By: Mikki Herman  Date: 01/27/2005

Mikki Herman

January 27, 2005

As a new business owner, I thought my days would be full of organizing, stocking, bookkeeping. I saw myself accelerating through the learning curve and ending up, down the road, as an easygoing shopkeeper with a viable business and the warmth of my fellow townsfolk as my reward. After six weeks, I am starting to have a stride, but it has been a tough beginning.

I planned to open the doors to my vintage clothing store for the first time at 2 p.m. on December 4, 2004. At 10 a.m. Alex Bury and some of her minions arrived on the sidewalk in front of my shop, bearing signs of cute baby raccoons; a trapped, bloody animal in the snow; and a stuffed animal dangling from a stick with some drippy red stuff on it intended to look like blood. PeTA had arrived to save the day, and I was on an entirely different learning curve – I was on the road to PeTA-ville.

Ms. Bury and Company deny that they represent PeTA, but when their protest signs bear PeTa's logo and I am the target of an  "action alert" where PeTA members in two counties tell me that they were asked by PeTA to call and demand that I give up the fur, I figure, it's PeTA. What else could I think?

According to these keepers of my morality, I had committed the crime of stocking vintage (that’s ‘vintage’ as in ‘old’) furs along with an even larger amount of faux furs. See their open letter to our community. We have since been given a reprieve on the faux furs; Bury has announced that the faux furs are okay with her. (I may as well take this opportunity thank her publicly for giving the people of our little village her permission to wear fabric. Thank you, Ms. Bury!)

Ms. Bury has been treating this town as if she were a monarch. Bury has been quoted more than once as saying, "this will not happen in my town". By the way, Ms. Bury moved to Guerneville 6 years ago and is generally considered a newcomer. She has offended many and especially members of families who have been here for several generations. This battle, I believe, is largely about one well connected woman's vanity. Otherwise how would a small vintage clothing store become the focus of both PeTA followers and the Humane Society of the United States?

Many people cannot tell the difference between a fake and a real fur and the PeTA folks are no different. This problem contributed significantly to the initial hysteria in their camp. Before I opened, I dressed out my window with three, full length faux fur coats on my mannequins. I left town for a week to have Thanksgiving with my family and when I came back, I was presented with a petition signed by a few people who thought that my window "looked like a furrier's". Those coats were, indeed, huge and fuzzy, but I had no idea that the effect of them would be similar to waving a red flag at a bullfight. The proverbial fuming, slobbering beast was now in a dead on run, in my direction. Now what?

For the first several days of watching these folks sweetly giving the Queen’s wave to passing motorists while poking PeTA placards at them, I was inclined to be quiet and respectful of their rights of free speech and peaceful protest, ignoring their misrepresentations of me. I hadn’t been to PeTA-ville yet.

Everything you ever wanted to know about PeTA but ...
How I learned the difference between an animal rights group and an animal welfare group in a Guerneville minute.

PeTA-ville is a place where lies are told in sweet, syrupy voices and the folks slap each other on the back because a lie told in the name of saving the animals is okay. See animal rights website calling for direct action (that means violence!) against fur. It’s a land where hating your own species is the unifying pathological state. Acknowledging any natural omnivorous tendencies is forbidden. Which begs the question: if all things are equal in the animal kingdom, then why is it that I need to show remorse for eating Bambi’s mother but a mountain lion is off the hook when he eats Bambi? Just asking!

PeTA-ville is where it’s OK to blackmail, extort, intimidate your neighbors and even your own family members in the name of the crusade. The holocaust is on and the rules don’t apply. (I find it ironic that animal rights folk love the Holocaust analogy because I can’t help but see Gestapo when I look at them. Hmm. Read the history of the Nazis and find quite a few animal loving vegetarians there too. Hmm.)

The fact is that animal welfare is not really their agenda. This is not about humane animal farming practices; it’s about animal farming at all. This is not about humane killings; it is about not killing at all.

Speaking of humane, I am now the recipient of an official letter from the Humane Society of the United States, dated January 18, 2005, requesting, on behalf of their eight million members and constituents to donate the used furs to their “popular” Give Fur Back to the Animals program. Eight million HSUS members and 750,000 PeTA members adds up to a lot of people who don’t know what the agenda of these two groups really is.

The willingness of these gentle souls to dehumanize is immediately evident in the approach that they took into battle with them. First, I was served up a steaming, heaping plate of insult and condescension and then they (oh, so innocently) wondered why letters and entreaties for mediation went unanswered. I cannot force anyone to take a respectful approach to me, and I have a rule that says that disrespect requires no response. It is a fallacy that these protesters are peaceful, and it is a fallacy that they want mediation. Mediation to them, if I may be so bold, is that I should capitulate and they will go away. “Do as I say, believe what I believe or I will hurt you” is their message. I remain un-finessed, as are others in this town.

My first outside support came from Jennifer Neeley, owner of another business down the street called Memories That Linger, later dubbed Agonies That Linger. She came to my defense in the first few days of the protesting and was summarily targeted after they found some fur in her store. (Did I mention the Gestapo yet?) They found out, through phone calls and running in and out of the other shops in town checking for fur items, that Jennifer had some rabbit trim jackets and a couple of rabbit scarves. Oops! Tag, you’re it.

Bury and PeTA, are at this moment, getting ready for Helping Animals 101, a conference in San Francisco to be held on the weekend of February 5. After their pep rally I will surely have some frothy saviors back on my sidewalk (as promised) with videos and gosh knows what else in tow.

As for me, I’m offering my own course. I’m calling it Resisting Tyranny 101

Chapter one starts with, THE FURRR BALL to be held at the Eagle Bar on Main Street in Guerneville, Sunday, February 13, at 4 p.m. Jeff Hettinger, a dear friend of mine and Mr. North Coast Leather, Jennifer Neeley of Memories That Linger, and I have conspired to throw the first ever, and hopefully annual, Furrr Ball. Come on out of the closet with your Grandma’s old fur coat, stole, even those things with the feet still attached etc., and support a worthy cause. There will be contests, possibly an auction, a raffle and a good deal of silliness, all to benefit Pets Are Loving Support, a very worthy animal welfare group. There will be a $5 cover charge. Please come and show them (just cause I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t after me) what temper tantrums and tyrannical behavior garner! Lets turn this lemon into lemonade!

Mikki Herman, owner
Kings & Queens
16129 Main Street
Guerneville, CA 95446

For the record:

I am a 27-year-resident of the town of Guerneville, California. I’ve been happily married since 1980 and raised my four children here.

This town is wonderfully diverse. The current controversy has served to illustrate how possible it is to have townsfolk of different backgrounds and lifestyles willingly work together toward a common goal. As it is with our floods, so it is with this little disturbance. I’ve had rednecks, drag queens and aging hippies all fly through my door and find themselves engaged in a conversation on which they all fervently agree – that PeTA’s complaints against Kings & Queens and Memories That Linger are obnoxious nonsense.

Update: Bury is threatening to try to organize a tourist boycott of the town of Guerneville. She is continuing her letter-writing campaign and has had another group SPAR (Sonoma People for Animal Rights) pay for a 1/4-page ad in the February edition of Russian River Monthly.

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