On a wintry Friday evening, streams of people are rushing past Prague's National Theatre. Perhaps they are on their way to do some early Christmas shopping in the brightly lit shops in the centre of Prague. But one shop window here in Narodni Street is dark and covered in wrapping paper. A sign explains with apologies that it's being redecorated. In fact the shop is a luxurious fur-coat shop. Together with several others, this shop has been picked by a group of activists, the Animal Rights Initiative, who come here on a regular basis to stage peaceful protests and hand out leaflets. The aim is to inform the public about the breeding and hunting of fur-bearing animals. The group is led by Jan Lorenc.
"Concerning fur animals, a year ago in Prague and other towns in the Czech Republic occurred big billboards with a skinned fox. It was the first impulse for the growing of public awareness of cruelty to animals."
I also asked Mr Lorenc whether Czechs, with their relatively low purchasing power, were the most likely customers of fur shops and if not, what was the point of giving out leaflets and waving banners written in Czech.
"Most part of the visitors and consumers are Russians, Italians and Germans. The people who pass this shop are mainly Czech. Just the ordinary people could make pressure on the politicians in the future."
Mr Lorenc disagrees with the fur breeders' point that production of real fur involves virtually no waste. They say that farm-raised fur-bearing animals consume farm by-products not suitable for human consumption, which would otherwise require costly landfill disposal. In turn, the by-products of fur farming are used in the production of many everyday products, including perfumes, hypoallergenic soaps and cosmetics, paint, animal feed, pet foods, fertilizer and mink oil. Mr Lorenc says that fur production is not as "green" as it is made out to be but he agrees that production of synthetic fabrics is more demanding for the environment.
The Animal Rights Initiative are not just interested in the issue of fur. In their next campaign, the group are going to concentrate on the living conditions of farm animals, such as poultry, pigs and cattle. Until then, the activists will go on meeting in front of prominent fur shops in Prague and alerting passers-by to the facts and figures behind those glamorous fur-coats and collars displayed in the windows.
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