Starting in 2023, California will become the first US state to ban the sale and manufacture of new fur products and the third to ban most animals from circus performances, according to a set of bills recently signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.
The bill applies to all new clothing, handbags, shoes and other items made with any type of fur. Those who violate the law will be subject to fines and civil penalties. Used fur and taxidermy products are exempt from the ban, along with leather, cowhide, and shearling. Fur products used for religious purposes or by Native American tribes are also exempt from the legislation.
“California is a leader when it comes to animal welfare, and today that leadership includes banning the sale of fur,” Newsom said. “But we are doing more than that. We are making a statement to the world that beautiful wild animals like bears and tigers have no place on trapeze wires or jumping through flames.”
The initiative could mark a significant blow to the fur industry that makes products from animals including mink, chinchillas, rabbits and other animals. The US retail fur industry brought in US$1.5bn in sales in 2014, the most recent data available from the Fur Information Council.
Under California law, there is a fine of up to US$1,000 for multiple violations. Fashion designers including Prada, Versace, Gucci and Giorgio Armani have stopped or have said they plan to stop using fur in the near future -- but this will force them to act much sooner.
Animals in fur farms are often subject to gassing, electrocution and other inhumane actions to take their fur, according to animal rights groups. In comparison with other farm animals, species farmed for their fur have been subjected to very little attention. In addition, fur factories are also extremely harmful to soil since producing fur requires pumping waste and the toxic chemicals in to the surrounding environment.
Advocacy group Direct Action Everywhere said it was working with activists to pass similar bills in cities nationwide, including Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon, and was optimistic California’s law would spur action.
“Ordinary people want to see animals protected, not abused,” said Cassie King, an organizer with the Berkeley-based group.
On the other hand, opponents of the legislation have said it could create a black market and be a slippery slope to bans on other products. The ban is part of a “radical vegan agenda using fur as the first step to other bans on what we wear and eat”, Keith Kaplan of the Fur Information Council said in a prior statement. He claimed fake fur was not a renewable or sustainable option.
Several fashion brands have already vowed to keep fur out of the catwalk all around the world, including Prada, Chanel, Burberry, Versace, Stella McCartney, Givenchy, Calvin Klein, and Ralph Lauren.
With the new legislation, California also joins New Jersey and Hawaii in banning most animals from circus performances. The law exempts domesticated dogs, cats, and horses and does not apply to rodeos. Circuses have been declining in popularity for decades. The most well-known act, the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, closed in 2017.
State officials said at least two circuses that include live animals were scheduled to perform in California this year. At least 18 circuses do not use animals, including Cirque du Soleil. The law includes penalties of up to $25,000 per day for each violation.
The Southwest California Legislative Council opposed the law, saying it would prevent people from being able “to experience the thrill of a circus performance featuring beautiful, well-cared-for animals”.