Animals used as props in fashion shoots is nothing new–it’s a trend we’ve documented well here at Fashionista. Cats in fashion spreads? Adorable! But our readers were outraged upon viewing Carine Roitfeld’s latest spread for Harper’s Bazaar, entitled “The Animal Nursery,” featuring models Kate Upton and Irina Shayk posing with baby endangered species.
A sampling of those reactions:
“Irresponsible use of very young and wild animals in this photo shoot. I will no longer be buying Harpers after this.”
“This is disgusting use of an endangered infant primate to sell clothes. This poor gibbon was no doubt ripped from its mother in the wild, just to become the play item of a dumb fashion model. Really… what is the matter with people??”
“Endangered primates as accessories?! Makes the model unattractive, the stylist talentless, and the magazine more valuable as toilet paper.”
In an effort to clear the air surrounding the origin of the animals involved in the shoot, we contacted Zoological Wildlife Foundation–the organization that provided them to Harper’s Bazaar. Located in Miami, the for-profit foundation describes itself as “an organization dedicated to educating the public about rare and endangered animal species in captivity and in the wild.” A portion of that profit comes from renting out animals to parties, private events, and yes–fashion photo shoots. (“Just picture your favorite model posing with a ‘dangerous’ predator in the jungle,” ZWF describes of renting out a tiger.)
When reached for comment, the foundation was tight lipped about the shoot–and Harper’s Bazaar did not respond to multiple inquiries about how the animals were sourced and treated. Flamingo Gardens, the botanical garden where the shoot took place, confirmed to us that the agency through which Harper’s acquired the animals is up to date on its licensing and has been inspected by the USDA.
Regardless of the legality, the shoot doesn’t seem to be sitting well with the public–nor with animal welfare watchdog PETA. A PETA spokesperson told us in an official statement,
“The gibbon featured in the photographs is an infant and should be with his mother at all times. Besides the emotional trauma that he has undoubtedly suffered as a result of the separation, his delicate immune system is still developing, and he is susceptible to illnesses that humans carry. All the animals in the photographs are endangered and should be protected, rather than being treated like props.”