Amid all the drama that's going on in City Hall politics, one member of the Board of Supervisors is introducing uncontroversial legislation that reflects both changing values and different tastes. Supervisor Katy Tang’s proposed ordinance would make San Francisco the first major city in the United States to ban the sale of fur apparel and accessories.  

The ordinance, introduced on December 12, would make it unlawful to “sell, offer for sale, display for sale, trade, give, donate, or otherwise distribute a fur product by any means in San Francisco,” with “fur products” further defined as constituting clothing and accessories such as handbags.  

Secondhand items, as well as newly manufactured items made from recycled fur products, plus fur products made from animals lawfully harvested under the authority of a State of California trapping license, would be exempt. Civil enforcement of this rule would fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health.

After holding a rally last week on the steps of City Hall with activist groups Compassionate Bay and Direct Action Everywhere, Tang spoke in support of her legislation before the Board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee:

“Fur factory farms are violent places for animals where they are gassed, electrocuted, poisoned and injured for the sole purpose of creating clothing and accessories. It is unconscionable that San Francisco would continue to allow these types of products to be sold. I know that there are some businesses that do carry products that contain fur… but I do think it is important for us to take a stand here in San Francisco.”

During the public comment period, Skip Pas, proprietor of West Coast Leather, a leather apparel boutique which has been in Union Square in one form or another for 40 years, and whose product line currently includes fur and fur trimmed items, spoke in opposition to the bill. Pas testified that his business would likely “lose 10% or more of their business” should a ban on fur sales pass. 

In years past, major upscale department stores in the city such as Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Joseph Magnin carried several lines and styles of clothing made from the pelts of animals such as fox, beaver, mink, sable, lynx, and seal. Some even offered storage services with refrigerated vaults for customers during the warmer months.

Now, changing values regarding the ethical treatment of animals are reflected in changing tastes. Some American fur clothing manufacturers such as Blackglama now mostly raise fur animals on farms under conditions which they claim are humane. However, the integrity of those standards are debatable, even more so overseas.  

Meanwhile, countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and the Czech Republic have already banned fur farming outright; the Netherlands and Norway, the largest producers in Europe, have also recently joined in and will phase out fur production completely by 2025. With regard to the US, North Hollywood and Berkeley have passed bans on sales of fur which are similar to Supervisor Tang’s proposal.

In the fashion industry, fur seems to be less popular overall in Western markets, but continues to maintain a high profile. Popular designers such as Michael Kors and Gucci have stopped using fur, while some more upscale haute couture houses have reintroduced it; notable among these is Fendi, which reintroduced a fur line in 2014 with great fanfare, and recently opened a boutique in San Francisco. And as demand for fur recedes in the West, many argue both production and demand have simply moved East.

Macy's and Saks continue to carry fur clothing, though to a lesser extent than in past years. In response to our inquiries, Macy's told us that they do not have a position regarding the proposed law. A Macy's representative did give us their official position on the fur trade:

“We respect the views of those who choose not to buy or wear fur and we also respect the right of those who feel differently… We know our customers want to make an informed decision about their purchases… The consumer will ultimately determine whether fur will continue to be a viable product in the American retail marketplace, and we respect our customers’ right to make their own decisions. At the same time, all of our stores offer a wide range of other selections across many merchandise categories, including faux fur.”

Tang also introduced some clarifying amendments at the Committee meeting, including one that would delay implementation of the ordinance until January 2019. The Committee will re-hear the ordinance at its next meeting, and the full Board will likely vote on it February 20.

“To me, it is unfashionable to take the life of another living creature for the purpose of wearing them,” said Supervisor Tang. “I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak on behalf of animals everywhere and make it clear that animal fur is not for sale.” 

Supervisor Tang's ordinance builds on previous state legislation passed by another San Francisco policymaker, Board of Equalization Chair Fiona Ma. Ma, who was a State Assemblymember at the time, passed a bill requiring clothing sold in California to disclose if they used animal fur on the garment label

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