How Lynx set the fur flying
Only 30 years ago fur shops and departments in high street stores were a common sight. But then a pressure group was founded that changed things in the UK forever. Sheena Grant spoke to a woman at the heart of the action.
It was the decade of big hair, Dallas, Margaret Thatcher and striking miners.
But the 1980s also marked the birth of an organisation that not only changed the face of British fashion but introduced a new campaigning style, using celebrities and hard-hitting advertising material, that has since become the norm.
These days, few people, other than those who grew up in the 1980s, will remember the name of anti-fur organisation Lynx. But its legacy is huge.
Fur farming in Britain never recovered from the body-blow Lynx dealt it and was outlawed in 2003. Consumer attitudes to the wearing of fur were also changed irrevocably. It is no longer seen as acceptable on any meaningful scale.
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Lynne Kentish, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, looks back on Lynx’s achievements with enormous pride.
She and her then husband Mark Glover founded the anti-fur organisation in 1985, enlisting top models of the day, musicians and photographers to their cause with a series of high-profile adverts and publicity stunts that made not wearing fur trendy and giving pariah status to anyone who chose to ignore the message.
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The Lynx campaign burned brightly for seven years before the organisation was sued in the early 1990s and folded, at huge personal cost to those involved. Lynne and Mark’s marriage failed and Stefan Ormrod, who worked for the campaign, later committed suicide.
Nowadays Lynne runs an off-shoot of Lynx, called Lynx Theatre in Education Projects, commissioning and touring productions about animal welfare and conservation issues in schools.
“I think the job of educating the next generation, who will go on to be the politicians and law makers of tomorrow, is so important,” she says. “If we get them on side we have cracked it. Most children love animals so before they become jaded adults, let them make up their own minds up on issues such as conservation, animal welfare, extinction and the need to save energy.”
Lynne was always interested in animal welfare issues but that interest became a way of life after she started volunteering for Greenpeace in the early 1980s. She was employed in the music industry at the time, doing promotional work and administration for big labels such as Island Records, Warner and Chrysalis, with artists such as Midge Ure, Leo Sayer, Roxy Music and Cat Stevens.
“The music business was fantastic to be a part of,” she says. “But I eventually started to think it was all so shallow and that is when I started volunteering at Greenpeace and met Mark, who was a campaigner there.
“In those days Greenpeace hardly had any money and were just a bunch of young people going out and battling on their own. Mark was the wildlife campaigner and wanted to start an anti-fur campaign but Greenpeace were not fully behind it at that time because of their involvement with Inuit communities. Mark decided he was going to form his own organisation. I had a lot of contacts in the music business and knowledge of PR and he had the campaigning knowledge. That’s how it all came together.”
“At that time there was no real anti-fur thing going. Lynx exploded on to the scene and were looking at it from a different point of view to everyone else working in campaigning organisations at that time.
“We thought, we could do the usual thing and churn out the usual sort of posters but people who are wearing fur don’t care, so let’s think about why they are wearing fur. It was because they thought it looked good and was some sort of status symbol. So we decided that we would make them a pariah.
“You can bang on about fur being cruel as long as you like but you have to attack them in some other way. The absolute thing was that if people didn’t want to wear it that would finish the trade off.
“We tried to professionalise the animal rights movement. It was all a bit shabby up to then. No-one was putting professional-looking campaign stuff out.”
Having made the decision to appeal to large swathes of the public with powerful negative advertising techniques, rather than just preach to the already converted, Lynx hit the ground running with a campaign that captured the Zeitgeist.
Young people in mid-1980s Britain were imbued with the idea that they could change the world. Lynx burst on to the scene in the year of the Live Aid concerts. It fed off the same energy and, just as Live Aid had done, harnessed the power of celebrity endorsement. Around the same time there was an explosion of interest in vegetarianism and animal welfare issues.
All this coupled with Lynne and Mark’s personal credentials, backgrounds, contacts and freedom from the bureaucracy that tied the hands of so many other organisations created the perfect storm.
“It did become quite trendy,” says Lynne. “We had T-shirts with big art designs on. It got so that people would want a T-shirt even if they were not that passionate about the cause. Those T-shirts funded the campaign for us and we even had shops in Covent Garden, Cambridge and Nottingham.
“The beauty of it was that it was just up to me and Mark. If we had an idea and wanted to do something that day we did it. It was very immediate. We knew that we had to get our name out there as quickly as possible.”
If the T-shirts were successful Lynx’s campaigns were out of this world in terms of their impact.
Its ‘dumb animals’ campaign was shot by leading photographer David Bailey (who worked for free) and featured posters and a cinema advertisement showing a catwalk model dragging a blood-soaked fur coat with the slogan: it takes up to 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat but only one to wear it.
The campaign’s impact was immediate and even prompted a feminist backlash because some people accused it of being sexist.
“Most people thought it was brilliant,” says Lynne. “As for the feminist backlash, it all added to the publicity. I think the fur trade thought it was a bit of a joke to begin with. They were definitely unprepared.
“Things took off extremely quickly. The advertising agency who worked on the ‘dumb animals’ campaign with David Bailey knew it would generate them a lot of publicity. It was hugely creative. Everybody is using these techniques nowadays but in those days it was new. There were no dynamic campaigning organisations.”
Bailey also worked with Lynx on another campaign, which had the slogan: How would you like your fur madam? Gassed, strangled, trapped or electrocuted? And photographer Linda McCartney, herself a committed vegetarian, shot its ‘rich bitch; poor bitch’ poster, which showed a fur-clad model alongside a dead fox.
As well as Bailey and McCartney, celebrity supporters included Twiggy, Yasmin Le Bon, Elton John, rock stars Chrissie Hynde and Siouxsie Sioux.
Before long Harrods and many high street stores had closed their fur departments because of falling sales and Britain’s fur farms started to shut down too.
“People stopped buying it,” says Lynne.
Despite their early successes Lynx was never complacent. The fur trade may have been reeling in Britain but in north America, Scandinavia, Asia and other parts of Europe it was thriving, with animals being farmed for their fur and caught in the wild, a situation that continues to this day.
“It is such a cruel and wasteful industry,” says Lynne. “The animal is only used for fashion and they suffer horrific deaths. We don’t need fur – there are plenty of alternatives. As far as we were concerned we were starting off in England and were going to take the campaign to other parts of the world after that. We wanted to prove it could work here first.”
But it was not to be. In the early 1990s Lynx became embroiled in a libel case after investigating a fur farm in Yorkshire and was sued. Mark Glover and Stefan Ormrod were also sued personally. Lynx lost the case and was bankrupted.
“I look back on those Lynx days as the best time of my life,” says Lynne. “It was absolutely amazing: manic, but amazing. There wasn’t a moment when something fantastic wasn’t happening. We were meeting all these famous people connected to the campaign, getting out there and making things happen.
“We had a fur amnesty in Trafalgar Square. We asked people to bring us their fur coats and we would give them a decent burial. It was a very creative time. There were always ideas buzzing around. If we thought something was a great idea we could set it in motion within an hour. That is why we were so successful. We didn’t have committees to go through.
“We appeared on the Clothes Show and were working with fashion designers to design luxury alternatives to fur. Designers stopped using it. Some of them were against it and had never used it, others dropped it but there were some who continued to use it.
“We did not agree with fake fur either. That is then saying, fur looks good. What is the next thing? We were promoting other luxury fabrics and luxury designs. Nobody wears fur to be warm these days. No Polar explorers wear fur these days. There is no excuse at all.”
Mark and Stefan were also personally bankrupted by the libel case. A few years later Stefan committed suicide.
“I think we thought the public would come to our aid after we lost the case,” says Lynne. “No-one did. We couldn’t afford to pay the costs and damages and didn’t want to give money to the fur trade anyway. The whole thing had a devastating effect on Mark’s and my relationship and we split up. We had achieved so much and to have it taken away was terrible. I did feel we could have gone on to achieve so much more. It was only a start for us. For a long time I was grieving about what happened.”
Mark Glover went on to help set up another organisation, Respect for Animals, which continues to carry forward the anti-fur campaign, but those heady days in the 1980s when anything seemed possible appear to have passed along with Lynx, despite the fact that the worldwide fur trade is still going strong. There are even periodic fur resurgences on the UK catwalks and some celebrities who once claimed to be anti-fur have since had a volte-face.
“Seals are still being killed for the fur trade and there is trapping still going on and fur farming around the world. At the moment the animal rights issue seems to have had its peak. A lot of people seem to have lost interest now. Other issues have become more trendy but in this country at least I don’t think fur will come back in a big way,” says Lynne.
“We should be incredibly proud of ourselves. We made a massive difference. Hundreds of thousands of animals that would have been killed are not being killed anymore.”