Beyond The Fur Ban: What's Next For Animal Rights?
LCA has been tackling animal rights issues for over twenty years and handles multiple campaigns, such as exposing the harmful treatment of animals in entertainment and in labs, shutting down puppy mills and ending animal fighting rings. Most recently, the organization has been working on banning fur sales, and it played a big part in the fur ban that was signed Sept. 20 in West Hollywood, in the form of protests and rallies. The new law bars the sale of apparel furs, but furs for furniture, vintage furs and leather have yet to be banned.
LCA conducts special, undercover investigations in order to expose animal cruelty happening throughout the state. As an investigator, Monell participates in protests, organizes benefits and speaks to the media about the animal rights movement, while also going undercover to capture footage of the harmful acts done in animal farms and labs.
Monell has personally documented these conditions in his investigations, and he has worked to both educate the public and help change animal cruelty laws. He has gone undercover in circuses, chicken slaughterhouses and puppy mills. Footage from his investigations can be seen in various documentaries, which have been aired on major outlets such as HBO. His work is featured in “Dealing Dogs,” “Earthlings” and “Meet Your Meat.”
NT: Last Chance for Animals played a large role in the ban of fur sales in West Hollywood last week. Can you tell me what the broader implications of the ban are?
Monell: The ban is symbolic in nature. If you looked at the media the day before the ban, you would not see anything about fur as an issue. The day of the ban and the day after, we were getting calls from around the globe. There were articles in the "L.A. Times," in "The New York Times," and in the international press. What this ban has done is that it put fur back on the table as an issue. I believe the ban in West Hollywood was the first time any city has banned the sale of fur for fashion, so it was a historical moment. It has really opened up a dialogue on not only fur, but for animal rights. West Hollywood is just the beginning point. We plan on taking this ban to other cities around the country, and around the globe.
NT: Critics suggest that the ban on fur sales and any legislation that follows because of it are a violation of the freedom of choice. How would you respond to their claims?
Monell: A community has a right to its own standards. I think those claims are extreme. Cities make the choice to regulate all the time. You can’t sell crack-cocaine, can you? We have smoking bans now, too. Like it or not, there are certain products you cannot sell.
NT: LCA works on various campaigns, from fur issues, to puppy mills, to general animal rights. So, beyond this ban, what are your plans elsewhere? What would you say is the next and most pressing issue the LCA will be campaigning for?
Monell: That’s a good question. What we have been working on most recently is canine rights. Last weekend, we took a group of people to Little Rock, which is an hour north of West Hollywood, to see the conditions of puppy mills for themselves. During the course of exploring the puppy mills in Little Rock, we found a huge cock-fighting ring that we are going to shut down. I would hate to say that one specific issue is the most important. If there is animal abuse somewhere, the LCA is going to get involved and be on the forefront of it.
NT: You said earlier that you are continuing to work on fur. What is next on that front?
Monell: We are going to work with similar groups around the globe to work on their own bans. Our coalition is taking this to other cities across the U.S., too. The Friday after Thanksgiving, we are going to have a massive demonstration on Rodeo Drive called “Fur Free Friday.” We are also working more on the legislative process, as more and more cities call us to follow in our footsteps. Before we banned apparel furs, other cities didn’t think this was possible. Now, they have realized it is possible and they want to take part in it. Next, we want to ban the sale of all fur—including furniture and vintage furs—not just apparel. This is truly a seminal moment, and the fur industry should be scared.
NT: How, then, would you say the organization is doing overall in terms of reaching its goals?
Monell: I think there’s always room for improvement. Campaigns like this fur ban show that we are effective. We have articles about us published in big media like “USA Today” and “Reuters.” On the other hand, we can always be more effective. LCA is never going to be satisfied with what it has. We celebrated this ban for about two minutes, and then we realized there are still millions of animals sitting in cages. The very next day we got out there and struggled some more to help these other animals. We are going to fight until every single cage is opened and until every animal is free. We will never stop fighting.
NT: On that note, how do you measure your progress?
Monell: When somebody calls us and says I don’t eat meat anymore because of you guys, or I stopped wearing fur…or when a company calls and tells us they no longer sell fur because of us, that’s important. When we see harmful farms and factories shut down, those are all measures of success.
NT: To clarify then, you measure your progress and success based on the positive feedback you receive from the public, as well as the individual victories on your campaigns?
Monell: Yeah. I mean, we care about public opinion, but ultimately if the world was against us and the animals were still being freed, that is what we take as progress. Our clients are not people. Our clients are the animals. We strive to educate the public and hopefully they will see it our way, but ultimately the animals are what it comes down to.
NT: What are some of the biggest difficulties you’ve encountered on your various campaigns for animal rights?
Monell: We are going up against million—if not billion—dollar companies. We’re going up against circuses; we’re going up against the corporate structure and huge industries. With the recent fur ban, we went up against the entire fur industry and we have the Chamber of Commerce coming after us now. We have people from the fur industry around the world trying to influence the Chamber of Commerce to be against us. I don’t think people really realize that we are the little guy in the fight. It is a monumental battle.
NT: So your biggest challenge is sheer numbers?
Monell: Yeah, our challenge is to get through all the noise. Our message rarely gets out there against these big corporations. Our biggest problem is getting through the media filter and communicating to people that “Hey, there are faces behind these purchases. They are real animals, and they are being skinned alive. There are real consequences to your decisions.”
NT: How do you plan on reaching your future goals? Because of the challenges you’ve explained, do plan on doing anything differently, or are you going to be attacking the issues the same way?
Monell: For one, we are always looking to expand. We do a lot of cutting edge investigations, and we have some of the biggest animal busts in the nation. After we finish an investigation and we throw people in prison for these crimes, we can sit down and look back on it. Then, we can discuss how to go about things differently and do better next time. There is no perfect campaign, and there is no perfect investigation. The situation determines how to approach an issue—we may do an investigation, we may have a big campaign, or we may try to simply educate the public on the matter. So, we might change things up in our special investigations based on past experiences, or we may continue to try and educate people in the same way.
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