A British businessman and former Celebrity Apprentice U.K. contestant has suggested collecting the fur of koalas killed during the Australian bushfires and then transforming it into scarves to be sold to rich patrons to raise funds for victims of the fires.
Appearing on Good Morning Britain, Ryan-Mark Parsons defended his idea.
“It’s kind of a sick idea, isn’t it?” the show’s host, Susanna Reid, asked, weighing the notion of Parsons’ proposal after describing images broadcast worldwide of koalas suffering and dying due to the flames.
“I don’t think it is a sick idea, because you have to take into account that the purpose of this is to raise money for the injured animals in the rescue centers,” he said. “I’m not saying we need to slaughter koalas. In fact, I love koalas. If there was a koala here, I’d hug a koala.”
“I just wonder who you imagine would buy a koala bear scarf from a koala bear which has been killed in one of the most devastating things to happen in Australia in decades?” asked Reid.
“Well, I’ve actually asked a lot of people within my friendship circle, and I think they would—and they have said they would because it’s incentivised by the fact it’s going to help a better cause,” countered Parsons.
“The animals are dead, and if we can use the fur to raise money to save the other animals, I don’t see why that’s an issue,” he concluded.
Reporting that he’d worked for the Harrods Department Store chain, Parsons said he knew there was a demand for such a product, and understood the regulations inherent in producing and selling it.
Parsons appeared on the program with British animal rights activist Wendy Turner-Webster, who expressed her horror at the notion of Parson’s idea, saying, “There’s a demand for crack cocaine, but it doesn’t mean we should supply it.”
“Just because the animal is dead, there is a concept of respecting the dead. If your cat died, you wouldn’t pick it up by the tail and swing it round,” she added.
“There are 1,000 different, more humane, more acceptable, compassionate ways of raising money for the terrible disaster that we’ve all witnessed,” Turner-Webster concluded.
Experts and Twitter users alike said they were horrified by Parsons’ plan.
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s assistant clinical director Scott Castle called Parsons’ plan “terrible” in a comment to The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Most of the koalas that have died have been burned. The fur is no good. It’s a fundamentally ridiculous comment,” concluded Castle.
“How about Ryan-Mark comes to Australia and pitches this idea to the firies who have been traumatised after hearing koalas screaming for their lives in the bushfires? Let’s see how they take this disgusting suggestion to sell dead koala’s fur for charity,” said Twitter user Amanda Perram.
“Absolutely not! For ‘charity’ or not it’s disgusting! Advocating the sale of fur for any purpose is wrong. If rich people have enough money to buy fur for charity they have the money to donate without the sale!” said Twitter user Kerrin Newby.
Parsons himself tried to use the incident to steer attention toward environmental charities, tweeting, “Now we’re talking about the subject, let’s donate to save the koalas that can still be saved…”
Luxury women’s wear consultant Parsons, at 19, was the youngest contestant in Celebrity Apprentice U.K.’s history. He placed ninth in his season. He last made headlines for losing a gold tooth in a seagull attack and eating a McDonalds meal in one of the chain’s restaurants with his own cutlery.
According to the Australian Koala Foundation, there may be fewer than 100,000 koalas left in Australia in the wake of the bushfires. If its population falls below 50,000 it could be considered “functionally extinct.”
Additionally, Australian Environment Minister Sussan Ley said on January 13 that koalas may be listed as “endangered” in some parts of the country.
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