Animal rights activists march to Sproul Plaza in support of Berkeley fur ban

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More than 110 people marched through the streets from Downtown Berkeley BART to Sproul Plaza Sunday afternoon in support of a forthcoming Berkeley City Council proposal that would ban the sale of fur in the city.

The proposal  is modeled after a similar West Hollywood ordinance that went into effect in 2013 and will be considered at Berkeley City Council’s March 14 meeting. Members of animal advocacy groups Berkeley Coalition for Animals and Direct Action Everywhere, both of which have been lobbying for the proposal’s adoption, were heavily represented at the protest. Many protesters held signs or wore pins that read “Ban Fur.”

Berkeley Police Department released an advisory at around 2:00 p.m. warning that the protest was blocking Durant Avenue east of Shattuck Avenue. By 2:30 p.m. the marchers had gathered at Sproul Plaza where organizers and former 2016 presidential candidate Clifton Roberts spoke about the potential impact of a fur-ban in Berkeley.

“We need to speak out against greed, death and turmoil,” Roberts said. “We are standing hand in hand speaking out against torture.”

Though animal advocates have not identified any stores that sell new fur products in Berkeley, some thrift stores in the city, such as Buffalo Exchange, sell second-hand fur. Jay Quigley, secretary for the Berkeley Coalition for Animals, said that he does not believe that the sale of used fur products would be banned by the proposal.

Campus third-year Shannon Ashoori, who was on Sproul Plaza at the time of the protest, said that though she does not have a strong opinion on the fur ban, she does not see the point in wearing fur given that faux-fur alternatives exist.

She added, however, that she understands why other past animal rights demonstrations have made campus students “uncomfortable.” She recounted an experience when activists confronted her and others waiting in line to get doughnuts about the animal-based products in the food.

Matt Johnson, an activist with Direct Action Everywhere, said that the agenda item to ban fur is mostly symbolic and is part of a broader goal to make Berkeley “the most animal-friendly city in America.” He added that the proposal is a good starting point for the animal rights movement because fur products, which are typically seen as elitist and expensive, already lack public support.

“We’re banning fur today and we’re going to ban meat tomorrow,” said  Priya Sawhney, social media coordinator for Direct Action Everywhere. “Everyone can follow Berkeley.”

In a speech to the crowd, Orlando Torres, a volunteer for Berkeley Coalition for Animals, said that he thinks it is important to institutionalize the practices that already exist in Berkeley so that local stores remain fur-free in the future.

“We’re showing the city of Berkeley that we care,” Torres said to the crowd. “There are so many important issues in Berkeley, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to turn a blind eye toward violence against animals.”

Jessica Lynn is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.

A headline accompanying a previous version of this article misspelled Berkeley.

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  • James Purcell

    If we don’t need to eat animals for health, why are we doing this to them?

    If you watch this 10 minute speech, you will think about keeping animals off your plate forever, whether you want to or not. I challenge you. Prove me wrong, watch it while paying attention and find out.


  • The entire world ought to ban the sale (and production) of fur. Berkeley, along with West Hollywood, are among the first jurisdictions to pursue that long-, long-overdue agenda. They will not be the last.

  • Ty Savoy

    So wonderful to see this happening !

  • sandi

    Direct action is a bunch of terrorists,going to ban meat- pfft….as if.

  • Gaddy McGadfly

    Whether or not to wear fur is a personal decision, not a political issue. Berkeley’s city council ought to be considering how to bring more career level jobs to Berkeley.

    • Orlando Torres

      A “personal issue” is one that only affects the person making the decision. Buying fur, and promoting it, contributes to the exploitation of animals for human profit, so it is not a “personal decision”. Just like kicking a puppy is not a “personal decision”, neither is wearing fur. Banning violence against oppressed groups and giving legal protections to animals is very clearly a political issue.

      • Gaddy McGadfly

        Buying fur is a personal decision capitalized by those who see they can make a profit. Don’t buy the product; it won’t be promoted, sales will decline; because there is no profit, it will not be sold. I have no use for fur per se and most (but not all) animal products. Nevertheless I resist someone imposing legislated moral agendas on me.

        If you going to use an analogy it has to fit exactly, kicking a puppy is a personal decision, exploiting animals is a personal decision. violence against oppressed groups is a personal decision, and protecting animals from abuse is a great idea but I still do not regard it as a political issue as much as an educational ideal. Urge people to come to it by their own means it works better if they believe it was their own idea.

        • Orlando Torres

          But most of our laws are based on common “moral agendas”. We can’t hurt other people, we can’t torture dogs, we can’t steal, we can’t discriminate against people of color. Should all of these also be allowed because you don’t like people “imposing legislated moral agendas”?

          • Gaddy McGadfly

            We have laws that impose consequences for committing such acts as you describe, they do not necessarily restrain people from perpetrating such acts. They are not imposed moral agendas. Most of our laws are based on ethical considerations agreed to among ourselves. Morality prevails in private beliefs and personal behavior; ethics operates in professional interactions; and law regulates society as a whole. In this instance you are saying people are doing something you find objectionable and in this regard you support the City Council’s efforts making a law. I do not agree. While I agree in principal to the ethical treatment of animals. I think the City Council’s time and efforts are better directed to more pressing and serious problems facing Berkeley as a whole.

          • But it is okay to torture other animals! Wow!!!

        • Violence against oppressed groups is the very thing that we have whole classes of laws against.

          This will be just another law prohibiting the support of violence against an oppressed group.

  • David Power

    As usual, the animal rights activists are barking up the wrong tree.

    • Matt Johnson

      I understand the intuition, but I think the best evidence suggests that pushing the frontier on social issues in the most progressive areas is the best strategy for long-term change. As opposed to going to the worst-of-the-worst and trying to get them catch up with the best we have now- which, in the case of animal rights, means lip service, marketing ploys, and pacifying compassionate consumers against taking meaningful action.

  • roccolore

    But how many of them wore leather?

    • Ty Savoy

      Wow never heard that one before.

  • JimRossi

    “Elitist and expensive” – that is EXACTLY how I describe Berkeley. And “authoritarian wing-nut.” Great bike riding though. And some cool people.

  • JimRossi

    “Elitist and expensive” – that is EXACTLY how I describe Berkeley. And wing-nut.

  • k_mcsparin

    typo of Berkeley in title — that is cringe-worthy

  • peta kills animals