Fur-ror Over West Hollywood Ban on Fur Sales

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All type of fur garments and accessories, like these in Gucci's Fall 2011 collection, would be banned under a new ordinance in West Hollywood

West Hollywood,CA—In an unanimous decision this week, the city council of West Hollywood voted to ban the sales of fur apparel products, a move that has provoked debate in fashion and animal rights circles.

Although the city council still has to set criteria, penalties for violating the ban and perhaps exempting things like vintage clothing, the law, should it go into effect in June 2012, would be the first time a jurisdiction has outright banned the sales of fur garments.

“This is a tiny city, so it’s mostly symbolic,” said Councilman John D’Amico, who sponsored the fur ban. “I think the impact will be heard from here toFifth Avenue. People will talk about what a fur ban means in a new way.”

Animal rights advocates hailed the vote as a small sign, but a growing trend toward greater sensitivity about fur, its use and the fur business as a whole.

“West Hollywood is really taking the lead,” animal rights attorney Shannon Keith told local reporters. Keith, who said she had seen animals beaten, gassed and skinned alive to get their fur, added: “The animals can’t speak for themselves and nobody should have to die for vanity.”

City Known for its ‘Firsts’ in Bans

Under the proposed ordinance, the sale of apparel made in whole or part from the pelt of an animal with hair, wool or fur would be banned. Furniture, home décor, bedding, leather products would be exempt.

Proponents of the ban cited the rising number of animals used in the fur business: about 50 million animals worldwide are raised on fur farms and killed for their pelts each year, according to the animal rights group Last Chance for Animals. “Mink production alone in the U.S. totaled 2.82 million pelts in 2010, with Wisconsin and Utah leading production numbers,” according to the most recent study by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

However,West Hollywoodbusiness leaders questioned the ban and its effects. Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, said an economic impact study would be on the 1.9-square mile city of 36,000 and its businesses.

“They said that there are only a few stores in the city that sell furs, but we found 91 that sell fur on their clothes,” Morrill said. “We have met with 20-plus retailers, many of whom are too afraid to speak publically because they are fearful of retaliation from the anti-fur people and from the City.”

“Many shops have received physical threats to harm their property from these anti-fur movement people,” Morrill said.

The Fur Information Council president Keith Kaplan, himself aWest Hollywood resident, decried the proposed ordinance, saying, “It’s a shock to many that the city council has allowed themselves to be hijacked by a special interest and rather extremist group.”

Kaplan said the video of an animal being skinned alive used by animal rights activists use to promote their cause was inflammatory and fake.

“The reason behind the ordinance is to stop cruelty to animals,” Kaplan added, “but anyone in the fur trade knows that a damaged pelt is a useless pelt, so they treat their animals with great care and no cruelty.”

But West Hollywood officials maintain they will be on the side of history with their fur ban.

The city, located in Los Angeles Country, has long been a proponent of animal rights, and in 2003 passed the first city law banning declawing cats. The city also banned the sales of dogs and cats within city limits and texting of cosmetics on animals. And the city was the first to ban sales of inexpensive handguns known as Saturday Night Specials.

“We’ve consistently worked to enact cutting-edge animal welfare legislation,” Tarama White, the city’s public information officer, said. “This is in line with our values.”