Fox fur scarf options from Mitchie's Matchings, at Moda.

California is taking a historically tough stance on the fur industry.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed a bill, AB44, passed through the state senate last month, banning all sales and manufacture of new fur products in the state. Newsom on Twitter described the bill as “one of the strongest animal rights laws in U.S. history.” It also makes California the first state in the nation to adopt such a law.

“California is a leader when it comes to animal welfare and today that leadership includes banning the sale of fur,” Newsom wrote in a statement.

AB44 applies to all apparel and accessories that would contain fur, from coats to keychains, but used or vintage fur products are exempt. It also exempts leather, cowhide and shearling (materials that often make their way to market as part of the food industry and would be otherwise wasted), as well as “fur products used for religious purposes.” There are further provisions for the exemption of taxidermy products and fur from animals lawfully taken while hunting.

In addition to the fur sales ban, the governor signed a package of other new animal rights laws, including a ban on the slaughter of horses, the use of wild animals in circuses, an extension on an already enacted ban on the trade of dead animal parts and a ban on the trapping or killing of bobcats in the state. He also last month signed into law a ban on fur trapping and earlier this year the City of Los Angeles banned fur sales.

“We are making a statement to the world that beautiful wild animals like bears and tigers have no place on trapeze wires or jumping through flames,” Newsom added. “Just YouTube the videos showing the cruel way these animals — often stripped from their mothers as babies — are trained to do dangerous tricks. It’s deeply disturbing.”

California’s move was widely applauded by animal rights groups. PETA vice president Tracy Reiman said the group was “proud to have worked with compassionate legislators to push these lifesaving laws forward and looks to other states to follow California’s progressive lead.”

Kitty Block, chief executive officer of the Humane Society, said the ban on new fur sales “underscores the point that today’s consumers simply don’t want wild animals to suffer extreme pain and fear for the sake of fashion.”

Block added: “More cities and states are expected to follow California’s lead and the few brands and retailers that still sell fur will no doubt take a look at innovative alternatives that don’t involve animal cruelty.”

The Humane Society also positioned California’s move — which comes after many major brands, including Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Burberry and more, over the last few years went ahead and halted the use of fur in their products and designs — as putting “huge pressure” on the U.K. government to adopt a similar ban on the sale of fur.

Marylin Kroplick, president of In Defense of Animals, an animal rights group that supported AB44, praised the enactment of the bill and said the group “will continue to work with dedicated activists and organizations to make fur history across the U.S and around the world.”

There are pro-fur groups, however, that have tried to lobby against the ban on fur and fur-related activities. The Truth About Fur is one such group and its argument in favor of fur largely rests on the logic that increasingly popular fake fur, typically made from petrochemicals and plastics, is more harmful for the environment than the “well-regulated” killing of animals for fur. The group is run by several pro-fur groups and lobbies, like the Canada Mink Breeders Association and Fur Commission USA. The groups also all cite a PwC study from 2012 that estimated global fur sales to be worth $35 billion. In North America, retail sales of fur in 2013 were estimated to be around $1 billion, according to research from the Fur Information Council of America.

The council’s Keith Kaplan criticized the bill and Governor Newsom’s passage of it, saying he “failed to recognize the human toll,” arguing fur-producing businesses will be forced to close “with no compensation to the business owners.” However, business listings in the state show just over a dozen companies listed as participating in fur farming, almost all dealing in mink. Fur Commission USA stopped “revealing” the number of fur farms in the U.S. in 2012.

Kaplan also argued that the bill “will do nothing for animal welfare and nothing to stop out-of-state sales of fur into California.” He even claimed the ban will somehow lead to the future ban of wool blankets and meat for food.

“This issue is about much more than animal welfare in the fur industry,” Kaplan insisted. “It is about the end of animal use of any kind. Fur today, leather tomorrow, your wool blankets and silk sheets — and meat after that.

“We intend to challenge this law in the courts,” he continued. “It does not bode well for honest, hard-working people, for democracy, and for commerce when by government fiat businesses can be terminated for no other reason than to score political points with a handful of fanatics.”

But such an extreme stance and the groups’ many months of campaigning seem to have done little to curb anti-fur sentiment among some state and local governments, as well as fashion houses operating amid changing ideas around what actually constitutes luxury. The rise of normcore and the elevation of the mundane, à la Vetements and Off-White and street style at large, joined up with a growing concern, at least by some designers, about reactions to fur products by consumers and fans.

Gucci’s much lauded creative director Alessandro Michele told WWD that the house’s decision to go fur free 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.”

For More, See:

The Fur Debate: What Designers Say

Gucci Goes Fur Free, Outlines Sustainability Approach

City of Los Angeles Approves Ban of Fur Starting in 2021

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