Los Angeles Wants to Ban the Sale of Fur

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

City council voted unanimously this week to support a ban.

Los Angeles is set to become the latest -- and largest -- city to ban the sale of fur clothing and accessories. The first round of voting passed unanimously on September 18, which makes it likely that the second vote will go through, once the policy has been drafted by the city attorney. At that point, everything from fur coats and hats to mink stoles, fur handbags, and even lucky rabbits' feet will be banned from L.A. stores.

The New York Times quoted council member Bob Blumenfield, who introduced the motion:

“This is L.A. taking a stand and saying we will no longer be complicit in the inhumane and vile fur trade that’s been going on for years. We’re trying to set an example for the rest of the state and the rest of the country."

Los Angeles is not alone with its anti-fur sentiment. Other cities in California, including San Francisco, West Hollywood, and Berkeley, have passed fur bans, and a number of big fashion designers have also decided to go fur-free. Among these are Gucci, Versace, Hugo Boss, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Burberry, and Ralph Lauren. Several European fashion weeks are also boasting fur-free shows, spurred by growing numbers of animal rights protesters.

P.J. Smith is the senior manager of fashion policy at the Humane Society of the United States. He told the Times that cities are competing against each other to be the most compassionate:

“San Francisco’s colder, and when San Francisco banned fur sales, it was considered the compassion capital. Then you have L.A. turning around and claiming that title back.”

Not everyone is happy with the decision. USA Today reported that "no representatives of the fur industry appeared before the council because public testimony wasn't allowed." Keith Kaplan of the Fur Information Council of America said the facts are being manipulated to sound more sensationalist, and that there is a lot of misinformation.

"[Kaplan] refuted the allegations laid out by the city council members and anti-fur advocates, saying that dogs and cat pelts are not allowed for trade in the U.S. He said the fur industry does not engage in 'inhumane practices' and no animals are skinned alive. Animals are euthanized in accordance with American Veterinary Medical Association standards."

Regardless of which side of the debate you land on, what is not being discussed enough are the alternatives to animal fur, namely petroleum-based faux fur and fake leather ('pleather') made from PVC. These materials may alleviate immediate concerns about animal wellbeing, but they have longer-term ethical and environmental repercussions that must be considered. (Read: Vegan fashion is not always eco-friendly)

I can't help but think that banning fur is easy if you live in southern California. Talk to people in Moscow, Anchorage, or Ottawa, and you'd probably get less support for a ban. In cold climates fur is part of daily life and is often seen as a tribute to a traditional way of life, rather than a show of glamour.

Not to take anything away from the Los Angeles fur ban, but I can't help wondering why there's no mention of leather, suede, and down. In my experience, these animal-based materials are far more common than fur coats, and yet hardly make any headlines. If the LA city council is going to such extremes to ban fur, then why not stay consistent and ban all of these?