Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin has slammed a new Gucci campaign featuring real tigers, accusing the brand of projecting “worst possible message”.
The luxury fashion-house maintain they are celebrating the Chinese zodiac’s Year of the Tiger, but their advertising method has proved controversial.
Central to Gucci's Tiger Collection campaign is a 60-second commercial featuring a stunning group of international models enjoying high tea and interacting with a pet tiger.
While the the fashion house stated the tiger was digitally added to the scenes, welfare advocates have questioned the message it sends about captivity of wild animals.
'Disposable products': Carole Baskin slams Gucci campaign
Ms Baskin commented on Gucci’s Instagram that “big cats belong in the wild, not on pianos and next to humans who are their greatest threat”.
The animal rescuer became internationally famous after appearing in Netflix’s controversial Tiger King documentary series, and has continued to highlight the cruelty associated with keeping big cats in captivity.
As attitudes towards animals have adjusted the fashion world has steadily shifts away from fur, so Ms Baskin has questioned why Gucci’s creatives would “take such a backward move” and use tigers as “ego props”.
“Why put (the tiger) in this unnatural scene at all?” she said to Yahoo Lifestyle Australia.
“It diminished the magnificence of the tiger and makes Gucci look bad.
“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.”
Key Tiger facts you need to know:
Tigers are categorised on the IUCN Red List as endangered
There are more captive-bred tigers than wild ones
Between 2154 and 3159 mature individual are thought to survive in the wild
Habitat loss, mining, poaching and livestock producing are all impacting the species
Gucci maintain no tigers were harmed during photo shoot
Gucci’s parent company Kering, a French-based multinational, did not respond to questions from Yahoo Lifestyle Australia about the campaign.
A statement on the company's Instagram said American Humane monitored the set when tigers were present and no animals were harmed.
“Tigers were photographed and filmed in a separate safe environment complying to Gucci’s policies and then featured within the campaign,” the added.
While this post has attracted more than 130,000 likes and plenty of admiration, it has also garnered a stream of comments which are in line with Ms Baskin’s criticism.
“The tiger is not a pet,” wrote one person.
“Stop using animals,” another person said.
Animal welfare group says tigers are not 'luxury items'
US-based non-profit World Animal Protection (WAP also criticised the campaign, saying that even if the tigers were digitally added, it is wrong to portray tigers “as pets and luxury items").
WAP campaigner Nick Steward said the Year of Tiger should be used to used to promote protection, not commodification.
Whether bred in captivity or captured from the wild, the stress these tigers undergo when forced to pose for photos is immense,” he said in a statement.
“By depicting tigers as mere photo props, Gucci’s fashion campaign encourages consumers to treat them in the same harmful way”.
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