California Bans Sale of Fur Clothing

CC BY 2.0. Franck Michel -- Fur coats and palm trees

It will soon be illegal to sell, trade, or donate furs of any kind.

On Friday, California's governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that will ban the sale of all new fur products. The bill (AB44) applies to clothing, handbags, shoes, slippers, hats, key chains, pompoms, etc., and defines fur as anything "with hair, fleece or fur fibers attached thereto." It will take effect on January 1, 2023.

As the New York Times explains, this applies to "mink, sable, chinchilla, lynx, fox, rabbit, beaver, coyote and other luxury furs," while exceptions have been made for deerskin, cowhide, goatskin, and sheepskin, and for the use of fur in religious and traditional cultural ceremonies. Other animal products such as leather, wool, down, silk, and cashmere are not affected, although it's likely these will be the next disputed territory by animal welfare advocates.

Under the new bill, it will be illegal to produce, sell, display, donate, or trade any fur product within the state of California. An initial offence will cost a retailer $500, then $1,000 for subsequent offences. Wearing fur is not illegal, however, so a Californian could still purchase a jacket outside the state and wear it at home, but this obviously becomes more uncomfortable, as one could be accused of breaking the law.

Regional bans have existed up until now in Los Angeles, Berkeley, and San Francisco, and similar bills have been discussed in New York state and Hawaii, but this is the first state-wide ban to pass. Concerns about fur production have increased in recent years, with Serbia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic banning fur farming.

Luxury fashion brands don't seem concerned about California's move, as they too have been moving away from fur. Gucci, Versace, Armani, Calvin Klein, Givency, Hugo Boss, Tom Ford, Burberry, Jimmy Choo, and Ralph Lauren have all gone fur-free in recent years, as has London Fashion Week.

While animal welfare is an important topic, there is concern about the petroleum-based synthetic alternatives that will be introduced in place of fur. As the New York Times says, "These are generally regarded as entirely disposable, which means they end up in landfill, which means fake fur is probably worse for the environment than real fur, which is almost never thrown away."

It also poses a threat to wildlife, in the form of microplastics and leaching of chemicals into waterways and food chains, which makes it an indirect form of animal cruelty – less brutal, perhaps, than harvesting fur, but still deeply concerning. I wrote earlier,

"Sustainably-minded designers could embrace materials like Pinatex, made from pineapple leaf fibers, or Modern Meadow, a bio-fabricated leather made from collagen-producing yeast, or MycoWorks, a leather-like material grown from mushrooms. The point is, green alternatives do exist, and no doubt more will be developed, but they have yet to become mainstream."