H&M is no stranger to controversy, be it accusations of employing 14-year-old workers in Myanmar or examples of creating its own, too-close-to-home versions of what comes down the runways. On Monday, Fashionista was tipped off to the Swedish retail giant's latest storm, and this time, it involves PETA.
According to a PETA spokesperson, the animal rights group recently caught wind of an orange hooded H&M hooded sweatshirt on display at the Sugarloaf Mills mall in Duluth, Ga. The item, which has since been removed from its stores, bore the words "Dogfight in Random Alley," alluding to the cruel, underground blood "sport" of dogfighting in which two dogs are pitted against each other and forced to violently battle for human entertainment. Dogfights can last for hours, going on until both animals are exhausted or seriously injured; at times, the dogs are encouraged to fight to the death. You can see the sweatshirt in the question on the far left, below:
We definitely don't have to tell you that dogfighting is inhumane and brutal, as well as being totally and completely illegal in many countries, including here in the U.S., and understandably, the blowback was instant. Three weeks ago, presumably when the hoodie was first seen in-store, a Change.org petition titled "H&M MUST stop selling 'Dogfight in the alley' hoodies!!" surfaced online, and has since garnered more 44,700 signatures at press time. PETA reportedly reached out to H&M itself via email, leading the retailer to promptly pull the sweatshirts from stores due to the inappropriate wording.
"We're disappointed that H&M allowed an item that promotes dogfighting — a cruel and illegal activity — to slip through the cracks and make its way to store shelves," said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman in a statement provided to Fashionista. "The shirt — which normalizes violent acts against animals — sends a dangerous message, but we're pleased that after hearing from PETA, H&M quickly removed the offending items."
PETA has long been vocal about the cruelties of dogfighting, much of which came to light in 2007, when former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was convicted on federal charges related to dogfighting. Though all 50 U.S. states consider participating in dogfighting to be a federal offense, PETA estimates that tens of thousands of people are involved in professional dogfighting elsewhere, while hundreds of thousands may still be participating in informal matches otherwise known as "streetfighting."
A spokesperson for H&M could not immediately be reached for comment.
UPDATE, Nov. 28, 2017, 9:12 a.m.: In the below statement provided to Fashionista, H&M reaffirmed its choice to remove the product from its inventory:
H&M does not condone or support dog fights. Our intention was never to promote them and we are sorry if we have offended our customers with this print. The sweatshirt was removed from all stores, including HM.com.