Israel Is First Country to Ban Sale of Fur Fashion

The new regulation will take effect in six months, with a few exceptions.

rack of fur coats

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Less than a year ago, Israel's environment minister Gila Gamliel described the fur industry as "immoral." She stated an intention to make the sale of fur for fashion purposes illegal, and this week did precisely that. She signed a regulation, supported by 86% of the population, that would ban the sale of fur to the fashion industry, making Israel the first country in the world to do so.

After signing, Gamliel issued a statement: "The fur industry causes the deaths of hundreds of millions of animals worldwide, and inflicts indescribable cruelty and suffering... Animal fur coats cannot cover the brutal murder industry that makes them. Signing these regulations will make the Israeli fashion market more environmentally friendly and far kinder to animals."

There are a few exceptions. Fur will still be allowed for "scientific research, education or instruction, and for religious purposes or tradition." Many Orthodox Jewish men wear fur hats called shtreimels on Shabbat and holidays and that practice will remain protected, to the frustration of some. Israel's Society for the Protection of Animals stated last October that the use of shtreimels was "a primitive way to practice Judaism to cause so much pain to animals" and it hoped religion will not "continue to be an excuse" to carry on the fur trade. Without that loophole, however, it's unlikely the regulation would have passed.

Humane Society International (HSI) is delighted by the news. Claire Bass, executive director of the United Kingdom chapter, called it "a truly historic day for animal protection": 

"Israel’s fur ban will save the lives of millions of animals suffering on fur farms or languishing in cruel traps around the world, and it sends a clear message that fur is unethical, unnecessary, and outdated. We now call on the British government to follow Israel’s compassionate lead and implement a UK fur import and sales ban once [the British government's] Call for Evidence is completed. For as long as the UK remains open for business to sell fur that we deemed too cruel to farm here two decades ago, we are complicit in this cruelty."

The International Anti-Fur Coalition has been working toward a fur ban since 2009, so it welcomed the news as a long-fought victory. Jane Halevy, IAFC's founder, said in a press release: "Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come. Killing animals for fur should become illegal everywhere—it is high time that governments worldwide ban the sale of fur."

While individual cities and the state of California have all taken steps to ban the sale of fur fashion, Israel is the first to do it as an entire country. Fur farming has been banned in the U.K. since 2003 and has been or is in the process of being phased out in countries across Europe. HSI/UK reported that, most recently, "The parliament in Estonia voted in favor of a fur farming ban, Hungary declared a ban on the farming of animals including mink and foxes, in France politicians are currently debating a ban on mink fur farming and the Irish government has made a commitment to bring forward legislation in 2021."

The new Israeli regulation will take effect in six months. There was no mention of leather being an ethical issue.