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Johnny Weir Under Fire For Wearing Fur On The Ice

NANCY ARMOUR   01/26/10 08:59 PM ET  AP

Johnny Weir has set fur flying again.

Friends of Animals has posted an open letter to the figure skater, criticizing him for having fox on one of his costumes and asking him to stop wearing fur. The animal advocacy group also contacted his costume designer, Stephanie Handler, on Tuesday.

"I totally get the dirtiness of the fur industry and how terrible it is to animals. But it's not something that's the No. 1 priority in my life," Weir said Tuesday night. "There are humans dying everyday. There are thousands if not millions of homeless people in New York City. Look at what just happened in Haiti.

"I tend to focus my energy, if there is a cause, on humans. While that may be callous and bad of me, it's my choice."

Weir loves fashion, and his costumes tend to be on the avant-garde – some would say extreme – side. When the three-time U.S. champion redesigned his free skate costume before nationals, he had Handler add a tuft of white fox fur to the left shoulder.

Weir said he thought the costume was "lovely," but Friends of Animals disagreed. Foxes are electrocuted or beaten, and their pelts are obtained by skinning the animals alive, said Anai Rhoads, spokeswoman for the group.

"He's a role model for a lot of people, including other skaters," said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. "When he makes fun of the suffering of animals that are consumed for this frivolous fashion industry and whose lives are sacrificed so he can wear little tufts of fur on his outfit, that's fair game for comment."

Weir finished third at nationals, qualifying for his second Olympic team.

Friends of Animals is not the first group to target Weir. He said he's gotten letters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and people have sent him videos depicting how animals are treated by the fur industry.

But Weir said this is the first time someone has contacted Handler.

"She did what I asked her to. It wasn't her choice to make me a costume with fur," Weir said. "At least directly come to me and yell at me. Don't attack my peeps."

Weir said he understands the groups' objections, but he doesn't share their point of view.

Besides, he's not the only skater wearing animal skin products.

"Every skater is wearing skates made out of cow," Weir said. "Maybe I'm wearing a cute little fox while everyone else is wearing cow, but we're all still wearing animals."

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Filed by Hilary Moss  |