Gucci is being slammed by social media users after its new campaign, which celebrates the Chinese Year of the Tiger, featured real tigers.
The Italian designer unveiled the collection, named GucciTiger, on Instagram earlier this month. It includes a selection of ready-to-wear and accessories for men and women, all featuring the animal.
The campaign sees models surrounded by big cats while enjoying afternoon tea.
In one shot, a woman in a T-shirt adorned with a tiger holds a cup of tea while two of the animals stand beside her. The tiger designs have been hand painted on each of the items.
In the image captions, Gucci highlighted its support for the Lion’s Share Fund – an initiative that aims to protect endangered species – adding that nature and wildlife “are particularly” important to the brand.
The brand said the tigers were photographed in a safe environment, monitored by animal welfare organization American Humane, and edited into the campaign.
“@americanhumane monitored the set on which the animals were present and checked that no animal had been injured. No animals were harmed,” the captions read.
“The tigers were photographed and filmed in a separate secure environment in accordance with Gucci policies and then featured in the campaign.”
The campaign was criticized by social media users, with many writing in the comments: “Animals are not a prop”.
“It’s not good to have wild animals in advertising,” said one user. “The tiger is not a pet,” wrote another.
“Even though the footage of this tiger was shot elsewhere, it’s not right,” said a third person, while another added, “Stop using animals in your publicity!”
Animal rights organization World Animal Protection (WAP) criticized the campaign as “glorifying captive animals”.
In a post on its Facebook page, the association said that “by portraying tigers as mere photo props, Gucci’s fashion campaign encourages consumers to treat them in the same harmful way.”
“We urge Gucci to stop glorifying captive wild animals in their campaigns and to release a statement confirming that it recognizes that tigers belong in the wild,” the group said.
“The Year of the Tiger should raise awareness that these incredible animals need respect and protection, not commodification. More tigers live in captivity than the remaining 3,900 in the wild.
Tigers are currently listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, which lists the most vulnerable animals across the globe.
“Tigers are critically endangered due to their exploitation as ‘pets’ and tourist props for selfies; use in traditional medicine; poaching; habitat destruction and the climate crisis,” WAP said.
“Whether captive-bred or wild-caught, the stress these tigers go through when forced to pose for photos is immense. By portraying tigers as mere photo props, Gucci’s fashion campaign encourages consumers to treat them in the same harmful way.
The Independent has contacted Gucci for comment.