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Israel Becomes First Country to Ban Fur Sales

Israel has become the world’s first country to ban the sale of fur, though some exceptions remain.

“The fur industry causes the deaths of hundreds of millions of animals worldwide, and inflicts indescribable cruelty and suffering,” environmental protection minister Gila Gamliel said in a statement Wednesday after signing the regulation into law, which will take effect in six months. “Using the skin and fur of wildlife for the fashion industry is immoral and is certainly unnecessary. Animal fur coats cannot cover the brutal murder industry that makes them.”

The move was widely hailed by animal-rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has long lobbied government officials in Tel Aviv, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to make fur verboten, citing overwhelming support from Israelis.

“Israel has just made history and put yet another nail in the cruel fur industry’s coffin,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement. “PETA is popping the cork on the champagne in celebration of this huge step toward a day when no animals are suffocated or skinned alive for collars and cuffs.”

The historic victory will protect “countless foxes, minks, rabbits and other animals from being violently killed for their skin,” Newkirk added.

But critics of the legislation say the ban is largely symbolic, since it allows the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which issues permits for the import and export of fur, to continue to do so if the pelts are used for “religion, religious tradition, scientific research, education or teaching.”

This “loophole,” The Times of Israel noted, exempts ultra-Orthodox Jews, who wear tall, cylindrical sable hats known as shtreimels on Shabbat and holidays, though importers will now have to apply for special permits. The hats, the outlet added, are “pretty much the only widespread users of fur in Israel, with its warm Mediterranean climate.”

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Still, the move isn’t an insignificant one. While some countries, including Austria, Belgium, Croatia and Slovenia, have outlawed fur farming, they continue to permit its trade. In the United States, California became the first American state to nix fur sales in 2019 following similar efforts in cities such as Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Francisco and West Hollywood.

Israel also beat Britain to the punch. In March, fashion designers Stella McCartney, Katharine Hamnett and Vivienne Westwood wrote a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to make the United Kingdom the first country to nix fur sales in light of “dwindling” enthusiasm for fur products on the high street.

Designers can create clothing without the use of “suffering caused by the fur trade,” the letter said. “The sale of fur is simply not aligned with the ethical trajectory of the vast majority of retailers, designers and businesses that make up the British fashion retail industry.”

Indeed, there’s been a groundswell of brands and retailers that have shed or are looking to shed fur, including, most recently, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Saks Fifth Avenue and Valentino.

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to drag on, the Humane Society’s offices in Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom have appealed to their respective governments ahead of the G7 meeting for a permanent, global end to fur farming.

Campaigners have pointed to the “dangerous links” between fur farms and zoonotic disease spread that ravaged Denmark’s mink industry and prompted governments such as Hungary and the Netherlands to scupper their own breeding programs after handlers and animals alike fell sick with Covid-19. Their fear is that fur farms, with their cramped, unhygienic and highly stressful conditions, can act as reservoirs for viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, accelerating mutations that could undermine the efficacy of existing vaccines.

“Protecting people from deadly zoonotic diseases and future pandemics needs to be one of the highest priorities for President Biden and other world leaders at this meeting,” Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and CEO of Humane Society International, said in a statement Tuesday. “On fur farms animals’ suffering is nonstop. They also contribute to global virus outbreaks. This is a common-sense ban that has the potential to prevent devastating outcomes.”