Though it's certainly not illegal to sell, buy, or wear fur; it may be illegal, not to mention misleading and potentially imoral, for a company to publicly present itself as fur-free and then continue to sell products containing fur. This, PETA alleges, is what Bebe is doing.
PETA began its protest-laden war against Bebe's fur usage back in 2007. Back then, PETA believed it had won and Bebe had agreed to discontinue its use of fur. Except, according to PETA, fur items continue to grace Bebe's racks. So, last week, PETA sent Bebe's freshly minted CEO Steve Birkhold a cease and desist, which we have been given exclusive access to.
The letter pretty straightforwardly states that Bebe is "giving contradictory and therefore false and misleading information to consumers who contact your company about its fur-free policy – including telling consumers that Bebe is a fur-free company, when, in fact, Bebe continues to sell products made with animal fur." It demands that Bebe "immediately cease and desist in its illegal conduct," calling the company's business practices "unfair, dishonest, deceptive and fraudulent."
Martina Bernstein, PETA's Director of Litigation, alleges that the company sent out a press release in 2007 stating that it looks forward “to completely eliminating animal fur” beginning January 2008. She also lists several instances since then in which Bebe employees have denied any use of fur to customers. However, "in one call placed to bebe headquarters, a representative admitted that the company does sell products made with fur."
The letter concludes with the following request:
We therefore request that Bebe immediately stop the sale of such products. Alternatively, and in order to avoid the need to seek judicial relief from Bebe’s unlawful practices, we demand that Bebe immediately cease and desist its false and misleading statements and that Bebe publish corrective disclosures informing the public that it has no fur-free policy, contrary to its previously disseminated intentions.
So, can PETA really demand this? We asked our friends over at Above the Law, who said PETA can basically send a cease and desist to whomever it wants, and it remains to be seen whether PETA can successfully sue, as that's something a judge will have to decide.
Interestingly, PETA is also a shareholder in Bebe. According to this Biz Journals article, PETA bought shares in the company last year in order to be able to propose that the retailer stop using fur--but they can't actually do it until 2014.
PETA sent us images, seen here, of fur-containing products taken at a Denver Bebe store, including close-ups of tags which verify the use of dyed rabbit fur.
We've reached out to Bebe and will report back once we know more.
For now, click through for the full cease and desist.
Update: Danielle Katz, PETA Campaigns Manager told us the following regarding PETA's plans to appeal to Bebe and its stakeholders:
As a shareholder, PETA intends to appeal to other stakeholders at bebe’s next annual meeting and will submit a shareholder resolution calling for the company to go fur-free. We hope that our pleas on behalf of our 3 million members and supporters worldwide will finally bring bebe into the 21st century and convince the retailer to join top stores like Express, Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch, Guess, and H&M, all of which are 100 percent fur-free.
Photos: Courtesy of PETA