Animal Law Update

Berkeley, California, Becomes Second U.S. City to Ban Sale of Fur Clothing

By Nicole Pallotta, Academic Outreach Manager

On April 5, 2017, the Berkeley City Council approved an ordinance banning the retail sale of fur apparel products within city limits, finding that “the sale of fur products in the City of Berkeley is inconsistent with the City’s goal of being a community that cares about animal welfare.” The ban was spearheaded by local animal advocacy group Berkeley Coalition for Animals (BCA), which worked closely with the Council on the ordinance.

With the passage of this legislation, Berkeley became the second city in the nation to prohibit the sale of clothing made from animal fur. West Hollywood, known for its animal-friendly legislation, was the first to pass a fur ban in 2011, which became effective in 2013. Although unlike West Hollywood, Berkeley does not have a thriving local fur economy, the ordinance is intended to ensure this remains so, and to reflect the city’s humane values. In recommending the ordinance to Berkeley’s mayor and members of the city council, sponsoring Councilmember Kriss Worthington wrote:

“With the availability of countless varieties of adequate fabrics, there is no need for this brutal industry…Although virtually no Berkeley businesses sponsor the fur industry’s exploitation, this proposed law would ensure they never do. In turn, the City of Berkeley will adopt West Hollywood policy that eliminating fur ‘will foster a consciousness about the way we live in the world and create a more humane environment in the City.’”

Berkeley’s ordinance contains exemptions for used fur products sold at secondhand stores and pelts or skins of animals preserved through taxidermy. Before the vote, exemptions were also added to allow the sale of cowhide with hair and sheep or lambskin with fleece; the rationale given by the councilor who introduced these exemptions was that cows and sheep are already killed for meat, unlike animals raised solely for their fur. An exemption for nonprofits was removed before the vote.

West Hollywood’s fur apparel ban, which Berkeley’s ordinance is modeled upon, survived a federal challenge mounted in 2013 by Los Angeles-based retailer Mayfair House, which alleged the law was unconstitutional and that the city overstepped its authority in banning fur apparel sales and that such trade should be regulated by the state. The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed an amicus brief in this case, asking the court to uphold the city’s constitutional authority to protect animals within city limits, and supporting the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In July 2014, a federal court agreed and dismissed the fur retailer’s action.

In 2015, West Hollywood’s fur ban was redrafted in ways that both tightened and weakened the legislation. The ban was extended to include the display of fur items by merchants intending to sell them online or at a location outside West Hollywood, but an exception was added to allow the sale of fur obtained by lawful trapping. The trapping exemption was added so that the municipal fur ban would not clash with California’s Fish and Game code, which allows for the display and sale of fur lawfully taken by people with a state trapping license.

In stating the need for a municipal ban, Berkeley’s draft ordinance cited the lack of federal and state regulation of fur product sales, with the exception of laws prohibiting the sale of dog and cat fur. It also clearly stated its unequivocal opposition to the fur industry:

“The City Council finds that animals who are slaughtered for their fur, whether they are raised on a fur farm or trapped in the wild, endure tremendous suffering. Animals raised on fur farms typically spend their entire lives in cramped and filthy cages…Methods used to kill animals for their fur include gassing, electrocution, and neck-breaking. Furbearing animals are also caught and killed in barbaric body-grilling traps…Considering the wide array of alternatives for fashion and apparel, the City Council finds that the demand for fur products does not justify the torture and confinement of animals.”

In February, supporters of the ban marched and formed a rally at UC-Berkeley organized by BCA. Following the success of this grassroots campaign, BCA will continue to work with the Berkeley City Council and other groups to pass local resolutions and legislation “to promote animal rights and the protection of animals from the viewpoint of animals.”

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