Sacramento Bee: California leads the way for animal welfare protections. So why haven't we banned fur yet?
California is one of the most progressive states in the nation. We lead the world in a range of sectors, and are always putting forward cutting-edge policies that establish a more equitable society for all who call our state home. So why then are we continuing to allow an outdated and unnecessary industry that profits off of the inhumane treatment of animals continue in California?
For my first legislative proposal for this session, I put forward Assembly Bill 44, a measure that will put California further on the path toward an animal cruelty-free future by placing a statewide prohibition on the sale of new animal fur products.
Given the overwhelming evidence of inhumane practices in the fur industry and the availability of so many different options for warm and fashionable fabrics, we should not continue to be complicit in unnecessary cruelty.
It is a measure that has had resounding support and success in cities throughout California. After dozens of exposés from around the world showed appalling cruelty in the fur industry – including animals being skinned alive – West Hollywood became the first city to ban fur sales in 2013. Berkeley followed suit in 2017, and San Francisco and Los Angeles did the same in 2018.
We have a history of being a world leader on animal welfare issues. With the passage of Proposition 12 last November, Californians overwhelmingly voted to end the extreme cage confinement of pigs, calves and egg-laying hens. We were also the first in the nation to ban pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits that come from large breeding operations – like puppy mills – because the pets living in our shelters deserve a chance to get a home.
Now we have the opportunity to ban animal fur because innovative alternatives allow us to have the look and feel of fur without the cruelty.
The fur industry raises and kills more than 100 million wild animals every year in factory farm-like operations where mink, rabbits, foxes and raccoon dogs live in tiny barren cages, unable to exhibit important natural behaviors like burrowing, swimming or running. The pain and stress this causes leads to self-mutilation, illness and deformities. The animals often literally go insane. The methods for slaughter can be extraordinarily cruel.
The fur industry has far-reaching environmental implications as well. Waste runoff from fur factory farms seeps into rivers and lakes. To stop the animals’ rotting skin from decomposing, fur pelts are treated with toxic, carcinogenic chemicals. Last year, the French advertising authority stated that, “numerous reliable reports show that the production of fur is extremely cruel and polluting, and that the final product contains toxic substances.” Not to mention, the archaic traps used to catch animals in the wild commonly kill threatened or endangered species – and even our pets.
You may be surprised to know that the one of the primary proponents of the push against the fur trade is the business sector. Both Patagonia and Stella McCartney have already endorsed my AB 44. Numerous other brands and retailers – including Gucci, Burberry, Chanel, Versace, Armani, St. John Knits, Net-a-Porter, Farfetch, Michael Kors and so many others – have announced fur-free policies, opting instead for alternatives that are at least as warm and fashionable as fur without the harmful consequences.
The fur industry’s days are clearly numbered. Today’s consumers, along with the next generation of consumers, are making it clear that this sort of cruelty is no longer acceptable.
Citizens have already spoken in our cities. Californians have already let it be known at the ballot box that we believe in the well-being and rights of animals. The state Assembly has already agreed that it’s about time by passing the legislation with bipartisan support. I believe California as a whole is ready to take the next step and continue to be a world leader by passing AB 44 into law.
Assemblywoman Laura Friedman represents California’s 43rd Assembly District.