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City Council Considers Banning Fur

Coyote pelts at a fur auction in Herkimer, New York. On Wednesday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson proposed banning fur within New York City.
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Coyote pelts at a fur auction in Herkimer, New York. On Wednesday, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson proposed banning fur within New York City. Michael Hill/AP/Shutterstock

Local legislators may soon ban fur within New York City. Council Speaker Corey Johnson, along with Council members Mark Levine of Manhattan and Fernando Cabrera of the Bronx, has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to sell new fur across the five boroughs.

"As an animal lover, I truly think it is cruel to kill an animal for the sole purpose of people wearing a fur coat," Johnson said in an emailed statement to Gothamist. "There is really no need for this. In a progressive city like ours, we need to take steps to protect animals."

The proposed legislation would fine businesses that sold fur between $500 and $1,500, depending on how many violations they racked up, but would not apply to used fur products. Thrift stores could still sell vintage and second-hand furs, and as long as they didn't add any new fur apparel to their inventory, they'd avoid penalties. The proposal would also allow people to repurpose furs—into a trim, for example, or a similarly recycled product—and sell them that way. "No new furs" would seem to be the bottom line.

According to the NY Post, the city is home to more than 130 fur businesses, 101 of which reside in Johnson's district. Furriers, naturally, blasted the idea. "I guess he [Johnson] wants to represents a district with empty storefronts," Steve Cowit, owner of Cowit Furs & Madison Avenue Furs, said. "What happened to freedom of choice? Next it will be the meat industry and chicken industry. When will it end?"

To be clear, local lawmakers are not proposing forced vegetarianism.

A number of other cities—West Hollywood, Berkeley, San Francisco, and most recently, Los Angeles—have banned fur, though, and New York State legislators are considering doing the same. Last week, Linda Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side in the Assembly, introduced a bill proposing "prohibitions on fur products," specifically, their "manufacture, sale, display for sale, [and] trade." The bill would also put a moratorium on "giving, donating, or otherwise distributing of a fur product by any means in the state" starting January 1, 2021. It would apply to clothing items, accessories, and fur accents.

Rosenthal characterized the bill as a necessity to guard against cruelty at fur farms and within the fur industry in general, practices that include raising animals in captivity and trapping them in the wild. Because the whole point is to harvest their pelts, you can see where animal welfare might not top the list of the farmers' priorities. National Geographic reports that at largely unregulated mink farms in China, for example, self-mutilation, "extreme fearfulness," infanticide, difficulty breeding, and unresponsiveness are exceedingly common among the animal stock, which often live in tiny cages that allow little room for their occupants' movement.

"There can be no denial that killing animals for their fur is abject cruelty," Cabrera said in a statement emailed to Gothamist, condemning the practice of gassing and electrocuting animals for their coats, and applauding the trend toward synthetic fur and leather by some in the fashion industry. "New York City must follow its tradition as a leader among municipalities and promote animal welfare and protection by banning the sale of fur."

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