Rihanna’s raccoon coat shows we need to pay more attention to “cruelty free” brands

By Penny Dreadful

Rihanna has made a career out of shock value. This has extended to her videos, her clothing and her decision to do drugs off a bald man’s head at Coachella. While her music (admittedly) is not the worst thing out there, and of course she can do what she wants in her private life, her morals when it comes to animal cruelty are certainly in worse shape.

I’m on a predominately vegan and plant based diet. I am also anti-hunting, anti-fur and pretty much anti beating, hurting or clubbing anything with a face. So my immediate views were to be expected on the Rihanna’s ‘flame raccoon coat’ debacle. I sighed a big sigh and decided to start unpacking.


So what exactly happened?

Rihanna currently runs, owns and develops make-up for her own cosmetics company, Fenty Beauty. Fenty launched last year as one of many attempts made by Rihanna to break into the fashion and beauty industry. If you haven’t already seen them then I suggest you Google the denim boots she made with Manolo Blahnik as the ultimate definition of taste.


The issue here is that Fenty beauty (like a lot of brands) are currently running on a ‘cruelty free’ moral standpoint. Which is easy to do in cosmetics, and certainly makes dollars and sense given that it’s an industry expected to rise 6.1% in the next 5 years.

The backlash has been brutal for brands that don’t follow the rules.  One major brand (who I won’t name) has had their social media pages bombarded with animal testing complaints, stores demonstrated against, and Leaping Bunny symbol removed because they sell in the Chinese market and feature natural hair brushes.

It’s a good sign that many brands are opting to vegan-ize their products or go cruelty free. MAC Cosmetics this year have finally released synthetic hair brushes to counteract the negative publicity, and not to mention the rise in vegan brands such as Kat Von D. Even Illamasqua offer vegan alternatives and brushes to their growing vegan audience. It’s becoming a really big business.


So why does Rihanna insist on going to an event wearing a couple of dead raccoon pelts slung around her body in one of the oddest outfits I’ve seen in a while? Which is saying a lot given I (by choice) opt for colour, sequins, PVC and animal prints on an almost daily basis. I’m guessing that the brand chose to ‘seed’ Rhianna with the coat.

Seeding is a common practise with brands. It’s the practise of offering freebies in return for exposure. I have been both the seeder (in my current role) and the seedee in previous years. Just ask me where my Vivienne Westwood heels come from! But who needs morals when you’re making bank?

I won’t go into the moral side of blogging vs bank (that’s a whole other article for another day). But my point is this – what is it to her to wear an $18,050 coat made of dead things? Nothing. She gets nothing but publicity from it.


This trick is used over and over again. Brands using our own ethical, moral and sometimes fights for our rights to sell us products. I once worked for a lingerie company marketing lingerie to teenage girls under the guise of selling feminist products.

This was all fine, all glam and all pretty when the cameras rolled. Away from the spotlight of social media – the brand openly didn’t care one bit about women. They treated their employees terribly, making a toxic environment for pregnant employees and openly bitching about other women.

Be very careful with brands. There often appears a layer that you don’t see when deciding to ethically shop.

Take Lime Crime for example. The ‘vegan’ company run by Doe Deere is hailed as a vegan company who have gorgeous packaging with lovely colours.  However, the company has also allegedly used carmine and beeswax in their products which are definitely not vegan.


That is before you get into the alleged repackaged wholesale items, suing writers of negative reviews, cultural misappropriation with their ‘China doll’ palette, the Hitler costume (I’m not joking), hacked website  through their SSL Certificate which resulted in customers loosing hundreds, releasing details of writers after their negative reviews went public and having a FDA warning over toxic ingredients scandals.

The moral of the story is there’s no way to ensure a brand publically fits the bill and adheres to what they preach other than research. Know your enemy.



  1. So effectively you’re saying that Rihanna doesn’t care about animals despite having a cruelty free brand? I can’t totally get on board with this if so. It’s much like many food establishments that have mocked vegans but now gladly make a profit from including vegan options on their menus. I’m not complaining because we need more options and only demand will make them increase. This does more specifically remind me of the more recent controversy surrounding Rude Health which I’m sure you heard about (said vegan’s are basically weirdos and promoted the consumption of dairy). Such a shame but a reminder to keep an eye out and try to support genuine people/companies. Great post!


    1. Hi,
      I believe that she does care on some level. However, the fur trade is a very cruel trade so it seems weird to me to care about cruelty in one area but not in another. I’m sure it is just a gift from one brand to another and nothing more sinister as happens in the industry but if you are going to be a spokesperson/brand that has an ethical standpoint about cruelty free then you need to practise what you preach.

      I think it’s an oversight in this case. However, I think some brands do use the ethics to their advantage.


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