Let's Talk about Furry Conventions

I love furry conventions. I’ve been to a lot of them in my life. The farthest I’ve ever travelled from my home was to go to a furry convention, and as soon as I got there I was already surrounded by friends. There’s really nothing quite like it. There’s furry stuff of course, but there’s so much more than just that. There’s also gaming, both online and table top, there’s anime, there’s all different kinds of arts and crafts, and there’s also the infamous parties where you can find all sorts of crazy stuff to get up to. It’s no wonder that a lot of zoos end up at furry conventions. A pretty large majority of zoos are furries, and of the ones who are not, there’s plenty to still appreciate about the event. I mean, zoos are people who are attracted to animals, and furries are human-shaped creatures who also show off animal aesthetics and characteristics, so there’s clearly a common thread there. In fact, if you’re not zoo exclusive, you’re getting some of both worlds with furry characters!

Zoos have been at furry conventions since the very first one. It’s probably not a stretch to say that every single furry convention has had at least one attendee who’s wanted to show fido a good time. And yet, in spite of all that common ground and shared history, there are some furries who want to try and reject zoos from furry spaces: To not allow them to attend conventions. There are some furries who have gone so far as to make threats of violence against zoosexual attendees, or to lie to the convention and to the host hotel in order to try and make it seem like there’s a scandalous problem, even when one doesn’t exist. All of this came to a head a few weeks ago when a hate post about zoos attending MFF (Midwest Furfest, one of the furry conventions) blew up on Twitter. Ultimatums were posed, questions were left unanswered, and the whole thing has fallen into a strange suspended animation. And there’s actually a pretty interesting reason why we’re at a standstill right now, but to get there, we’ve got to start from the beginning.

Many of the people who were tagging MFF over zoo drama were asking the convention to “Ban Zoos” from attending. I want to start with why this request doesn’t make any sense. Zoos are by our nature very private people. We’re generally anonymous, and we try to avoid posting photos or personal identifiers online. It’s pretty unlikely that any zoo would sign up for a convention with the same name that they use online. Because of all that, it’s pretty much impossible for all zoos to be “banned”, or even the majority of them for that matter. Even if the whole board of directors hated zoos with all their being, there’s no way to tell which person interested in dog cock is a zoo, and which is just a furry. The board could make a statement saying “Zoos, we hate you, don’t come to our convention,” but outside of ruffling some feathers, that doesn’t actually stop anyone from attending. They could potentially make you sign a waiver saying you aren’t a zoo when you register, but that’s about as effective as the “Are you 18+” button on a porn site. With modern technology as it is, there’s just no way that they could manage to categorically stop zoos from attending. So, if zoos want to go to a convention they will, that’s just how it is.

But, the convention could at least issue a statement disavowing zoos, right? Well, there’s more to it than that.

Now I’m no lawyer, but I do know a little bit about discrimination. In the United States, discrimination based off of a number of protected features is illegal. These features are things like gender, race, sexuality, and importantly to this discussion, mental illness. If Walmart, for instance, issued a statement tomorrow saying, “If you have ADD, you can’t shop in our stores,” that would be a violation of the protected class laws. If a concert said, “We won’t sell tickets to anyone with Depression,” that would be the same issue. Right now, zoophilia is listed as an alternate paraphilia in the DSM-V. In other words, as a mental disability. While we here at Zooey Magazine absolutely do not support that classification, in a hilarious twist that distinction may currently work to our benefit. That means that if a convention were to even issue a statement saying “No zoos allowed”, that could actually be discriminating against a protected class. While the legal logic on this isn’t totally clear, it’s certainly enough of a concern that a huge convention like MFF would think twice about trying to go about it without consulting their own lawyers. And, even if they did feel like they might be able to get away with it, at the same time is it worth the risk when the end result would do nothing but appease Twitter for a week? There are so many layers to this issue, and the convention has to consider every single one or they could end up in huge trouble.

But, even if they do everything perfectly, there are still some things that are out of their hands. The biggest of those being their venues.

Conventions, for the most part, are held at hotels. The convention books out the hotel’s convention space, as well as a block of rooms for attendees, and the convention can then use that space for the weekend to run panels, events, and whatever else they want to do. For the rest of the year, however, that hotel is not associated with furry events. And, if the hotel is part of a major brand like Mariott, that one convention that one weekend is such a small speck of their business it’s practically negligible. If the furry convention were cancelled, it would not hurt the hotel chain all that much. What does hurt a huge hotel mega chain however, is bad publicity, because one Twitter post that goes particularly viral has the potential to affect their potential earning income for a long time. There are lots of options when it comes to hotels, and consumers may not need a lot of reason to change from being loyal to one brand to another. So, when people are tagging the Mariott in posts that say that there are going to be rooms of people raping animals staying at their hotels because of a furry convention, that’s something that presents a problem for them. When people email them saying that animal porn has and is being filmed in their rooms, and that porn is then being distributed for anyone to see, that’s a huge problem for them. A story like “New report finds animal abuse filmed in Mariott hotel” might cost them millions of dollars. Not to mention any legal issues they might then have to deal with. When faced with this issue, the first thing they would do is obvious. They would contact the convention, and get them to resolve the issue. Tell them to make this problem go away. Unfortunately, as we just went over, there’s realistically no way to stop zoos from attending the convention. So, the next step is to just cut the convention all together. It’s not worth the risk.

And so where does that leave us. Zoos aren’t happy because they’re getting harassed and bullied over trying to attend a convention. Antis aren’t happy because zoos are still attending and the convention won’t make a statement. The convention isn’t happy because they’re getting dragged on social media, and are experiencing pressure from the hotel, and the hotel isn’t happy because they’re at risk of a huge PR scandal. Nobody wins. We’re sitting here in a situation where anything could potentially happen, but there’s no way that everyone is happy. And as it looks right now, there’s really only two things that can happen from here. Either the hotel pulls the plug and the convention has to find a new venue, made harder by the fact that it was already dropped by one chain; Or, and this is probably the best option, nothing happens. We continue to sit here waiting until the time of the convention, and then everyone goes and has a great time and all of this becomes a distant memory until the next time the “Zoos at conventions” controversy comes up again.

Zoos are always going to be at furry conventions. Too many private zoos are also furries for that to not be the case. Even if the zoo community grew large enough and accepted enough to have furry-style conventions of our own, the furry community is just so much larger and therefore so much more able to really put on an amazing event. We just want to have a fun place to hang out with our friends and engage in a space that we love, just like every single other attendee there. Furries may own the house, but to be frank we built the foundation, and there’s no way they’re getting rid of us. So they can either get used to having us around, or they can try and burn the whole house down.

Article written by Tarro (October 2022)

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