Earlier in the week tabletop hobbyists were stunned to learn that animal rights organisation PETA had contacted Games Workshop about the use of fur imagery in its properties. PETAs Senior Manager of Corporate Projects, Yvonne Taylor, penned a letter to Games Workshop CEO Kevin Rountree requesting the company to “consider removing ‘fur’ garments from your Warhammer characters at the next opportunity.”
Hobbyist reactions ranged from bemusement to open vitriol. Some people were not certain if the news articles revealing the letter were fake or somehow a joke. However, the news of PETAs communication to Games Workshop spread like wildfire. First through tabletop hobby channels, and then quickly out into mainstream media.
The Campaigner recently talked to Director of PETA UK, Elisa Allen, about the letter.
TC: There was initially a lot of confusion amongst gamers over this news piece. Many assumed this story was satire, or fiction in some way, when they first saw it. Can you confirm whether the letter to Games Workshops CEO Kevin Rountree, which is available online, was actually sent to him? Or was this purely an open letter addressed to him?
Elisa: I can confirm that the letter was sent to Games Workshop CEO Kevin Rountree.
TC: Has a particular release or announcement prompted PETA to contact Games Workshop about this issue? Why address Games Workshop in particular and not tabletop wargame publishers as a whole?
Elisa: We’re always looking for new ways to reach as many people as possible with the message that fur belongs on the animals who were born with it. We know that the Warhammer community is extremely engaged, and we expected that this action would spark interest and discussion – which it has! Since we sent the letter, nearly a quarter of a million people have visited our blog, which contains information about how animals in the real world suffer in the fur industry.
TC: The letter references some very specific Warhammer 40,000 fiction. Did PETA do a lot of research into Games Workshop and its games before contacting it?
Elisa: The idea came from a Warhammer fan in the PETA office, who saw an opportunity to talk about the fur industry and spread the message that wearing real fur is no more acceptable in 2017 than it would be in the year 40,000.
TC: Was there anything about any of Games Workshops titles that you liked?
Elisa: Naturally, we admire heroes such as Roboute Guilliman and the Celestant-Prime, who look fearsome and fabulous in their fur-free get ups, as they defend the Imperium or Mortal Realms.
TC: We know where PETA stands on people wearing fur, but what is the organisations stance on species such as Dark Eldar and Necrons wearing human skin?
Elisa: It’s our position that the only skin you should wear is your own – so of course, we would urge the Dark Eldar and Necrons to wear high-tech vegan fabrics instead of human or animal skin.
TC: Is contacting game companies about their fictional worlds a good use of PETA time and resources? Or does this letter in actuality serve some other purpose?
Elisa: PETA works hard to inform the public about cruelty to animals and to promote an understanding of the right of all animals to be treated with respect. Unfortunately, getting that message to the public isn’t always straightforward. Unlike our opposition, which mostly consists of wealthy industries and corporations, PETA can’t spend millions on publicity, so we must rely on getting free “advertising” through media coverage. We often do outrageous things to get the word out about animal abuse, because, sadly, the media usually don’t consider the facts alone “interesting” enough to cover. On the other hand, controversial gimmicks – such as this – consistently grab headlines, thereby taking the animal rights message to audiences around the world.
PETA doesn’t have a big budget, but for the cost of a postage stamp, we’ve generated hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of “free advertising” through international media coverage. (It’s worth noting, too, that some of the prominent media outlets that covered the story also shared video footage from PETA exposés showing what happens to animals on fur farms.) In this way, we drove over 175,000 visitors (and counting!) to our website, where they could join us in speaking out against the fur industry – and many have.
TC: If tabletop hobbyists are interested in PETAs cause, how can they help?
Elisa: One of the simplest ways to help animals is by never wearing real fur – and by encouraging others to shun it, too. Visit PETA.org.uk for more ways to get involved.