Berkeley animal rights group petitions for ban on fur sales

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With its new petition, Berkeley Coalition for Animals hopes to make Berkeley the first city in the Bay Area to ban the sale of fur.

BCA’s petition has quickly garnered more than 1,900 online supporters and urges Berkeley City Council to make Berkeley the second city in California, after West Hollywood, where selling fur is illegal. City Council plans to discuss the fur-banning proposal at its March 14 meeting, according to Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

BCA created the petition three weeks ago, after teaming up with similar animal rights organizations such as Direct Action Everywhere and campus group Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy.

“We believe (Berkeley is) the best starting point,” said Zach Groff, spokesperson for Direct Action Everywhere. “Berkeley is the leader for everything, for disability (rights), the environment. … It is only right to see Berkeley leading the way for animals too.”

Amy Halpern-Laff, one of the founding members of BCA, said this new policy is not intended to target a specific business but rather to ensure that Berkeley businesses stay fur-free in the future.

Halpern-Laff said after a thorough search, she had not found any stores in Berkeley that sell fur products. Buffalo Exchange, a thrift store on Telegraph Avenue, however, accepts used fur clothing, according to store associate Elise Ball.

Buffalo Exchange Public Relations could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Groff said there has been a tremendous shift from decades ago when fur was a very popular fashion statement and that people are now wearing less fur clothing. He added that he hopes this new policy will cement the modern belief that the fur trade is violent against animals.

The 2011 fur-free policy in West Hollywood, according to Halpern-Laff, was able to withstand legal challenges from fur-selling stores in West Hollywood and gives Berkeley a “solid” chance of passing a similar policy.

“The overwhelming sentiment in Berkeley is that people don’t buy fur already,” Worthington said. “There are lots of alternatives for consumers, so it’s not going to create a dramatic decline in someone’s life.”

Direct Action Everywhere advocated for a “symbolic” city measure condemning the dog meat trade in China, which passed in September 2016, according to Groff. Groff said the banning of fur, however, will grant animals more concrete protections.

“Most animals under the law are just property,” Groff said. “I feel we treat animals fundamentally wrong, and they should get the same rights as human children represented in court.”

Halpern-Laff said BCA wanted to start with banning fur — instead of another animal-related material like leather — because fur is a luxury item that very few people can afford. She said leather is a part of society’s culture and speculates that in one generation, people will be ready to give up leather as well.

Local animal rights groups have organized a march supporting the ban that will take place Feb. 26 at the Downtown Berkeley BART Station.

Contact Carina Zhao and Gibson Chu at [email protected].