The holidays are oh-so-close, and you know what that means: So is holiday shopping! Early birds and eager gift-givers are already creating lists of items to purchase and later bestow upon family and friends. But what’s on those lists? A snakeskin bag? A fur-trimmed jacket? A leather wallet? Sometimes people think that they want certain things, but they’re not actually thinking about where those “things” come from—or who they originally belonged to.
Last year, as an intern at PETA headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, I participated in my very first Fur-Free Friday demonstration. As always, it took place the day after Thanksgiving, and with more than 40 participants, the turnout was impressive. On the busiest shopping day of the year, I found myself among a group of enthusiastic animal activists who all want to make a difference in the world for animals. It was empowering in a way that I can’t quite put into words.
Standing together proudly, we held signs, smiled and waved at honking cars, and handed brochures to gracious passersby. Would some of those people later open the brochure and see images of snakes, lizards, bunnies, raccoon dogs, and cows and feel sickened by what they saw and read? Would they reexamine the gifts they’d been planning on purchasing and seek vegan products instead?
One of my favorite memories was when a pedestrian, hastily walking and clearly lost in his own thoughts, saw the sign that an activist beside me was holding and stopped dead in his tracks. The gruesome image on the sign sparked a conversation, and after several minutes, he shamefully touched the leather coat he was wearing and sincerely vowed never to purchase leather again. It’s a moment like this—when you change someone’s perspective—that you know you’re making a difference in the world.
And we are making a difference! Recently, the West Hollywood City Council banned the sale of fur!
Now the question is: Do you want to join us? Even if you’ve never participated in a demonstration before, there’s no better time to start than on Fur-Free Friday, when animal rights activists band together nationwide. Find out if there’s a Fur-Free Friday event going on near you and help us continue to make a difference! You just might change someone’s perspective and inspire that person to rethink the holiday gift list that he or she had been compiling for family and friends. You just might create another vegan shopper.
This article was written by Keegan Baur and originally appears on PETA.org.