The West Hollywood city council early Tuesday morning tentatively approved an ordinance that would ban the sale of apparel made in whole or part from the pelt or skin of an animal with hair, wool, or fur.
Animal activists began pushing the campaign seriously in January and won a unanimous, 5-0 vote after a seven hour council meeting Tuesday.
West Hollywood, a city of 50,000, is already known for passing bans on declawing cats, testing on animals for the development of cosmetics, and the use of steel-jaw leghold traps. Activists say this latest ruling will be an important boost in taking their cause countrywide.
“This is the culmination of efforts that began to really expand when people saw footage from China of the live skinning of raccoon dogs in 2005,” says Pierre Grzybowski, manager of the Fur Free Campaign of the Humane Society of the US. “When people see these actions, they are immediately energized to do something to stop them,” he says.
The ordinance still has technical and procedural hurdles with a second public reading ahead and final decisions on penalities, a starting date, and enforcement. There is also the issue of how to regulate second-hand retailers.
At Monday night’s hearing several shop owners said the idea would hurt business so much they would be inclined to leave. The West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the board of the Avenues: Art, Fashion and Design district both oppose the ordinance. And local resident Keith Kaplan, executive director of the Fur Information Council of America told the Los Angeles Times he doesn’t think the council spent enough time determining the economic impact of the law.
But national activists say the vote is indicative of changing attitudes worldwide.
“If people are urged to think about the issue clearly and honestly, they realize there is no real argument against this,” says Grzybowski. “They realize that if their own pets were treated this way, the perpetrator would be put in jail. And their mind is made up.”
Other observers say the idea is likely to gain less traction in the current economic atmosphere.
"The timing could hardly be worse,” says Villanova sociology professor Gordon Coonfield. At a time when many Americans are desperately struggling financially, people may have more pressing needs to consider, he says.