This Year of the Tiger, fashion brand Gucci launched a Gucci Tiger collection that featured real tigers in its advertising campaign.
The campaign rolled out on Jan. 7 and was met with outrage from animal rights activists and groups.
Campaign features tigers
The new collection is a range of ready-to-wear items and accessories for both men and women, branded with the name of the big cat and images of tigers.
Gucci also released a 60-second promotional video that showcases international models having high tea in a posh, retro-style hotel alongside roaming tigers.
Animals were photographed separately
"Nature, wildlife and its denizens are particularly important to Gucci," wrote Gucci in the Instagram captions of the campaign.
The luxury fashion house said they had joined The Lion’s Share Fund in 2020 to raise funds to protect endangered species and their natural habitats.
A third-party animal welfare organisation American Humane also "monitored the set on which animals were present and verified that no animals were harmed".
They added that the tigers were photographed and filmed in a "separate safe environment complying to Gucci’s policies" and then featured in the campaign.
Tigers are not props: PETA
Director of animal welfare organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Elisa Allen accused Gucci of being "hopelessly out of touch with our current understanding of wild animals' needs and best interests", reported Daily Mail.
"Tigers used in the brand's old-fashioned advertising campaign were likely taken from their mothers as cubs and condemned to spend their lives in cages," Allen said.
To film and photograph them, the animals would have been subjected to the stress of transport, and the bright lights of a film, TV, or advertising set, she stated.
"Today's advanced special effects capabilities mean there is no excuse for tearing animals away from their families and homes," Allen said.
The organisation urged Gucci to halt the use of animals in its campaigns, and take the next step to "stop slaughtering animals for their skin".
Conservation, not commodification
Wildlife campaign manager for WAP United States Liz Cabrera Holtz said that “Gucci is sending the wrong message by promoting tigers as pets and luxury items when they are wild animals who belong in their natural habitats."
"The Year of the Tiger should raise awareness that these incredible animals need conservation, not commodification," said Holtz.
"Gucci’s fashion campaign treats tigers as mere props and encourages consumers to do the same,” she added.
The China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation also released a statement with similar sentiments, reported Shanghai Daily.
The foundation said that they are not opposed to filming wildlife in the natural landscape if it is within animal ethics.
However, filming tigers for commercial purposes violates business ethics and encourages illegal hunting and trading of endangered animals in disguised form.
Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin, known for her appearance on Netflix's "Tiger King", commented on Gucci's Instagram post: "big cats belong in the wild, not on pianos and next to humans who are their greatest threat”.
“This sort of ad campaign sends the worst possible message, which is that tigers are disposable products to be used for capitalism and discarded at will,” she told Yahoo News.
She was appalled that the tigers were placed in such an "unnatural scene" as “ego props”.
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Top images via Twitter and @gucci/Instagram.