Animal Rights

San Francisco Could Become the World's First Major City to Ban the Sale of Fur

No amount of vanity is worth so much suffering.

Photo Credit: Auldist/Shutterstock

[Update 3/19/17: On March 20, the ban on fur is going before the full San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where it will face the first of two votes it needs to become law. Sign this petition to join the thousands of people urging San Francisco to become the world's first major city to ban the sale of fur.]

San Francisco, which was the first city in the nation to allow same-sex marriage, is on the cusp of make history again by becoming the first major city in the world to ban the sale of fur. On January 24, the city will consider an anti-animal cruelty ordinance proposed by Supervisor Katy Tang.

In its findings, the ordinance presents five reasons to pass the ban:

1. More than 50 million animals are killed violently for their fur every year. A vast majority—about 85%—of fur fashion products are made with pelts sourced from animal fur factory farms.

2. Animals raised on fur farms typically spend their lives in cramped cages and are subject to cruel and filthy living conditions. Methods frequently used on fur farms to kill livestock for their pelts include gassing, electrocution, poison, and neck-breaking.

3. Fur farming contributes to water and air pollution. Each mink skinned by fur farmers produces about 44 pounds of feces in the mink’s lifetime. That adds up to 1 million pounds of feces produced annually by American mink farms. One dangerous component of this waste is nearly 1,000 tons of phosphorus, which in excess amounts upsets ecosystems in rivers and streams. Raising animals for their fur also pollutes the air. In Denmark, where more than 14 million minks are killed for their fur each year, more than 8,000 pounds of ammonia is released into the atmosphere annually. In addition, chemical treatments applied to fur products reduce their biodegradability and contribute to human health problems.

4. Fur farming consumes significant quantities of energy. The amount of energy required to produce a coat made of real fur from ranch-raised animal skins is over 15 times that needed to produce a fake-fur garment. For each kilogram of factory-farmed mink fur, 110 kilograms of carbon dioxide is produced.

5. The sale offurproducts in San Francisco is inconsistent with the city’s ethos of treating all living beings with kindness. In light of the wide array of faux fur and other alternatives for fashion and apparel, the demand for fur products does not justify the unnecessary killing and cruel treatment of animals. Eliminating the sale of fur products in San Francisco will promote community awareness of animal welfare, bolster the City’s stance against animal cruelty, and in turn, foster a more humane environment in San Francisco. 

If passed, the ban will also cut through a lie that the fur industry uses to deceive consumers. Go to any big department store selling fur coats in America and you will likely see a label reading "Origin Assured.” The label is supposed to let consumers know that the fur they are buying came from a "good country” like the United States, which protects animals from harm, instead of a "bad country" like China, where animals are brutalized.

Those labels are a lie. They are part of the fur industry's "humane-washing" campaign intended to mislead the public. No matter where animals are raised for fur, be it China, Finland or the U.S., they are abused during their short lives and killed. Sometimes they are skinned alive.

I know plenty about humane-washing. My fellow activists and I have been inside some of the most so-called "humane" farms in the U.S. We have seen up close how animals are treated on farms here. There is nothing humane about it.

I may be of Chinese descent, but I don’t defend the treatment of animals raised for fur or food in China, or anywhere else in the world. I have been inside Chinese dog meat farms and have seen first-hand how dogs are literally beaten to death for their flesh. For my efforts there, I too was beaten—and arrested by Chinese police. I am now banned from entering China.

We've been inside some of the most so-called humane and animal welfare-certified farms in the U.S. We have seen up close how animals are treated on farms here and there is nothing humane about it. We have gone into pig, chicken and dairy farms in the U.S. and have been stunned by the horrific conditions we found there. We have been investigated by the FBI for entering those farms and rescuing sick and injured animals.

Things are not really better for animals raised or trapped for fur here in the U.S. Americans, Canadians and Europeans have been duped by corporate marketing schemes that amount to false advertising and deception.

Blackglama, an American mink company, proclaims on its website: "Origin Assured farms [which includes Blackgama] adhere to strict governmental and agricultural guidelines and regulations that govern mink production, ensuring the highest standard of humane care."

The company fails to mention that the U.S. has almost no federal regulations regarding fur farming. Animals raised for their pelts are specifically exempted from the Animal Welfare Act. And most European countries—with the exception of those that have banned fur farming (Germany, Austria, Croatia, the United Kingdom, Norway, and in 2019, the Czech Republic)—have virtually no legal protections for animals raised for their fur. Nothing has changed here in the U.S. to make life better for fur-bearing animals of any kind.

As recent undercover American investigations have shown, mink and foxes—the most commonly raised animals for their fur—are still housed in tiny, dirty, wire cages. The animals frantically spin in their cages, sometimes chewing parts of their own bodies out of frustration. Mink are still being killed by carbon dioxide from truck exhaust, while foxes are still killed by electrical devices inserted into their rectums.

Yet, fur sales all over the world are booming, in part, because the fur industry marketing departments are managing to tamp down any queasy or guilty feelings a customer might have about wearing someone else's skin, just as the meat, dairy and egg industries have convinced consumers of the lie that animals raised for food somehow live a good life.

At one time in the not-so-distant past, there was some discomfort—or at least concern—about being seen wearing fur in public. Now magazine pages are awash with photos of movie and music stars in brightly dyed fur coats, or the more understated Canada Goose jackets with their coyote fur-trimmed hoods.

This is another example of the massive corporate manipulation of our entire culture (including China, which takes its fashion cues from the West). The public has a sense it is wrong to kill animals for their skins, yet Gwyneth Paltrow wears a Canada Goose coyote fur-trimmed parka and she looks like she just stepped out of the Sierra Club magazine. Jimmy Fallon also wears Canada Goose and so does Rihanna. The fur industry's deception is being reinforced by celebrities and the entertainment industry.

While San Francisco may become the world's first major city to cut through the fur industry's "humane lie" and pass a ban on fur, there are two smaller cities that did just that, following the work of grassroots activists: West Hollywood and Berkeley. While those bans were big victories, those cities don’t have the big department stores and exclusive boutiques that San Francisco does.

Many fashion designers also acknowledge the inherent cruelty behind fur: Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Vivienne Westwood and most recently, Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, Gucci and Armani. In addition to the aforementioned Europe nations that have banned fur farming, Italy and Denmark have instituted some fur-bearing animal welfare laws.

But the truth is, no animal welfare law that still allows for animals to be killed for their fur can make the lives of fur-bearing animals better.

In this day and age, no one needs to wear fur, least of all for decoration. No amount of vanity can be worth this much suffering.

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Wayne Hsiang is a lawyer, investigator and co-founder of animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere.