Fur Bans Test the Limits of Animal Protection Laws

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By Richard Dahl on August 12, 2019 1:09 PM

Americans are carrying their love for their furry and feathered animal friends to new, statutorily protected levels. From California to New York, states and cities have considered bans on fur sales, animal testing, cat declawing, and more:

  • California is poised to become the first state to ban the manufacture and sale of new fur products, following the lead of several cities in the state that have done so. In addition, New York City is seriously considering a fur ban.
  • New York City is also weighing a spate of measures – 16 in all – ranging from prohibition of wild bird trafficking to mandating improved working conditions for carriage horses.
  • Last November, California passed the most far-reaching farmed animal protection legislation in the country. Two months later, California banned the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet stores unless they come from shelters.
  • New Jersey recently became the first state to ban traveling acts that feature exotic animals like elephants.
  • California and Nevada have banned the sale of cosmetics that use animal testing, while a similar measure in Illinois is awaiting the governor’s signature.
  • New York State recently outlawed the common practice of cat declawing, while declawing bills have been introduced in several other states.

In most of these cases, the measures enjoy strong public support — who doesn’t want sheep and carriage horses to have better lives, after all? But one issue in particular — the fur ban — is more controversial.

The Fight Over Fur

Even though anti-fur sentiment is growing, so are fur sales. According to the market research firm Euromonitor International, the sales of fur apparel and clothing accessories have been climbing steadily for the last 10 years, hitting $531 million in 2018.

The proposed fur ban in New York City, for instance, is enjoying 75% public support. But the city officials are experiencing significant blowback from the city’s garment industry.

The pro-fur forces argue that a ban would have a significant economic impact in Gotham, costing thousands of jobs. But opposition to the ban is also coming from unexpected quarters. The New York Times recently reported that the proposed ban has encountered

‘Faux Fur’ and the Environment

Back in California, meanwhile, the opponents of the ban are focusing part of their argument on an environmental claim, which goes like this: In the last couple of years, “faux fur” has gained strong popularity as a synthetic fur replacement, but (according to the pro-fur forces) faux fur is more environmentally harmful than real fur because it is made from synthetic fibers — plastics that don’t break down — while real fur biodegrades naturally over time.

The faux fur side acknowledges this deficiency but says it’s making strides to correct it. Mina Jugovic, administrator of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion in London, recently told the BBC of an increasing reliance on biotech to create biodegradable faux fur.

Until faux fur can claim a pure environmental bill of health, though, it’s probably safe to predict that both sides will fight it out like cats and dogs. And that fur will fly.

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