The future is fur-free. Growing consumer concern for animal welfare is leading fashion brands, cities, states, and countries to move away from animal fur once and for all. In 2019, California became the first state to phase out the sale of new fur products, after four of its cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley, and West Hollywood) passed ordinances outlawing fur sales. Internationally, since 2000, twenty European countries have either banned or restricted fur farming, including the United Kingdom, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Austria. Also, India has phased out fur skin imports and São Paulo, Brazil has banned fur imports and sales. Most recently, in June 2021, Estonia passed a ban on fur farming and Israel banned the sale of fur in the fashion industry. In retail, Massachusetts-based TJX, as well as numerous top brands and retailers—including Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Canada Goose, Chanel, Coach, Neiman Marcus, Burberry, Versace, Donna Karan, Gucci, Michael Kors, and Armani—have announced fur-free policies. In Massachusetts, Wellesley banned new fur sales in 2020, Weston did the same in 2021, and other Commonwealth localities are also considering bans.
Fur production spreads COVID-19 and is a breeding ground for the next pandemic. In 2020, mink on hundreds of fur factory farms across Europe and the U.S. (Utah, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Oregon) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Wild mink in Oregon and Utah also tested positive. In Denmark and the Netherlands, farmed mink spread the mutated virus to humans—the only known animal-to-human transmission outside the original source—and such mutations might reduce the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines. To protect public health, European governments decided to kill nearly 20 million mink at infected farms, and France and the Netherlands passed laws to ban fur farming. Foxes and raccoon dogs were also found to have been infected with the SARS coronavirus.
Horrific animal cruelty is involved in making fur products. Every year, more than 100 million animals are raised and killed for their fur. On fur factory farms, animals spend their entire lives in cramped cages, deprived of the ability to engage in natural behaviors, only to be crudely gassed or anally-electrocuted at the end. The stress from living in a tiny cage causes serious welfare problems, such as self-mutilation and infected wounds, and can increase pathogen shedding and the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. Animal protection organizations have documented animals being skinned alive by the fur industry. In the wild, animals are caught in crippling leg-hold traps for days without food or water. These archaic traps are indiscriminate, often maiming and killing non-target animals, including threatened species and pets.
Fur production causes major pollution. On fur factory farms, waste runoff from animals pollutes the soil and waterways. The tanning and dying process uses toxic chemicals, like chromium and formaldehyde, to prevent the skin from decaying. Not surprisingly, truth in advertising committees across Europe have ruled that advertising fur as environmentally friendly is “false and misleading.” In 2018, the French advertising authority concluded, “numerous reliable reports show that the production of fur is extremely cruel and polluting, and that the final product contains toxic substances.”
Humane alternatives exist. After going fur-free in 2016, Giorgio Armani said, “technological progress made over the years allows us to have valid alternatives at our disposal that render the use of cruel practices unnecessary as regards animals.” Michael Kors went fur-free the following year saying, “due to technological advances in fabrications, we now have the ability to create a luxe aesthetic using non-animal fur.” This sentiment has spread across the fashion industry, as major fashion brands have switched to innovative materials that have the look and feel of animal fur but without the cruelty. Legislation like S. 623 and H. 965 is helping drive the demand for innovation leading to a more sustainable and cruelty-free future.
Note: this bill will not impact second-hand fur sales.