Berkeley City Council approves ban on local fur sales

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Micah Carroll/File

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Berkeley City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance last week that is set to ban the local sale of fur apparel products.

The item — sponsored by Councilmember Kriss Worthington and spearheaded by the Berkeley Coalition for Animals — is modeled after similar legislation against fur commerce passed in West Hollywood in 2013. The agenda memo stated that the market demand for fur products should not justify animal torture.

“The point of this ordinance is simply to prevent animal suffering for the sake of human adornment and vanity,” said local business owner Christina Conrad during public comment. “I feel very strongly that as a merchant, especially in the city of Berkeley, I have a responsibility to sell and promote only ethical and cruelty-free products to the public.”

Certain products, such as leather, were exempt from the city’s definition of fur, meaning that the transaction of such products would remain legal. Stores that sell second-hand fur products would also be unaffected.

Members from the Berkeley Coalition for Animals have previously stated that it is unaware of any stores in Berkeley that currently sell new fur products.

During the meeting, Councilmember Sophie Hahn proposed to amend the definition of fur to exclude items made from cowhide because such materials, especially sheep or lamb skin, are often used in children’s blankets for their hypoallergenic qualities.

Jay Quigley, secretary of the Berkeley Coalition for Animals, said during public comment that he believes that the council should not alter the definition of fur because this definition was already tested by the courts that addressed the West Hollywood fur ban.

“The ban should not discriminate on the basis of what species of an animal is,” said Zach Groff a spokesperson for Direct Action Everywhere, an animal rights group. “We are already recognizing that torturing animals for human desires is wrong.”

Despite this criticism, the amendment passed in a 6-3 vote. The second reading of the amended ordinance is slated to pass on the consent calendar at Berkeley City Council’s meeting Tuesday.

Contact Francesca Munsayac at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that fur sold by nonprofits is exempt from the ban. In fact, this proposed amendment was struck down.

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  • Zachary Groff

    This is awesome. Great job to Berkeley Coalition for Animals (berkeleycoalition.org) for organizing this bill and Direct Action Everywhere (directactioneverywhere.com/sign-up) for supporting!

  • opinionmaven

    Sheepskin blankets and cowhide rugs are not banned under any version of the bill, which applies only to apparel.

  • Steph Thompson

    This is retarded. Cowhide and sheep skin are byproducts of the meat industry, let’s just dump them down holes then and not make use of the whole already-dead animal. This isn’t about cruelty, its about forcing the vegan religion on everyone.

    • opinionmaven

      Cowhide and sheepskin are not, as popularly believed, merely byproducts. Cows and sheep are often killed for their skins.

      • Steph Thompson

        It is NOT profitable to raise sheep/cattle for skins alone so that is an outright lie.

    • Zachary Groff

      Also, in addition to what @opinionmaven:disqus said, the more you can sell from an animal, the more of an incentive there is to raise, torture, and kill animals. If animals can be raised for meat + skin, a lot more will be raised than if they are only raised for meat, and we know how ugly that industry is.

      • opinionmaven

        A cow’s skin is approximately 10% of her total value, making it the most profitable part of her body. Surprisingly, leather actually makes the meat industry more sustainable (as selling skins is very profitable while meat isn’t always so), not the other way around.

    • Jenna MIles

      Actually, they aren’t. Besides, it means more money for the industry anyway. Veganism is not a religion, although all religions are compatible with veganism. It is an ethical stance. That would be like saying feminism is a religion. there are agnostic, atheist, jewish, muslim and hindu vegans. Vegans of any religion really.

    • arnaud

      It’s 2 different things with different context. A fur ban can indeed spare millions of animals, simply because fox mink and raccoons are killed for their fur. Cowhide and sheep as you said come from the meat industry so even a ban would not spare them.

  • al smith

    “I feel very strongly that as a merchant, especially in the city of Berkeley, I have a responsibility to sell and promote only ethical and cruelty-free products to the public.”
    so do that and stop meddling in the business of others.. if your products are superior you will become wealthy and the others will be bankrupt.. it is called the FREE market

    • Zachary Groff

      In standard free market economics, when a good imposes an externality on someone else (i.e. as a result of buying fur an animal is tortured), you should regulate that. In extreme cases like outright torture and killing, a ban makes sense.

    • Jenna MIles

      A personal choice is no longer a personal choice when it affects others. Should we also allow children to be sold because it is a ‘free market’?

  • al smith

    yes the heck with children it is all about the “animals”. why is leather exempt? it is just skin with the fur removed.. and why are non profits exempt?

    • Zachary Groff

      We (those who helped get the ban passed) agree! You should get involved to help prevent all animal torture and products thereof in Berkeley. Check out Berkeley Coalition for Animals (berkeleycoalition.org) and Direct Action Everywhere (directactioneverywhere.com/sign-up)

    • arnaud

      well not really actually. Leather most of the time comes from “food animal” (usually cows) on the other hand fur animals are killed just for the fur. Banning fur product can spare animals.