Berkeley City Council approves ban on local fur sales

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.

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.