San Francisco bans fur sales, but is it a win?

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Nadja Beschetnikova
March 26, 2018

San Francisco has become the first major U.S. city to ban the sale of fur clothing and products.

But it’s not the first place in the country, which went fur-free. Previously, fur sales have been already outlawed in Berkeley, California, since 2017 and West Hollywood, California, since 2013. But San-Francisco is definitely the first city with the reputation as a fashion center to pass this legislation.

The ban, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, will not apply to second-hand stores and charities. The sale of fur coats and accessories, including key chains, phone cases, gloves and scarves, will no longer be legal, though current retailers will have until 2020 to clear out their inventory of the plush and often inhumane designs. Violators will face a $500 penalty per item, per day. The amount will be escalating with additional violations.

Fur sales in the city are estimated at an annual $40 million, according to the Chamber of Commerce. About 50 clothing and accessory retailers downtown will be affected by the legislation.

The ruling also applies to fur items purchased online, CBS reports. They will not be delivered to a San Francisco address, though no word yet on how the online ban will be enforced.

The decision was highly appreciated by animal welfare advocates around the world. The new legislation fits in with the recent trends in the fashion industry. Several major fashion brands like Versace, Gucci, and Furla has already announced their intention to go entirely fur-free.

According to animal welfare organizations such as In Defense of Animals, it’s estimated that over 50 million animals are killed worldwide every year to support the fashion industry.

Though some are skeptical about the innovation and pointed out that the ban won’t do anything to actually protect animals since it’ll merely force retailers and furriers to relocate.

“It’s really not going to have an effect on animal welfare because a lot of these retailers said they’ll pack up and move outside of the city,” Nancy Daigneault, vice-president, Americas, at the International Fur Federation, tells Global News. “Certainly, the [designers] selling at small boutiques will be impacted, but if their end goal was to put a dent in the industry, it won’t come to fruition.”

Local business owners have meanwhile expressed concern that law can significantly harm the overall local economy. Retailers in San Francisco balked at what they called another social mandate at the cost of their ability to make a living.

"It should be a citywide public vote; it shouldn't be decided by the Board of Supervisors," said Skip Pas, chief executive officer of West Coast Leather.

Alan Herscovici, former executive director of the Fur Council of Canada, sees a contradiction between the decision taken and the value that fashion industry has been preaching in recent times, sustainability to be exact. Herscovici pointed that the fur industry a perfect example of a sustainable use of natural resources since it’s biodegradable, long-lasting, and can be restyled or recycled into a number of new styles or items.

As a comparison, faux fur is made from petroleum, which is a non-renewable source, and recent research shows that clothing made from petrochemical synthetics leach microfibres of plastic into the ecosystem.

It’s obvious that anti-fur campaign will be truly successful when it’ll become a worldwide movement involving as many participants as possible.

More recently, the Netherlands, the European Union’s largest producer of fur, banned fur farming in 2012 and plans to end mink farming by 2024. Earlier this month, Norway banned fur farms and will phase out fox and mink farms by 2025.

San Francisco supervisor Katy Tang, one of the leaders behind the ban, said that the law will be a clear message.

“I hope that it inspires other cities and the country to take action. Certainly we need better federal regulations on fur farming,” she said. “There’s no humane way to raise an animal to peel its skin off.” 

Photo via Wikipedia Commons / Grossbildjaeger

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