Naked and furless

Dan Mathews is the Vice President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the man responsible for the “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign. He stopped by the offices of Creative Loafing this morning to chat about his book, Committed: A Rabbel-Rouser’s Memoir.

The most obvious question to me was the way celebrities adopt causes like Angelina Jolie adopts babies. I had to ask which celeb was a flip flopper on animal rights. To my surprise, he only had one.

“Naomi Campbell. She thought we were the coolest thing to come along, but when her career faltered, she went back on her word. She’s a glaring example of someone greedy.”

Otherwise supermodels and actors have stuck by PETA and were a stepping stone into the world of fashion. Mathews, a former model himself, explained that engaging designers behind the scenes was more important than the passing era of supermodels. The designers were the ones after all making the decisions about whether or not to include fur in their collections. “PETA’s about keeping an eye on what people are paying attention to,” Mathews says. “Like fashion.”

Just last week Mathews was invited by the Liz Claiborne Company, which sells a high quantity of leather shoes and bags, to do a presentation to the staff. He says it was “a great sign of things to come. 15 years ago the only way to get attention was to take over their office. Now we get invited in. Most of the time.”

Committed spills the details of Mathews’ numerous times behind bars, among them for protesting without a permit in Harvard Square in his drawers for a “fur-out, love-in” in a mock bed with four other activists.

“Part of the point of the book is that you can devote your life to a cause without becoming a total bore. You can do serious work and still have a good time,” says Mathews. He’s learned that people want entertainment, not education. An energetic, mostly in-house team comes up with PETA’s campaigns with creativity that rivals any Madison Avenue advertising execs. They know they have to compete for attention with cable TV, celebrity headlines and myriad other distractions to get people to pay attention.

Which is why Mathews and PETA are so successful at reaching out to youth around the world. has a few hundred thousand street-teamers. At, pop star Pink narrates a video on wool. Mathews says of the video: “Most people don’t want to watch a sheep being mutilated. But her loyal fanbase will.”

Mathews is ever optimistic and only let defeat creep into conversation once. He says PETA focuses primarily on reaching the younger generations because breaking habits of someone who’s eaten a steak a week for the last 50 years is nearly impossible. “I ask the kids to look at how unhealthy their grandparents are and if they want to end up like that,” he says.

Dan Mathews will do a book reading and signing Tuesday night at 7 p. m. at Barnes & Noble, 11802 N. Dale Mabry, in Tampa at 7:00 PM.

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