AirTalk for September 22, 2011

West Hollywood’s fur ban angers local businesses

M.Markus/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

A fur coat.

The West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously late Monday night to ban the sale of fur apparel within city limits. This is the first fur-free ordinance in any city in the United States. Critics claim the city ignored an economic impact study indicating the ordinance would strongly affect local businesses.

City resident Keith Kaplan, who represents the Fur Information Council of America and is a resident of West Hollywood, told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that retailers are already on the move. “Yesterday three primary fashion houses contacted their attorneys to terminate their leases within the City of West Hollywood. Two more who are on buildout put a stop to their buildouts.”

Ed Buck with Fur Free West Hollywood said the city did the right thing. “We declared in 1989 that West Hollywood was an animal-cruelty-free zone. And I think it’s very clear, we had a unanimous vote, this is the direction of the City of West Hollywood — we are expressing our humane values.”

Kaplan said the city council ignored an independent economic impact study that FICA put together that shows the ban will have a wide-reaching negative impact on local businesses. According to Kaplan, the economic impact will have multiple layers. A major impact, he predicts, will be that West Hollywood will have difficulty attracting new high-end retailers and keeping its status as a fashionable city.

"West Hollywood has a tradition of expressing our values in the laws we pass," said Buck, citing examples of past citywide efforts to become a "cruelty-free zone." The city has also banned the use of some metal animal traps, declawing cats, cosmetic testing on animals and the sale of dogs and cats in pet shops.

"Not only is it positive for West Hollywood, it's positive for the entire country," said Buck. Proponents of the fur ban hope that like some past ordinances passed in West Hollywood, this will become a national trend. "It is largely symbolic," Buck said.

Kaplan said that the ban will have little effect on the fur industry, but a big effect on West Hollywood. "This ordinance is so limited and so arbitrary," Kaplan said. The bill covers fur clothing but not much else; because it doesn't cover furniture or leather products and does not extend beyond the reaches of West Hollywood, "it will barely even be symbolic."

Buck argued that the economic impact will be minute since fur represents only a tiny fraction of revenue generated in the city. Some retailers, he said, have already voluntarily begun to remove fur from their stores.

The ordinance still has a few steps before it will become a law in West Hollywood — the language of the law must be finalized and it has to be given a final public reading — but with an already unanimous reception from the city council, it is likely to pass.

WEIGH IN:

Is the fur ban purely political? Will it negatively affect local businesses? Will other cities follow suit and force fashion designers and manufacturers stand up and take notice of anti-fur sentiment?

Guests:

Ed Buck, lead organizer, Fur Free West Hollywood

Keith Kaplan, Executive Director, Fur Information Council of America (FICA)


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