West Hollywood Bans FurSeptember 26th, 2011
West Hollywood loves its animals. The Southern California city, which operates as a “Cruelty-Free Zone for Animals,” has already passed a historic ban on the inhumane practice of declawing cats, and last year it banned the sale in pet stores of dogs and cats from cruel puppy and kitten mills. It’s now the first municipality in the country to outlaw the sale of fur.
Armed with model language provided by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the City Attorney of West Hollywood drafted an ordinance prohibiting the sale of fur apparel products in the city limits. “West Hollywood is the country’s vanguard for advances in animal protection law,” says Stephan Otto, director of legislative affairs for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “As with their retail pet sales ban, we worked to assist in pushing the fur ban proposal forward by providing the city with model language. We also supplied legal research on the proposal to help build support for this momentous new law.” On September 20, West Hollywood city council voted unanimously (5-0) for the ban.
Well known for its social justice legislation, West Hollywood has been at the forefront of progressive laws that protect animals. “West Hollywood has the opportunity to once again be a leader for animal welfare by becoming the first fur-free city in the nation,” says City Councilmember John D’Amico, who won his seat in March after promising voters that he would make banning fur a legislative priority. “We have pledged to be a place that is free of cruelty to animals, and we can no longer support the barbaric fur trade by selling the products of that cruelty in our city.”
Ed Buck, a West Hollywood animal advocate who helped bring together the people and pieces that made this ban possible, says ALDF’s help was invaluable. “Very often, the people in the political arena who want to resist change say, ‘Oh, I’d like to do that too, but it’s not legal.’ So we called Stephan and said, ‘We know they are going to tell us this is a great idea, it’s the humane thing to do, but you’ll get shot down by the commerce clause or something else.’ Stephan did some homework and provided a brief that eliminated all the potential arguments before they raised them, thus clearing the way to get this passed.”
“West Hollywood is poised to position itself as a humane, thoughtful place and to extend that invitation to people from around the world who visit here as well as those who do business here,” adds D’Amico. “This is about who we are and the way we live now.”
The Cruelty of Fur
Of the estimated 40 million animals killed by the fur trade every year worldwide, about 31 million are raised on fur farms. Here, mink, foxes, chinchillas and other fur-bearing animals are intensively confined in wire cages that deny them the ability to engage in even the most basic expression of their natural behaviors. These barren cages, covered only by open-sided sheds, do not protect animals from extreme heat, bitter cold, or insects.
As a result of the stressful conditions, animals on fur farms frequently exhibit a variety of abnormal behaviors, including pacing back and forth and gnawing on cage wire.Wild animals who have large territories in nature, such as foxes and sables, have a particularly difficult time in confinement. These animals routinely self-mutilate, chewing on their tails and limbs out of extreme frustration.
When their fur is deemed ready for market, animals face death through electrocution, lethal injection, decompression, gassing, or broken necks – all methods that ensure their fur remains unblemished. There is even evidence that some animals are skinned alive. The U.S. offers no federal laws that govern the humane treatment or killing of animals on fur farms, and state anti-cruelty statutes often exempt such practices for falling within “accepted industry standards.”