by Michelle C. Pardo
The California legislature has passed a bill to ban the sale of new fur products anywhere within the state. The bill would make it unlawful to “sell, offer for sale, display for sale, trade, or otherwise distribute for monetary or nonmonetary consideration a fur product, as defined, in the state.” AB 44 (as amended). Should Governor Gavin Newsom sign AB44, California would be the first state in the nation to enact such legislation. Los Angeles, San Francisco, West Hollywood and Berkeley already have fur bans in place. Illegal items would include fur from undomesticated animals, including mink, rabbit and coyote. The legislation excludes certain products, such as pelts or skins preserved through taxidermy, animal skin that is to be converted into leather, and fur products used for religious or traditional Native American tribal, cultural or spiritual purposes. The bill carries civil penalties.
Months of testimony from fur retailers, farmers and ranchers, and cultural groups that place cultural tradition or value on fur apparently were not enough to overcome the voice of animal rights activists who pushed for the law, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and Compassionate Bay.
According to Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee):
“there’s no reason for this bill other than one class of society telling another class of society what they can and cannot wear. . . I didn’t come to Sacramento to shut down legitimate business or industry – the free market does that.”
Supporters of the bill claim that there is no humane way to source fur and have called the FurMark certification and traceability program (that certifies welfare and environmental standards of certain sourced fur) “a codification of abusive practices.” Although for extremist organizations such as PETA and DxE, the use of any animal, including as food, clothing, or exhibition, is inherently done through abusive practices.
The fur trade has a rich history in the United States and this country alone is home to more than 1,000 fur retailers, tens of thousands of fur trappers and over 200 family farms. It has been reported that retail fur sales in California alone exceed hundreds of millions in sales annually.
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) called fur a “fashion statement and statement of wealth” and stated that “there is no need for warmth,” instead promoting faux fur products. But the animal activists’ views don’t necessary match up with environmental facts and figures. Fur farming has been characterized as a sustainable form of animal agriculture and virtually no part of the farmed fur animal goes to waste. By contrast, certain faux fur products are made from nonrenewable petrochemicals, fossil fuels and plastics and the production of synthetic materials come with their own environmental issues, including the time they take to biodegrade in nature, and indirect wildlife impact.
Fur industry representatives apparently offered amendments to Friedman which she failed to accept or even discuss, according to a representative from the Fur Information Council of America. Besides fur farmers and manufacturers, opposition to the bill also came from the Los Angeles County Business Federation and the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce. Another local animal rights group behind the legislation, Animal Hope in Legislation, says this of California residents wanting to purchase new fur: “If you really want to get fur that bad, go to Vegas.”
Supporters of the bill are optimistic that the Governor will sign. Just last week the Democratic governor signed a bill that outlawed fur trapping for animal pelts, making California the first in the nation to impose such a ban. Following the signing of the bill, the governor’s office sent out a weak attempt at a humorous tweet featuring a puppet named “Potter the Otter” (who was supposed to represent Newsom’s former childhood pet) with the text “My friends & I should not have to live in fear of being trapped & our fur being sold!” The tweet got mixed reviews and mocking comments, including those that implored the governor to focus on “real issues” and those who criticized him for focusing on this issue while the homeless crisis and the public health issue it presents remain at the top of national news headlines.