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The Green Life: Fur Banned in West Hollywood

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September 21, 2011

Fur Banned in West Hollywood

IStock_000008272937XSmall Animal activists declared a victory yesterday in the battle against fur. At 2 a.m. in West Hollywood, California, the city council unanimously approved an ordinance banning the sale of “fur apparel products.” The prohibition bans, within city limits, the sale of clothing with hair, wool, or fur on a pelt or skin. It applies to all animals but specifies fox, mink, rabbit, bear, seal, and chinchilla as examples (federal and state laws already protect dogs and cats).

This makes West Hollywood the first U.S. city to ban fur sales — unsurprising, since progressive WeHo has a history of protecting animals. From declaring itself a “cruelty-free zone” in 1989 to banning the de-clawing of cats in 2003, the town has set an example. West Hollywood also stood up against puppy mills in 2009 and has long supported the adoption of stray and abandoned animals to prevent euthanasia.

Recently elected city council member John D’Amico backed the ordinance. In a statement, he emphasized the commitment to animal welfare as one of West Hollywood’s “core values” with the ordinance simply furthering the city’s existing pledge to be a place free of cruelty to animals.

Activists Shannon Keith, Ellen Lavinthal, and Ed Buck raised support for the ordinance via the Fur Free WeHo campaign. At Tuesday's city council meeting, Buck stayed until the early morning hours to see the measure pass. He was pleased with the overwhelming community support, noting that “Over 100 supporters stayed until 2 a.m.” For him, such turnout helped prove to the city council that a high level of local support exists.

Buck said that “great ideas happen” in West Hollywood, a place that's been on the forefront of “all kinds of issues” for many years. He sees the solution to social problems in legislative action and believes that West Hollywood is leading the way once again. Keith expressed similar sentiments: “Cities like West Hollywood and communities all around the country are recognizing that the fur trade is barbaric, cruel and not fashionable,” she said, adding, "West Hollywood has always been on the leading edge of progressive, compassionate legislation. We are thrilled that this historic first has taken place right here.”

Pierre Grzybowski, who manages the Humane Society's "Fur-Free" campaign, applauded West Hollywood's new law. He said, “If nothing else, it’s a sign of how committed everyday people are to stop the atrocities that go on in the world.” A local grassroots group originated and spearheaded this ban, he said, while his campaign simply watched the issue unfold.

Some local business groups object to the ordinance, fearing it will harm the city’s economy and think the ban could be more limited. An Aug. 11 letter to the mayor from the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce suggested that the city “allow a consumer to learn whether a product was illegally or inhumanely acquired” based on “newly initiated label programs.” When asked about cruelty-free labeling initiatives in the fur industry, Grzybowski explained, “If there is a source of cruelty-free fur, I haven’t come across it.”

As for the future, Grzybowski has noticed increased public awareness thanks to the internet, citing a viral video of raccoon dogs being skinned alive. He is hopeful and believes that “the increased ability of consumers to view the cruelty of the fur trade” through web videos will help raise awareness and bolster efforts to prevent cruelty to animals.

--Carolyn Cotney
within the cit

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