When New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who represents the Garment District, announced a proposal back in March to ban future sales of fur in the city, many viewed it as another case of politicians blindly following a trend. After all, the animal rights industry has made a national business out of vilifying the animal consumption world - regardless of what’s fact or fiction.
But what animal rights activists and political sponsors assumed would be an easy steam-roll over “rich white women” and “redneck trappers and farmers” who support fur usage, has proven shakier than imagined. Perhaps the large majority of America who recognize the regulated usage of animal by-products as both sustainable and practical, wasn’t quite anticipated.
We sure do live in interesting times in American culture! If I sound punchier than usual - its with good reason.
When the public just won’t pay attention to self-righteous anti-fur diatribes, its become a national trend to politically force legal bans upon the masses of your fellow citizenry instead.
California knows this process all too well, with the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco both imposing bans on the sale of fur recently. Political pressure has also been applied with current legislation seeking to totally snuff out regulated trapping and the sale of wild fur statewide.
It doesn’t take a business strategist to see what’s going on - clearly, in the eyes of the animal rights industry, the “east coast” was in need of a dust-up with some good ol’ frivolous (and completely egregious) hunting and garment restrictions. Hopes were quickly imposed to ensure New York City becomes the next “fur-free” urban mecca.
The only difference from the antics playing out on the west coast - the Big Apple isn’t going down without swingin’… hard!
We Don’t Care How They Do It In California
According to trade group FurNYC, the city still has the largest retail fur market in the country, stating the 150 remaining fur businesses in New York create 1,100 jobs and produce $400 million in revenue per year.
And its not just backwoods fur trappers supporting the industry. As the NYC fur ban really started to heat up last month, folks from all walks of American life came out to fight the proposal.
African-American and Jewish faith leaders added to the protests in opposition, stating that the ban discriminates against their cultural heritage. Outspoken immigrants weighed in regarding the potential loss of skills and careers. Celebrities jumped into the mix to criticize government who thinks it can tell its people how to dress. Anyone who recognized fur as a sustainable material made sure to join the vocal movement against the ban.
"People feel complete when they put on something that they worked hard for, they have sacrificed for," says the Rev. Phil Craig, who was among 75 clergy and other advocates protesting against the ban.
In a Tweet sent out last month, The Coalition For Blacks For Fur stated “This fur ban will destroy jobs, the environment, and critical tax revenue.”
Apparently, the pushback from a ban on fur in NYC was more than the city’s politicians expected.
“Maybe I should have thought more about this before I introduced it because I didn’t realize the amount of pushback there would be,” Johnson told reporters at City Hall this week. “I was actually moved by some of the furriers and their testimony,” he said.
Animal rights proponents, on the other hand, still desperately contend the usage of fur is trending downward. (All the more reason to force a ban I guess, right? These folks clearly aren’t infamous for their rationale.)
On the contrary, a national locavore movement seems to be fueling a revival in sustainable materials - like fur; which is probably why industry leaders like PETA and The Humane Society are scrambling to support restrictions on fur usage and regulated hunting of fur across the country.
We reported just a few months ago about the booming demand for coyote fur-trimmed winter jackets produced by Canada Goose. And its not just fashion - more and more rural citizens are interested in ethically utilizing fur-bearing species that pose problems to homes, property, and livestock.
With synthetic fibers from “faux fur” coats flushing 1900 fibers into our world’s waterways every wash - its no wonder that eco-conscious citizens are turning to more natural ways to reduce the “plastic footprint” that all parties seem to agree is a global issue.
In the case of wild fur especially, the regulated seasonal trapping and usage of fur pelts from abundant wild species such as raccoons, skunks, and beaver are nationally considered wise use of resources that are otherwise destined for the landfill when they’re struck by vehicles, lose habitat due to urbanization, succumb to disease, or cause conflict for landowners and municipalities.
Environmental and wildlife management aspects aside, an underlying theme heard from citizens in the NYC Fur Ban debates is clear - freedom of choice.
The “my closet, my choice” epitome seems to be resinating with a growing sector of the American populous that has grown tired of hollow protests and frivolous Government bans.
It appears as though the “freedom of choice crowd” carries the bigger stick - at least for the moment.
Wrong Info Creates Wrong Decisions
While some people are certainly foaming at the mouth to drive another nail in the coffin of rural culture, many more are lighting their torches and wielding their pitchforks against fur-supporters on hearsay rather than tangible information.
“All-knowing” celebrities like fashion designer Tim Gunn have been outspoken supporters of the fur ban. Gunn told reporters that “Foxes, rabbits, chinchillas and even dogs and cats are anally electrocuted, gassed, bludgeoned and often skinned alive.”
Even Speaker Johnson added during his release on the ban last week that he “really just did it because I felt like it was the right thing to do in my heart.”
Apparently Johnson, Gunn, nor PETA representative Dan Matthews, who echoed similar statements, have been paying attention to the news lately - nor did their homework before pushing for a city-wide ban.
In March, two Chinese workers came forward stating they’d been paid by animal rights activists to skin a dog alive on video. That video, which has been circulated around the internet, is the only crutch the animal rights industry has been able to rely upon for the out-of-left-field (and inherently false) statement that licensed trappers and fur farmers “skin animals alive for their fur”.
Of course, licensed fur trappers and fur farmers know full well skinning animals alive isn’t part of the pelting process - but who asked them, right? Not the mainstream media, not the government officials imposing these bans from city to city, and certainly not the anti-hunting/anti-fur crowds.
While some may argue that fur pelts aren’t “needed” in the modern age, some could also argue that the detractions against regulated fur usage are also in dire need of some evolutionary creativity.
There’s nothing wrong with disagreements in opinion, the usage of animal byproducts, or even wildlife management fundamentals. A disagreement however, is far from shoving cult-like laws and legal bans down the throats of the American people.
No Such Thing As Bad Publicity
For the animal rights industry, I suspect the battles over fur bans from coast to coast (and coat to coat) present themselves as a win/win situation.
Even if the NYC Fur Ban caves to the pressure of citizens’ right to choose, the animal rights organizations spearheading the ban still walk away with profitable notoriety as a byproduct of their latest PR stunt.
Which is why, despite the lunacy of strong-arming a ban on the usage of a natural resources, the organizations, celebrities, and politicians involved in perpetuating the NYC Fur Ban will continue the circus act from city to city, state to state, country to country, and, inevitably, closet to closet.
Lets be real, if anyone supporting a ban on fur garments actually cared about animal welfare, they’d do their due diligence by researching all aspects of the debate; rather than selfishly hiding behind a protest sign or online petition. But alas, ignorance breeds ignorance; and a false sense of “moral superiority” just breeds more lackluster grandstanding - an obvious hot commodity surrounding the topic.
Perhaps its time the (already heavily regulated) hunting, trapping, and fur-garment communities take a page out of the animal rights industry playbook and soak up a slice of the publicity pie themselves.
At the end of the day, groups like PETA don’t care if they win or lose another media-fueled public cage match - I’m talking about them aren’t I? And that’s what ultimately sells - whether the facts lean in favor of their views or not.
Supporters of the regulated usage of natural fur materials would be hard-pressed to find a better microphone than the one they’ve been forced to fight against in New York City - and its time for those invested parties to take full advantage of this circus while its still in town!
Suffice to say, the activism industry has a PR problem - the men and women protesting the NYC ban on fur aren’t your run-of-the-mill rural fur trappers and mink farmers the American public has been conditioned to demonize. Collectively, the folks most outraged over the proposed fur ban represent a cross-section of modern America - all creeds, all races, all classes, all political affiliations.
Sometimes, a Government-backed “ban” on a particular material or chemical makes sense to protect the health of its citizens (or the natural resources we all cherish and have been tasked with conserving). The NYC fur ban, clearly, is not one of those instances.
A ban on clothing choice? Especially from a material that is regulated, and has proven no modern negative impact on our environment (while the alternative product has proven to cause environmental harm) - well now, we all know that’s just silly.
At the end of the day, whether NYC moves forward with its ban on fur or not, one thing has been made painfully clear - the animal rights industry can’t claim the “moral majority” any longer.
Just a few months ago we reported on increased (and unsolicited) harassment from local activists against the Miss New Hampshire Pageant Program over the yearly winner’s acceptance of a donated fur coat from the NH Trappers Association.
For all the protests, theatrics and rancor derived from a small group of animal rights “party-poopers” with national ties, The Miss NH scholarship program’s supporters and contestants all seemed to emerge from the unsolicited pandemonium mostly unscathed. As of the writing of this column, those activists have now vowed to harass the program’s sponsor list - in hopes of getting some attention from that sector of the program instead. Some people just can’t take a hint.
While major cities across America deal with fur and trapping bans, The Granite State was dealing with its own little blip of manufactured controversy - and the results seemed to mirror those that have taken place in NYC.