With yesterday’s passage of an ordinance banning the sale of certain fur products, Ann Arbor, Michigan’s City Council scored a pair of firsts. The 10-member council’s unanimous vote made Ann Arbor not only the first city in the Midwest to prohibit the sale of fur, but the first in a fur-producing state to do so. The ordinance language included clear reasoning for the ban and provided limited exemptions and a year-long transition for liquidation of inventory and fulfillment of existing commitments. But, as lead sponsor Jeff Hayner declared, “This is yesterday’s business.”
The Ann Arbor ban passes less than a year after an outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in mink on a Michigan fur farm and the infection of a Michigan taxidermist with a COVID-19 variant found in mink. As it turns out, fur farming, so obviously unnecessary and so woefully cruel, plays a part in the global pandemic that threatens both humans and animals, with some 20 million mink killed in the aftermath of similar outbreaks on fur farms throughout the world.
We’re especially proud of the central role that HSUS Michigan state director Molly Tamulevich played in securing passage of the ordinance. Molly is one of our incredible team of HSUS state directors, living proof of our deep commitment to advancing animal protection issues in the states. Every state is different, with its own challenges and opportunities, and in Michigan, the fight for wildlife is an absolute priority. That’s why the result in Ann Arbor is significant, and not just because it adds momentum to the campaign to stop the killing of animals for fur. The vote is also important because it represents another milestone in our efforts to expose and confront the stranglehold that user-oriented interests, those who want to preserve animals only for the purpose of killing them or using them for fur or trophies, have on wildlife policy in Michigan. In the work of making this world a better one for animals, our movement to protect wildlife is one of the most important struggles of all.
In this regard, Michigan is one of our target states. Wildlife management in Michigan and other states has been corrupted and misshapen by the dominating influence of the hook-and-bullet lobby and the exclusion of citizens who want to see animals thrive in the wild as part of a broader, more ecologically balanced approach to managing their habitats and populations.
For some time now, we’ve been doing our best to demonstrate the strength of animal protection values in Michigan. In 2006, we led the successful campaign to stop the state from opening a hunting season on mourning doves, with voters rejecting the proposal in all 83 counties and casting more votes – some 2.5 million – against shooting doves than they did for any candidate in that election—including the governor.
And twice in the last decade, when the fate of wolves came to a public vote, we delivered two ballot initiative referendum victories in support of these persecuted carnivores, backed by a combined 3.5 million voters. Our campaign to protect wolves from trophy hunters in the state is not over, but we’ve shown that in a state where wildlife officials accept recognition awards from the likes of Safari Club International, we’re winning the battle for hearts and minds.
More recently, we’ve trained the spotlight on one of the worst of wildlife cruelties, the mass slaughter of animals for prizes and cash, and gained some traction. Just last month, we saw the first condemnation of wildlife killing contests in the state, and the second followed just two weeks later.
We’ve even seen two bills introduced in the Michigan House that seek to democratize and bring more representation of non-consumptive perspectives to the various committees and agencies managing the state’s wildlife.
No matter the state, we’ve got a long way to go when it comes to establishing democratic and science- and values-based governance in relation to wildlife policy. But the Ann Arbor vote, which involved 10 public officials charged with representing the views of their constituents, and the ballot referendums, which garnered millions of pro-animal votes to overturn special interest legislation favoring consumptive users, have much in common. Together, they demonstrate that whenever the public has a fair chance to express its views directly or make the case to a body that is not stacked with trapping, trophy hunting and other supporters of consumptive use, it’s almost always good for wildlife.
We’ll be working for the day when that is the norm, a day when the interests of animals are taken seriously in everybody that deliberates their fate, a day when the views of the vast wildlife-loving public are given the weight they deserve. As the results from Ann Arbor make clear, we’re on our way.