The story is that Cleary was modeling for a high-end custom jeweler and was asked to wear a diamond necklace and a fur jacket. Cleary replied that she would wear the diamonds but wouldn’t be seen in fur because she is an animal lover. When she decided to start a fundraiser for animal groups, she decided to call it “Diamonds Not Fur.”
Anyone who cares about animals and has a cursory knowledge of the diamond industry will wince at that name. The diamond industry — dominated almost completely from start to finish by the De Beers group of companies — is guilty of some of the worst human-rights abuses in the world and has been labeled as the most unethical company in the world even by some socially conservative groups. Between diamond miners’ heightened exposure to HIV, diamond sales funding wars fought by child soldiers, child laborers cutting the diamonds, and De Beers’ underhanded business practices, it’s hard to think of an industry more antithetical to human rights than the diamond industry.
This kind of gaffe isn’t uncommon in charity work. Often groups find themselves advocating for one cause while unknowingly taking actions directly contrary to that cause. There are two reasons in particular, however, that make this faux pas especially egregious.
The first reason is that among the most common criticisms of the animal rights movement — especially on a colloquial level — is that animal rights advocates are misanthropic and place no value on human issues because we are so concerned with animal issues.
When we make the statement that you shouldn’t wear fur because the fur industry tortures and murders animals, but diamonds are OK to wear even though the diamond industry tortures and murders people, we are even worse than misanthropes, we’re hypocrites. We should view social justice in a holistic way; we cannot abhor violence against animals while supporting violence against humans.
The second major reason this event was especially distasteful was that the diamonds theme wasn’t just in name only, but there was a charity auction that included a diamond pendant. Selling diamonds to benefit the SPCA isn’t a far cry from selling human slaves to raise money for farm sanctuaries.
Of course the event had its own animal-related problems as well. There were also leather footballs auctioned off at the event, which wholly negates any anti-fur sentiment the organizers may have been trying to communicate. Why is slaughtering animals for fur coats any different than the thousands of cows slaughtered every year to provide the NFL with footballs?
Outspoken vegans are often criticized by others in the broader animal advocacy community for being too ideologically rigid and absolutist, but when we look at the glaring and depressing contradiction that pervades some of our “charity” organizations, it seems like a little “ideological rigidity” might do them some good.