PETA Comes Under Fire for Shocking 'Cruel' Response to Karl Lagerfeld's Death

The animal rights organization stands behind the controversial statement shared in the wake of Karl Lagerfeld's passing

PETA is facing backlash for a statement on iconic fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld‘s death that left many shocked.

Less than an hour after news broke that Lagerfeld, fashion industry titan and longtime creative director of Chanel and Fendi, had died in Paris at age 85, PETA’s president Ingrid Newkirk issued a statement in a press release and on Twitter.

“Karl Lagerfeld has gone, and his passing marks the end of an era when fur and exotic skins were seen as covetable. PETA sends condolences to our old nemesis’s loved ones,” Newkirk’s statement read.

Shortly after PETA’s statement, Twitter began slamming the animal rights organization for turning the designer’s death into an anti-fur campaign. “A bit cold on the announcement of someone’s passing. Should care for all living beings, whether you agree with them, or like them,” one person replied to the tweet.

Someone else wrote, “You organization is entitle to your own opinion on wearing furs. Your cruel condolence to Karl Lagerfeld was better left unsaid. Do you want to diss John the Baptist camel loincloth as well?”

Another Twitter user was completely shocked by PETA’s response to Lagerfeld’s passing. “Appalling comment to make about a mans passing!” they said.

PETA expanded their “honest remarks and genuine condolences” in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE in response to the critics.

“Perhaps you did not realize that I am almost 70 [years old], almost of the same generation as Mr. Lagerfeld, and that while I didn’t design it, I wore fur for years,” Newkirk says. “Hence, there is nothing snarky in the remark that those times have passed. Grief, with which I am familiar, is real, and so our condolences for anyone who loved and lost someone are too, regardless of that person’s opposing position on fur. Slamming PETA expresses the commenters’ nastiness: PETA expressed none.”

Chanel Paris-Londres 2007/8 Show, London, Britain - 06 Dec 2007
Karl Lagerfeld. David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

Lagerfeld was regularly under fire from PETA for his use of fur, crocodile, lizard and snake skins which he staunchly defended, telling the The New York Times in 2015, “The problem with fur… For me, as long as people eat meat and wear leather, I don’t get the message.”

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He told PEOPLE during an interview in 2007 that although he uses fur, he believed it should be obtained in a more humane way.

“Killing animals… I hate the idea. I’m not crazy about it. It should be done, if possible, in the nicest way. But you know, animals are crueler than we are. Animals are pretty cruel too. Always the law of the strongest. So if [PETA] could answer me the question, who will make an association to pay an income to all the people who live from that industry, what is a legal industry, it would be ok,” Lagerfeld said. “But what is legal and what people make a living off has to be respected, I’m very sorry. Change the laws first, but don’t behave like terrorists.”

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