Pro-fur groups are making good on a promise to litigate the increasingly popular anti-fur stance being taken by local and state governments.
The International Fur federation, a fur pro-fur association based in London, on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against the City of San Francisco over city legislators’ 2018 approval of a ban on the sale of new fur products. The new law took effect last year, but retailers of fur, which include companies like Canada Goose, had until 2020 to sell through any remaining stock. The IFF said it’s filed the suit now to prevent the ordinance from taking effect, calling it “an attempt to legislate morality.” Generally, the lawsuit argues that the ban is unconstitutional and in violation of the Commerce Clause, which gives the federal government some power over states’ buying and selling powers.
The State of California and the City of Los Angeles also last year passed bans on newly made fur products, with exclusions like vintage fur items and leather, cowhide and shearling (materials that often make their way to market as part of the food industry and would be otherwise wasted), along with “fur products used for religious purposes.” Pro-fur groups vowed litigation against those laws as well. But they have a window of several years before they officially take effect. The city and state of New York are also said to be considering similar bans on fur products, as well as the state of Hawaii.
Mark Oaten, chief executive officer of the IFF, kept with the pro-industry stance that bans like San Francisco’s portend and end to all animal-related products for purchase, even food, despite no legal discussions ever being had on such an issue, much less formal laws being brought up anywhere for legislative approval. But should the IFF be successful in its suit against the city, it would likely have implications on any other city or state that enacts such bans.
“If this law is allowed to stand, there’s nothing stopping San Francisco from banning wool, leather, meat or other products that a small group of activists don’t approve of,” Oaten said in a statement. “Californian’s should have no fewer rights than residents from other states. They should be free to buy legally produced goods unless there is a public safety or health issue — which does not exist here.”
But anti-fur advocates, like The Human Society of the United States, which has supported fur bans and brands that have elected to stop designing with fur, are continuing to argue that such decisions are simply a reflection of evolving ideals enacted through a democratic process.
“Time and again we’ve seen animal abuse industries desperately try to override democratically-enacted humane legislation, and time and again they’ve failed,” Kitty Block, president and ceo of The Humane Society, told WWD. “We expect no different here, because the fur ordinance is well within San Francisco’s authority under California and federal law.”
The IFF also argued, as it and other pro-fur groups have before around anti-fur moves by cities and brands, that a ban on the selling of newly made fur products harms local business and the environment, as fake fur products tend to be made from petroleum and plastic-based fibers. The IFF claims that San Francisco does $40 million a year in fur sales and that on a global scale, the fur industry is a $23 billion business.
But the environmental angle also has another side, according to anti-fur groups.
“The fact is, animals on fur factory farms endure constant fear, crammed into tiny cages where they await a hideous death by gassing and electrocution. And fur is an environmental nightmare, with pelts processed in a slurry of toxic chemicals to prevent animals’ skin from rotting, as it naturally would,” Block said. “Consumers simply don’t want to support these types of environmental and animal welfare abuses, and we encourage the fur trade to focus on innovative fur-free materials rather than grasp at straws to keep its status quo.”
Another pro-fur group, the Fur Information Council of America, praised the IFF’s lawsuit. “This ban does nothing to improve animal welfare,” the group claimed in a statement. “True progressivism is not the city council dictating to people that they can’t buy fur or what they must eat or wear, but in supporting science-based programs such as FurMark that ensure sustainability and animal welfare.”
FurMark, created by the IFF, is said to be a new certification program to ensure the welfare and treatment of animals raised for the purposes of fur. The process is not yet in full effect and is only expected to be sometime this year. There is no exception in any of the laws passed so far for FurMark certified fur products.
But the fur industry’s attempts to position fur as the ecologically responsible choice haven’t done much to curb brands loss of appetite for its use. Stella McCartney is a longtime advocate of fur-free and vegan fashion, and even houses such as Gucci, Chanel and Michael Kors, among many others. Retailer’s too have willingly given up selling fur products, including Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
After Gucci decided to go fur-free in 2018, much lauded creative director Alessandro Michele told WWD that the decision was like giving up smoking.
“You love it, but it’s not good,” Michele explained. “So, at the end, you just have to take your box of cigarettes and throw it in the bin and that’s it. Because after, you feel much better.”
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