We live in South Florida, one of the warmest climates in the country. And on top of that, this one of the hottest summers we've had in years. So why would anyone ever need a fur coat down here?
That's what the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida was thinking when members emailed more than 60 Miss Florida pageant contestants and asked, if they won, if they'd be willing to donate the fur-coat portion of the "prize."
"Giving away a fur coat down here is like giving a fur coat in Hawaii," said ARFF communications director Don Anthony. "And that's not even talking about how cruel and disgusting the fur industry is."
The Fur Information Council of America, a lobbying group for the fur industry, has been a longtime sponsor of both the Miss Florida USA and the Miss Teen Florida pageants. Activists have long deplored the brutal trapping, farming, and skinning processes used in the fur industry. They point out that if someone really likes the look of fur (nonactivists have long questioned how odd it looks for a human to wear the skin of several animals all tied together), there are plenty of fake fur options that offer the same aesthetics without all the skinned-alive animals.
Amanda Burk, a project coordinator for ARFF, personally emailed the Miss Florida USA contestants, asking if they would donate any fur given to them. There are several groups that cut up donated fur coats and use the fur to warm and rehabilitate injured animals.
Burk says she got only one response: a recent high school graduate from Okeechobee who replied, "EAT BEEF."
ARFF also organized a protest of the Miss Florida USA pageant this weekend in Davie. Protesters stood a few hundred feet from the auditorium door with signs showing the gruesome results of the fur industry.
Many of the people passing the signs on the way into the pageant honked, waved, and gave a thumbs-up. A few audience members said they had no idea fur was even one of the awards and looked dismayed to learn the news.
Others were annoyed by the protesters. One man squirted his windshield wiper fluid on the group as he passed by. Another man rolled down his window to yell, "That reminds me to go put on my fur when I get home!!"
It was weird.
Not long into the one-hour protest, a pack of golf-cart-driving security guards approached the group and demanded they move out of the shade where they were standing. They refused. More security guards approached. Still no movement. Eventually, two Davie police officers were called to the scene.
When they arrived, Burk showed the officers emails showing that the group was given permission to protest, and the police decided the protesters didn't have to move. They even stayed, talking politely, until the protest was over.
You can see more photos from the protest here.