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California Signs Fur Ban into Law, a US State First

It’s official. Following a historic bill signing by California governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday, the Golden State is now America’s first to ban the sale and production of all new products from chinchillas, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, minks and other fur-bearing animals.

The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023, will make it illegal to manufacture, sell, offer for sale, trade, give, donate or otherwise distribute a fur product in the state—including items such as clothing, handbags, shoes, slippers, hats and key fobs. It will not cover skins converted into leather, shearling from domesticated animals or fur products used for religious purposes or by Native American tribes. Fur lawfully taken with a hunting license will also be permitted.

Democratic assemblywoman Laura Friedman introduced the bill, AB 44, in December to patch together various fur-related policies in cities across the state, including Los Angeles, West Hollywood, San Francisco and Berkeley, which have nixed fur within their borders, albeit with exceptions for secondhand items and religious groups.

“Given the overwhelming evidence of inhumane practices in the fur industry and the availability of so many different options for warm and fashionable fabrics, we will not continue to be complicit in unnecessary cruelty towards animals solely for the sake of fur,” Friedman said in May.

Animal rights groups have praised the move.

“The signing of AB 44 underscores the point that today’s consumers simply don’t want wild animals to suffer extreme pain and fear for the sake of fashion,” Kitty Block, CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. “More cities and states are expected to follow California’s lead, and the few brands and retailers that still sell fur will no doubt take a closer look at innovative alternatives that don’t involve animal cruelty.”

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Tracy Reiman, executive vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, whose motto reads in part, “animals are not ours to wear,” hailed Saturday as a “historic day for animals in California, including those who have been skinned alive for their fur or skin.”

“PETA is proud to have worked with compassionate legislators to push these lifesaving laws forward and looks to other states to follow California’s progressive lead,” she added.

Less enthused was the fur trade, which admonished Newsom for outlawing a “centuries-old, lawful, highly regulated, job-producing, environmental sound, tax-paying industry.” The U.S. retail fur industry generated $1.5 billion in sales in 2014, according to the most recent numbers from the Fur Information Council.

“He has failed to recognize the human toll here resulting from the government forcing these businesses to close with no compensation to the business owners,” Keith Kaplan of the Fur Information Council of America, said in a statement.

“They will lose generations of investment, their livelihoods will be cut off and for many in long-term lease agreements, they will continue to be responsible for considerable expenses.” Kaplan added. “Their staffs, many of them highly skilled craftsmen, will join the ranks of the unemployed, unlikely to find work at similar wage levels. To be sure, it is the stuff of legacy, just not the legacy any other chief executive would want.”

New York City is considering its own fur ban after lawmakers introduced legislation in March to reject the sale of fur and fur-containing products. The fashion industry is also increasingly shunning fur, citing animal-welfare concerns and consumers who desire cruelty-free products. Luxury brands, including Chanel, Burberry, Prada and Versace have all dropped fur in recent years, as have high-end e-tailers like Yoox Net-a-Porter and Farfetch. Meanwhile, Stella McCartney showed off a new bio-based faux fur at Paris Fashion Week last month.

Post-fur, exotic skins might be next on the proverbial chopping board. Chanel, Diane von Furstenberg and Victoria Beckham are just a few of the brands phasing out crocodile, lizard, snake and stingray leather from future collections. Saturday’s proceedings don’t bode well for the sector, either: Newsom also signed into law AB 1260, which bans the import and sales of certain exotic skins.