Fury at Madonna's coat of many chinchillas
Madonna has outraged animal rights groups by wearing a fur coat made from the skins of 40 chinchillas.
The star was photographed wearing the £35,000 coat as she emerged from a Mayfair restaurant this week with her husband, the film director Guy Ritchie.
Campaigners against real fur accused the star of ignoring the cruel reality of how animals are farmed for their skins.
Madonna's decision to flaunt such an opulent fur coat may come as a surprise to some, given that she eschews meat and even dairy products as unhealthy, and follows a strict macrobiotic diet. She is also a friend of vegetarian fashion designer Stella McCartney, who famously refuses to work with any animal products, including leather and fur.
However, since she became a full-time resident in Britain, Madonna has taken shooting lessons at her country estate, and her husband is a keen follower of blood sports.
In 2001, she was pictured wearing a £1,000 hat by the milliner Philip Treacy that had been made from the pelts of five foxes, and a year later was seen in a coat that campaigners claimed was made from the pelts of unborn lambs.
Lobby groups said that the chinchillas, which are part of the rodent family, are intensively farmed and then skinned alive in order to make fur products.
A spokeswoman for the lobby group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said: "We encourage anyone who wears fur to watch videos of these animals being electrocuted, caught in traps and skinned alive.
"Thousands of people, including Paris Hilton, have said that the videos changed their minds about wearing fur."
"Chinchillas are shy, intelligent animals who can live for up to 15 years in the wild. Yet on fur farms, these animals are violently killed while fully conscious."
She added: "We hope that Madonna's recent acts of kindness in Africa move her to extend her compassion to animals.
Peta has run several high-profile campaigns using celebrities to urge people not to wear real fur. But the tactic has backfired in some cases, when featured stars, such as the supermodel Naomi Campbell, have later been pictured wearing mink coats and other fur products.
A spokeswoman for Madonna confirmed that the fur was real, but declined to comment further on the matter.
Madonna is not the only star to come under fire for her penchant for fur in recent times.
Kate Moss became a target of animal rights groups last week after she was photographed in New York wearing a fur coat. One of the model's biggest contracts is also with the fashion house Burberry, which has refused to stop using fur in its collections.
After years of declining sales, real fur producers have reported a turnaround in their fortunes over the last 12 months, partly because of its return as a fashion trend.
Meanwhile, Victoria Beckham, who often garners vitriolic abuse for her fashion decisions, was lauded for wearing a coat similar to Moss last week - but which was in fact made from fake fur.
Fur farming has been banned in Britain since 2003, but chinchilla products are still imported from Europe, South and North America.