Op-ed: 3 reasons why Berkeley needs a fur ban in 2017

The Berkeley City Council is set to consider a ban on the sale of fur within city limits. Passing the fur ban will solidify Berkeley’s place at the frontier of social justice.

There are three key reasons Berkeley needs a fur ban, one that is put in place this year.

1. Berkeley is a beacon for social justice

Berkeley has been at the forefront of virtually every important social justice movement over the last half-century: Free Speech, Anti-War, Civil Rights, Disability Rights, and LGBTQ Rights. Where Berkeley leads, California follows. And where California goes, so goes the nation.

The Berkeley City Council is set to consider a ban on the sale of fur within city limits, most likely in a March council meeting. Passing the fur ban will solidify Berkeley’s place at the frontier of social justice.

The animal-rights movement is quickly gaining momentum in this famously progressive California town. The new Berkeley Animal Rights Center serves as a hub for the growing number of animal-rights activists flocking to Berkeley.

Last November, the Berkeley City Council passed the nation’s first resolution supporting Chinese animal-rights activists fighting to end the dog meat trade in Yulin.

As they see pro-animal legislation in Berkeley, activists from across the state and the nation will be empowered to advocate for similar legislation in their respective municipalities. Some will be inspired to move to Berkeley, which will continue to light the path.

2. Fur is a product of unspeakable cruelty and should be eradicated

Fur farm investigations have revealed animals spending their entire lives in tiny raised in small cages until they are killed by anal electrocution, gassed to death, or have their necks snapped. Fur-bearing animals trapped in the wild are cruelly separated from their families when they are caught in traps until they are shot.

Although some contend (wrongly in my view) that animal-based foods are essential to human health or survival, no-one argues that a mink coat, for example, is anything but a fashion statement. Fur is a status symbol; by definition, a perceived visible, external badge of one’s social position and perceived indicator of economic or social status.

Since animals’ fur is expensive and affordable to very few people, it doesn’t have as much public support as other products of animal exploitation, such as meat and dairy. Fur is expensive, gratuitous, and completely unnecessary for our society. Taking animals’ fur is one of the most trivial of reasons to hurt them.

A chart showing estimated public support for animal exploitation compiled by the author, Orlando Torres, based on many years involved in the animal rights movement and on  input from animal-rights advocates.

3. Fur is becoming increasingly controversial due to the “humane myth”

After the City of West Hollywood passed a fur ban in 2011,  there was new hope for animals. Instead of focusing only on getting celebrities to raise anti-fur awareness, activists have taken protecting animals straight to lawmakers and courts. Following West Hollywood, Berkeley must help contain the unchecked growth of the fur industry whose targeted misinformation and falsehoods keep animals oppressed and separate them from their families for human profit and vanity.

New deceptive messaging by the fur industry encourages the idea that killing fur-bearing animals is somehow acceptable or humane or green. Perhaps these myths are what made global fur sales rise by 70% from 2000 to 2010. This trend needs to be stopped. As long as they are considered “things”, animals will always be abused. And all the evidence shows that, despite what the fur industry claims, fur is not environmentally friendly, but is in fact between 3 and 10 times as environmentally devastating as fur-free alternatives.

As many recent investigations of animal farms have shown, even the most reputable “cage-free” and “humane-certified” facilities often turn out to be deplorable places of suffering. This helps illustrate the point that using and killing animals, treating them solely as property for personal gain rather than as sentient creatures, is virtually guaranteed to result in their misery.

To learn more about this important life-saving initiative, visit Fur Free Berkeley.

Wild coyote with his leg caught waiting to be shot in the head to be turned into an accessory on a $500 jacket. Photo: Wikimedia

Orlando Torres is a Berkeley resident and volunteer with Berkeley Coalition for Animals.