigning should be respected by the police." The animal rights group was awarded �670 in damages. The ruling stated that it was not part of the police's remit to act as protectors for the trading of P&C.

On 14th August, P&C West, which is the company that owns the Austrian outlets, issued a press release stating that they plan to sell off their remaining fur items and stop trading in fur coats and fur trim by the end of 2006. They have not, the statement continues, "bought any new fur items for the year 2007." Austrian daily newspapers have reported that P&C are bowing to the pressure from animal rights groups and that the constant and consistant demonstrations and direct actions have forced P&C to capitulate. In a phone call to P&C, staff confirmed that no fur will be sold in 2007, including rabbit fur, and that this new policy will most likely extend into the future.

Since P&C had not contacted the VGT campaign office in Austria, and since there was no written guarantee that P&C will stop selling fur at the end of the year, or that they will not start selling fur again in 2008, another demo was held on 19th August in front of the Viennese P&C store. However, the demo had a celebratory nature to it, with champagne and victory balloons.

A VGT spokesperson stated, "It seems very likely, that a 4 year intensive campaign has come to a successful close. The largest Austrian fur retailers have stopped selling fur now. Activists will take stock and decide on new campaign targets for the [anti] fur campaign in due course."

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