If you walk into one of West Hollywood’s chichi boutiques, you’ll find the latest in designer fashion and elegance, but one thing you won’t find is fur, thanks to the city’s 2011 fur ban, which went into effect last year.
It’s all in a day’s work for a city that’s already famous for putting the interests of animals first with groundbreaking ordinances banning declawing and dogs and cats, and where “guardian” is used in the city code to refer to the the people responsible for the care, housing and feeding of animals. The fur ban has been highly controversial, with many retailers protesting that it cuts into their bottom line or imposes unfair restrictions on business, but the federal court doesn’t seem to think so.
West Hollywood officials recognize that banning fur sales doesn’t stop residents and visitors alike from crossing the border to neighboring cities to buy fur, but their legislation was intended as a sharp comment on the fur industry and animal welfare. While the city is considered a fashion capital, it also takes social responsibility seriously — West Hollywood is known for having highly socially active residents, progressive legislation and an environment that encourages the defense of marginalized communities. The community’s love for animals is also well-documented.
“According to the World Society for the Protection of Animals, it is estimated that fur farms produce eight-five percent of fur in the world. Every year, an estimated sixty million mink and six and one-half million foxes are killed on fur farms alone. If rabbits are included, the number of animals killed every year solely for their fur may far exceed one billion,” the City Council wrote in its 2011 ordinance, going on to note that there are numerous fur-free alternatives. After passing the ban, it gave retailers two years to get in compliance, but some felt this wasn’t enough.
That’s what landed the city in court, when West Hollywood retailer Mayfair House attempted to sue on Constitutional grounds, claiming the ban was a rights violation. Judge George H. King, however, disagreed, dismissing the case and upholding the fur ban. The judge did not recognize the arguments made by the retailer, and didn’t feel that promoting West Hollywood’s mission as a cruelty-free zone went against the rights of companies doing business in the region. His decision sent a clear message to other cities considering such bans, as well as animal welfare advocates interested in getting fur off the market.
After all, companies can always relocate if they feel that strongly about selling a notoriously cruel animal product. Just as customers have the right to vote with their wallets, companies have the right to decide where they want to do business — and so far, it doesn’t look like West Hollywood is losing sleep over the handful of businesses who have relocated rather than stop carrying fur.
Hopefully the city will take the logical next step and ban all fur sales — right now, fur in wearable goods cannot be sold in West Hollywood, but fur in home goods like rugs is still perfectly legal.
Photo credit: relux.