A UK store selling fur was shut down by just one person

A lone protester holds two placards outside Flannels

Clothes store Flannels in Leicester was hit by an animal rights protest on 16 May 2021. The chain is no stranger to protests thanks to its ongoing sales of real fur. But this one was held by just one woman, and she forced the store to shut early.

“Make the connection”

Trading at Flannels in Leicester was disrupted for a day on 16 May after the woman stood outside the store wearing a lab coat smeared with fake blood. The woman, who told Phoenix Media Co-op her name is Bethany, held two placards highlighting the ongoing sale of real fur clothing such as Canada Goose by Flannels.

Bethany told Phoenix Media Co-op that she and other activists had targeted different shops in the city earlier in the day. But after the others went home, she said she decided to “go and tackle Flannels” by herself.

Asked why she chose Flannels, Bethany said:

People buy [their products] but no one realises the torture behind those products. It’s real animal fur. They’ve been tortured and murdered. … Sometimes the public needs informing about what they’re wearing, and sometimes that can make the connection in their head about how wrong it is to exploit and abuse animals.

Although a law banning fur farming in the UK was passed in 2000, the sale of fur remains unrestricted. As a result, fur has seen a steady resurgence in UK fashion. Creatures farmed for their fur include rabbit, mink and fox. And animal rights organisation Animal Aid says that “over half of all the mink and foxes killed for their fur come from… the European Union”.

Day of disruption

Bethany said she was “quite surprised” by the reaction of one member of staff. She said the man made comments such as “you pathetic little girl”, insulted her personal appearance, and invaded her personal space. The store also called the police. But Bethany said the police did little except stand by and, at one point, threaten to arrest her for filming the officers.

Bethany said the store took drastic measures because of her protest:

They started putting the shutters down, and then they locked the doors as well. … They had to keep locking and unlocking it every time someone wanted to come in or out. People in the end just gave up, and I think the shop did as well.

Ultimately, Flannels closed early on the day. And as a result, Bethany said she believes the protest was worthwhile because it disrupted the chain’s takings for the day.

Fighting until the end

The Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000 came into effect after decades of direct action. Efforts to inform people about shops selling fur were organised by above-ground groups such as Respect for Animals. Meanwhile, underground networks such as the Animal Liberation Front actively freed animals from farms. Despite this, Humane Society International UK says there’s been more than £800m worth of fur imports to Britain since the ban.

The government published its post-Brexit animal welfare action plan on 12 May. Although it was rumoured the plan may contain a ban on fur sales, that wasn’t in the document. So until the sick fur industry is pushed out of the UK permanently, protests such as Bethany’s will remain essential. And she showed how it can take just one person to make an impact.

Main image used with permission