Folks in West Hollywood, California, are well known for their support of forward-looking legislation, so it didn't come as any surprise when the WeHo City Council unanimously voted to ban sales of apparel made from animal fur last month. If the ordinance gets final approval, West Hollywood will become the first city in the U.S. that's officially fur-free.
WeHo's decision is just another nail in the fur industry's coffin. Kind people around the world are recognizing that there's nothing glamorous about the way animals suffer and die for fur. "The fur trend in the U.S. is toward fake," says Amy Lechner, an analyst with Pell Research, which estimates that sales of faux fur will increase by 30 percent over the next two years.
Lawmakers and trendmakers alike are responding to this growing anti-fur sentiment.
Earlier this year, the European Parliament approved a new regulation requiring that all clothing containing fur or leather be clearly marked with labels stating, "Non-textile parts of animal origin." Explains EP member Eva-Britt Svensson of Sweden, "Consumers must have the information to be able to ethically opt out of fur products and the cruel conditions in which they are often produced."
Fashion icons as diverse as Michele Obama, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Lady Gaga have all publicly sworn off fur. So has Oprah Winfrey. In the October issue of O magazine, editor in chief Susan Casey describes the "aha moment" that led Winfrey to stop wearing fur 20 years ago. While looking at a sable cape in her closet, Winfrey had "a visceral sense of how many four-leggeds had been used in its creation, bred specifically to be killed." Like Oprah, O magazine is fur-free.
Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein, Vivienne Westwood and Ralph Lauren are just a few of the top designers who refuse to use real fur in their collections. High-end design houses such as Prada and Chanel are increasingly offering faux-fur options--Karl Lagerfeld even based Chanel's Fall 2010 collection around fake fur. Faux-fur vests and other accessories are bestsellers on HSN.
While previous generations may have worn real fur without considering its impact on animals and the environment, today's consumers can't claim not to know what happens before animals are turned into capes and coats. Just this month, newspapers around the world ran shocking stories about raccoon dogs--a canine species native to Asia--who are being skinned alive in China to create knock-off versions of Uggs.
PETA's affiliate PETA Asia-Pacific investigated fur farms and markets in China and found that raccoon dogs are beaten with steel pipes and left to die slowly as they writhe in agony in full view of other animals. Rabbits' necks are broken while the animals are still conscious and able to feel pain. On fur farms, animals live in barren wire cages--exposed to all weather extremes--as frozen piles of waste accumulate below them. Many animals frantically pace and turn in circles in their cages.
West Hollywood councilmember John D'Amico, who sponsored WeHo's fur ban, predicts that "the impact will be heard from here to Fifth Avenue. People will talk about what a fur ban means in a new way." While we wait to see if other progressive cities will follow WeHo's lead, we can all take a stand against an industry that confines animals to cramped cages, violently beats them and rips the skin off their bodies--by banning fur from our closets.