Joanna Lumley and the “mother of all public relations headaches” – or just one big PR stunt?

Armed with friends Twiggy and Hayley Mills, it seems actress Joanna Lumley has started a ‘war’ with department store Harvey Nichols, over their stock of ‘humanely sourced fur‘ which actually comes from abused animals.

The ‘Origin Assured’ fur, which seemingly comes from farms where animals are well respected has in this instance been questioned by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), who have released footage of distressed, mauled, unkempt and unsafe animals like rabbits and minks being used to stock the fur sold by the store.

Writing to Harvey Nicks to ask for their fur-free policy to be re-instated, the CEO has been addressed with the message;

 “By claiming the fur items you sell are “humanely sourced”, you are deceiving customers and making a major contribution to the abuse of animals…As Chief Executive, you have the power to end the company’s involvement in this duplicity and cruelty. Please do the right thing and reinstate Harvey Nichols’ ethical fur-free policy”

With rhetoric having such a significant part to play within the PR industry, this message certainly has plenty of pathos, however it seems not enough….as of yet.

Painstakingly for the department store, they already have a underlying PR issue here – Harvey Nichols stopped selling fur in 2004, but with a new director Paula Reed it was put back on the shelves, to much protest; she resigned after receiving 5,000 emails from animal rights protesters, as well as an invasion of her social networks.

You’d think this was enough bad publicity to re-instate the policy, right? Apparently not – Despite her resignation, the fur-free policy, which had previously served for almost a decade, was not reinstated.

Other stores including high street brand H&M, Topshop and Zara all operate fur-free policies, as do department stores like Selfridges, so it’s surprising Harvey Nicks are striving to be this different.

Why? I suppose the saying of ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ is fitting – after all, Joanna Lumley was instrumental in putting the department store back on the map – what’s to say they’re just using her status again to create further interest?

Whether we agree with the conspiracy or not, one thing is clear – Harvey Nichols really will have ‘the mother of all public relations headaches’ soon enough!

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