Legendary UK Dept Store Harrods to Shutter Pet Department

January 10, 2014

Happy Friday, peaceful dumplings! Animal lovers had some very encouraging news this week around the world. There was a prediction by the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in economics that there will be a major societal acceptance of veganism in 2014. On Monday, Chinese government conducted its first ever public ivory crushing, destroying more than 6 tons, and earning much credibility and praise around the world. While this is just the tip of the iceberg, it was also a promising sign of China’s changing attitude to the African elephant crisis.

And across the globe in London, the legendary luxury department store Harrods has announced it will shut down its pet department after nearly 100 years. Before the Endangered Species Act of 1976–the same act that banned the international trade of ivory–Harrods sold exotic animals as pets to anyone who could afford them: elephants, tigers, lions, camels, and other wild animals. Among the rich and famous who bought animals from Harrods is then-governor of California Ronald Reagan, who ordered a baby elephant for a Republican Party rally. (Since 1976, the Pet Kingdom has been selling dogs, cats, and guinea pigs. )

In 1969, two Australians bought a lion cub named Christian for 250 guineas (L3500 today). When Christian outgrew the London flat, he was released into the wild in Kenya by a conservationist.

It is truly amazing to think that there was a time–not too long ago–when it was acceptable to order a baby elephant by phone, or toss a lion cub in the back of your convertible and drive away. Today, no one doubts the physical danger and moral loss of trading exotic animals as playthings of the rich and famous. But many people still believe there is nothing wrong with selling animals in a store, and bemoan the loss of a London landmark. Whether it is top-down change (as in the case of Endangered Species Act) or bottom-up change (like veganism), something will happen to make even pet stores a relic. All our currently accepted practices–keeping animals for shows, circuses, and amusement parks, using exotic animals in photo shoots, and eating animals itself–we might one day think of it as a barbaric practice of the past.

Related: Ivory Sales on Fifth Avenue 


Photo: Unsplash


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