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LONDON – PETA has written to Prada ahead of its annual meeting, held virtually this week, urging the company to stop selling accessories made with the skins of wild animals. The animal rights group claims the exotic-skins industry is fueling the risk of further epidemics – because as at wet markets, the wild animals it uses are confined and slaughtered in unsanitary conditions, potentially giving rise to viruses.

This is an interesting move by PETA which offers a clear hint of its future strategy – namely linking the exotic skins industry with the risk of transmitting viruses from animals to humans. If PETA can continue to push this link, such a strategy would represent a serious headache for luxury fashion players which continue to use exotic skins in collections.

“PETA and our affiliates have documented not only cruelty to animals but also grossly unsanitary conditions on farms in the US, Africa and Asia,” said PETA US senior vice president Dan Mathews. “Concerned consumers around the world are watching the way brands respond to this new era, and we would love to promote Prada as the latest company to have chosen to leave wildlife in peace.”

PETA claims SARS and the novel coronavirus first infected humans who came into close contact with captive wildlife at live-animal markets where animals are confined to cramped wire cages, blood and other bodily fluids are exchanged, and diseases can easily spread. It notes information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which warns that approximately 75 per cent of recently emerged infectious diseases affecting humans originated in other animals.

PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to wear” – has also released a video exposé of the world’s largest ostrich-slaughter companies, which supply Prada and other brands. The footage reveals that young birds are kept on barren dirt feedlots before they’re crowded into lorries, transported to abattoirs, and electrically shocked before their throats are slit.

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