Last week, Justin Bieber introduced his social media followers to his new kittens, Sushi and Tuna, by launching their own Instagram account.
The kittens are not your typical tabbies, however; Sushi and Tuna are exotic Savannah cats, a bespoke breed created by mixing a domestic cat with a serval, a medium-sized wild African cat.
The breed is highly controversial, and Savannah cats have been banned in several U.S. states, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, Texas, and Georgia.
They are also not cheap; according to estimates, the cost for one of these rare Savannah kittens ranges from $15,000 to $20,000 a cat.
While fans were delighted — the kitten’s Instagram account already has more than a quarter-million followers — not everyone was so enchanted.
“Baby, baby, baby, nooooooo,” wrote Lisa Lange, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in a statement to USA Today.
“Justin Bieber could inspire his fans around the world to save a life by adopting a cat from a local animal shelter — rather than fuelling the dangerous demand for hybrid cats, contributing to the animal overpopulation crisis, and proving that when it comes to helping animals, his stance so far is ‘I don’t care,'” she wrote.
Bieber was not having it, and issued a scathing response via Instagram Story, telling PETA to “suck it.”
“PETA go focus on real problems,” he wrote early Friday. “Like poaching, and animal brutality. Ur tripping because I want a specific kind of cat? U weren’t tripping when I got my dog Oscar and he wasn’t a rescue.”
He continued: “Every pet we get must be a rescue? I believe in adopting rescues but also think there are preferences and that’s what breeders are for.”
Bieber concluded by telling PETA to “go help with all of the plastic in the ocean, and leave my beautiful cats alone.”
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk replied to Bieber and pulled no punches.
“Sorry, Justin, but you must think more deeply about this issue: When millions of animals are losing their lives every year because not enough people adopt — choosing instead to shop — the animal overpopulation crisis is a ‘real problem,'” said Newkirk in a statement to ET Canada.
“That’s what ‘sucks.’ PETA urges you to spend just one hour in a municipal animal shelter with us — we think you’ll understand how hard it is to look into the animals’ eyes and know that because people pay breeders, many of them will pay with their lives,” Newkirk continued. “You have the power to be a great role model on this issue — your behaviour guides that of tons of your fans — so please put that to good use.”