Gucci Year of the Tiger ads slammed by animal rights NGO for ‘glorifying’ wild animals
Gucci has been called out by non-profit animal rights organization World Animal Protection for “glorifying wild animals in captivity” in its latest Gucci Tiger collection to mark the Year of the Tiger. The luxury brand had released campaign images of models with real tigers superimposed. In a Facebook post, Gucci said the tigers were photographed and filmed in a separate, safe environment in accordance with brand policies and then featured in the campaign. A third-party animal welfare organization, American Humane, also reportedly monitored the set the animals were on and checked that no animals had been harmed.
“To celebrate the holidays, different versions of the animal define a curated selection of ready-to-wear and accessories, highlighting the multifaceted nature of the Gucci universe. Rich in meaning for the Maison, the animal expresses the creative director’s fascination with the beauty of nature,” the luxury brand added to its website.
Nonetheless, the luxury brand was challenged by Nick Stewart, global head of wildlife campaigns at World Animal Protection, who said Gucci was sending the wrong message through its ads – even though it used digital technology – by describing tigers as pets and luxury items. when they are wild animals that belong to their natural habitats. Steward and the team urged Gucci to “stop glorifying captive wild animals” in its campaigns and release a statement confirming that it recognizes that tigers belong in the wild. Stewart added:
The Year of the Tiger should raise awareness that these incredible animals need respect and protection, not commodification.
He added that more tigers live in captivity than the remaining 3,900 in the wild. According to Stewart, tigers are under serious threat due to their exploitation as “pets” and tourism props for selfies; use in traditional medicine; poaching; habitat destruction and the climate crisis. Whether captive-bred or wild-caught, the stress these tigers go through when forced to pose for photos is immense. He added:
By portraying tigers as mere photo props, Gucci’s fashion campaign encourages consumers to treat them in the same nefarious way.
When asked what Gucci could have done better for the campaign, Gilbert Sape, Head of Wildlife Campaigns at World Animal Protection, replied. INTERACTIVE-MARKETING that many other high fashion brands, including Prada, Dior and Bottega Veneta, have launched Year of the Tiger collections that do not exploit this intelligent, endangered animal. “These brands have shown that the Lunar New Year theme can be communicated without cruelty to wildlife by using artist and influencer collaborations and art installations instead,” he added.
Prada, for example, combines its “Action in the Year of the Tiger” campaign with an art project in hopes of saving the animal. According to Prada, the art project invites creative talents aged 30 and under in art schools in China (and beyond) to submit a personal interpretation of the tiger. The luxury fashion house will also donate to the China Green Foundation’s “Walking With Tiger and Leopard” program to raise awareness of wildlife and biodiversity in China.
Meanwhile, Dior Artistic Director Kim Jones worked with American artist Kenny Scharf to create The Water Tiger motif that transforms into prints, embroideries and patches. These will appear on shirts, knitwear, denim pants, and puffer jackets in red, white, and blue.
According to Sape, the non-profit organization believes the fashion industry can play a positive role in ending the exploitation of wild animals, adding:
Brands that want to show images of real tigers in their campaigns should show them in the wild, in their place, and without direct interaction with humans.
“As many other fashion brands have done through their Year of the Tiger campaigns, Gucci has committed funds to protect endangered species and their natural habitats – but now it must reflect that in its its business practices,” Sape added.
When contacted by INTERACTIVE-MARKETING, Gucci reiterated the statement made on its Facebook. He also added that nature, wildlife and its inhabitants are particularly important to the luxury brand, which since 2018 has been completely carbon neutral across the entire supply chain.
In February 2020, Gucci joined The Lion’s Share Fund, a unique initiative that raises much-needed funds to protect endangered species and their natural habitats. “Gucci’s continued support and contributions are generating tangible results on the ground for this urgent cause,” the luxury brand said.
The Lion’s Share was launched on September 27, 2018 and co-founded by FINCH, an Australian production company, and the United Nations Development Programme. It is joined by Mars, BBDO and Nielsen. According to its website, The Lion’s Share Fund is creating a new source of funding to secure wildlife populations and their habitats, improve animal welfare and raise awareness of nature’s crisis. The Lion’s Share aims to raise more than $100 million annually over the next five years by asking brands to contribute 0.5% of their media spend each time an animal is featured in their ads.
Meanwhile, the animal welfare organization American Humane that Gucci has worked with to ensure no animals are harmed has already been embroiled in a scandal over the mishandling of animals on production sets. The Hollywood Reporter reported in 2013 that 27 animals died of dehydration and exhaustion or drowning during a hiatus in filming of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The animal filming was done on an “unsupervised New Zealand farm” where the animals were kept and trained, THR reported.
THR added that American Humane management refused to investigate the matter despite assigning a production representative. It was one of the few incidents reported by THR. Others included a Bengal tiger who nearly drowned while filming Ang Lee’s Pi’s life in 2011.
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