By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson
Last week, Israel became the first country in the world to ban the sale of new fur products used for fashion. We want to share why this is meaningful progress for animals and for advocates around the globe fighting for a fur-free future.
A strong recognition of the inherent cruelty to animals in the fur trade
Israel’s ban, which will take effect in six months, came with a strong statement from the environmental protection minister: “The fur industry causes the deaths of hundreds of millions of animals worldwide and inflicts indescribable cruelty and suffering. Using the skin and fur of wildlife for the fashion industry is immoral and is certainly unnecessary. Animal fur coats cannot cover the brutal murder industry that makes them. Signing these regulations will make the Israeli fashion market more environmentally friendly and far kinder to animals.” The ban does allow for a few exemptions for “scientific research, education or instruction, and for religious purposes or tradition,” including fur hats traditionally worn by Orthodox Jewish men. Even so, the ban will prevent the suffering and deaths of countless animals.
Our recent fur farm investigations have shown raccoon dogs being stabbed with double-pronged lances fitted with high voltage batteries that leave the animals paralyzed yet still conscious. They’ve also shown foxes being beaten with metal rods and skinned alive. These practices are meant to keep production cheap but the pelt intact.
Given what our fur farm investigations have revealed—animals repetitively pacing their small cages, suffering from open wounds, with deformed feet and infected eyes—it’s not surprising that banning fur has increasingly come into fashion.
Laying the groundwork for a fur-free future
Israel’s ban sets an important precedent. It lays the groundwork for other countries to follow suit with similar sales bans, furthering the case that fur has no place in today’s world.
We heard rumblings of a fur sales ban in Israel going back to 2010 shortly before West Hollywood became the first city in the world to ban fur sales. That ban led to similar legislation in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Berkeley before California became the first state to ban fur sales in 2019. Now, two towns in Massachusetts—Wellesley and Weston—have joined California by ending fur sales, and the state of Massachusetts introduced a similar bill in February.
The recognition of the gross mistreatment of animals in the fur trade started in the small city of West Hollywood and has now entered the world stage. It shows no signs of slowing down.
Last month, the government of the United Kingdom announced a “call for evidence” for a potential ban on fur imports and sales. The proposal has strong support, with 72% of Brits in favor of ending fur sales and a further 93% against wearing animal fur. Momentum there has been building thanks to Humane Society International’s Fur Free Britain campaign, which asks U.K. leaders to ban the import and sale of animal fur. The U.K. banned fur farming on ethical grounds in 2003, so it makes sense to no longer want to import that cruelty from other countries. Citizens from around the world are encouraged to take part in the call for evidence, including those of us in fur-producing countries such as the U.S., Canada, Finland and Italy where fur-bearing animals suffer for fashion exported to and sold in the U.K. Once the selling stops, the suffering can stop, too.
Adding to this momentum, this month, Estonia became the latest country to end fur farming, joining over a dozen other countries, including the U.K., Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway. France is currently debating a ban on mink fur farming, and the Irish government has made a commitment to bring forward legislation this year.
The absurdity of supporting the fur trade after COVID
The time to end the fur trade globally has never been so crucial. We’ve long known the inherent cruelty and environmental degradation that goes hand in hand with caging and killing millions of animals like foxes, raccoon dogs and mink, but now the pandemic has shined a new spotlight on the fur industry’s risk to public health. Israel’s fur sales ban and Estonia’s fur production ban come at a time when supporting the fur trade anywhere in the world seems especially dangerous for human beings and animals alike.
Since April 2020, outbreaks of COVID-19 have occurred on more than 420 mink fur farms in 12 countries—including 16 fur farms in four U.S. states. The virus can mutate as it spreads through fur farms, which could end up reducing the efficacy of vaccines, and evidence shows that mink can transmit the virus back to humans. As infections decline around the world, mink fur farms will still present potential reservoirs for the virus unless action is taken to shut them down.
This is why ahead of the recent G7 meeting in the U.K., we asked governments around the world to permanently end fur farming to prevent future pandemic outbreaks, and we plan to do the same at the G20 meeting later this year. G7 leaders appear to be listening, stating a commitment to adopt a “One Health” approach across all aspects of pandemic prevention and preparedness and recognizing the critical links between human health, animal health and the environment.
Putting fur permanently out of fashion
To help put fur permanently out of fashion, Stella McCartney has joined forces with HSI and the HSUS to bring awareness to the unnecessary fur trade and share our FurFreeBritain and Stop Deadly Fur petitions, which will be used to push for a U.K. fur sales ban and to ask G20 leaders to publicly acknowledge that fur farming must end.
“I wanted to address a serious issue: ending the use of fur,” Stella McCartney said upon the launch of her latest collection. “This effort is key to my life’s mission of bringing a conscience to the fashion industry. I am proud to partner with Humane Society International and to help raise awareness of the incredible work they do.”
Many of fashion’s biggest names believe being associated with a product linked to so much animal suffering, environmental destruction and now the potential spread of COVID-19 is no longer worth it. Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Valentino and Saks Fifth Avenue have all gone fur-free this year joining Gucci, Chanel, Versace, Nordstrom, Prada, Macy’s and so many others. These companies are helping drive innovation for alternatives that are better for animals and the planet and are doing their part to ensure that fur never returns as an acceptable trend.
Israel’s ban helps give further fodder to this fight, showing that country-wide bans aren’t only possible—they are necessary. Right now, we have the very real chance to relegate the fur trade to the history books once and for all, and the Humane Society family of organizations are dedicated to making that happen.
You can join us by signing this petition calling for the end of fur farming worldwide.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.