Gucci is facing a backlash after using real tigers in an advertisement campaign. The Italian designer debuted the Gucci Tiger collection earlier this month to commemorate the Chinese Year of the Tiger, which begins on February 1. Customers and animal rights activists were outraged by the use of real tigers in the photo shoot. 

Gucci’s statement that no animals were harmed during the shoot did little to appease them. The advertising campaign featured tigers lounging on rugs and perched on pianos. Gucci also stated in their Instagram caption that the American Humane Society “monitored the set on which animals were present and verified that no animals were harmed”.

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However, several  viewers chastised the fashion house for using real tigers. “It’s not okay to use wild animals in advertising,” one commenter said. “Stop using wild animals in marketing if you don’t use fur. The collection is lovely, but the tiger is not real,” another person stated. “The tiger is not a pet,” said one Instagram user.

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 On Monday, Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin, who rose to prominence as the star of the Netflix series Tiger King, joined the chorus of critics of Gucci. The fashion company has been chastised by a number of other animal welfare organisations. PETA urged their followers to  stop using wild animals in advertisements. World Animal Protection US also tweeted against Gucci’s ads on Tuesday: “Gucci is sending the wrong message by promoting tigers as pets and luxury items when they are wild animals that belong in the wild.” Though Gucci argues that the tigers were photographed and filmed in a separate safe environment complying with Gucci’s policies and then featured within the campaign; the use of wild animals in photoshoots has long been a source of contention.