12:15 PM Saturday Dec 9, 2006
Madonna has outraged animal rights groups by wearing a fur coat made from the skins of 40 chinchillas.
The star was photographed wearing the £35,000 ($99,580) coat as she emerged from a Mayfair restaurant this week with her husband, film director Guy Ritchie.
Campaigners against real fur accused the star of ignoring the reality of how animals are farmed for their skins.
Madonna’s decision to flaunt such an opulent fur coat may come as a surprise to some, given that she eschews meat and even dairy products as unhealthy, and follows a strict macrobiotic diet.
She is also a friend of vegetarian fashion designer Stella McCartney, who famously refuses to work with any animal products, including leather and fur.
However, since she became a full-time resident in Britain, Madonna has taken shooting lessons at her country estate, and her husband is a keen follower of blood sports.
In 2001 she was pictured wearing a £1000 hat by milliner Phillip Treacy that had been made from the pelts of five foxes, and a year later was seen in a coat that campaigners claimed was made from the pelts of unborn lambs.
Lobby groups said the chinchillas, part of the rodent family, are intensively farmed and then skinned alive to make fur products.
A spokeswoman for the lobby group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said: “We encourage anyone who wears fur to watch videos of these animals being electrocuted, caught in traps and skinned alive.
“Thousands of people, including [socialite] Paris Hilton, have said the videos changed their minds about wearing fur.”
She added: “It is easy to have a look that kills without killing animals by using synthetic fur.
“We hope Madonna’s recent acts of kindness in Africa move her to extend her compassion to animals.
“Chinchillas are shy, intelligent animals who can live for up to 15 years in the wild. Yet on fur farms, these animals are violently killed while fully conscious.”
Peta has run several high-profile campaigns using celebrities to urge people not to wear real fur.
But the tactic has backfired in some cases when stars such as supermodel Naomi Campbell have later been pictured wearing mink coats and other fur products.
The Animal Rights Coalition also called on Madonna to “act more responsibly”.
A spokeswoman for the star confirmed the fur was real but declined to comment further.
Kate Moss became a target of animal rights groups last week after she was photographed in New York wearing a black fur coat.
One of the model’s biggest contracts is also with the fashion house Burberry, which has refused to stop using fur in its collections.
Real fur producers have reported a turnaround in their fortunes over the last 12 months, partly because of its return as a fashion trend.