LOS ANGELES – California believes it’s leading the herd in banning fur, but it’s yet to be seen whether Arizona and other states will follow.
If many more fall in line, “This will be the way the fur trade ends as we know it,” predicts PJ Smith, fashion policy director at the Humane Society of the United States.
Other states were prompted to consider their own fur bans. In 2021, Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Hawaii and New York were among the states considering fur bans, according to the Fur Free Alliance.
So far, there’s no indication Arizona will follow anytime soon. Of about two dozen calls placed to the offices of Arizona state legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, none responded.
Arizona, however, did take a fur-related step in 2019. It became one of a handful of states to ban contests that award prizes to hunters for killing the most coyotes, other predators or fur-bearing wildlife.
The use of fur in fashion has spurred debate for decades. As faux fur has taken the place of authentic fur and allows for the same look, the value of real fur has increasingly been questioned by animal-rights advocates.
In California, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, a Democrat, introduced the measure that prohibited the sale and manufacturing of fur in the Golden State. The bill was passed in 2019, and Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, signed it into law the same year. The ban officially took effect this past Jan. 1.
“There is no need for fur in the 21st century and no place for it in a sustainable future,” Friedman said in a statement after passage of the bill.
The move is a major hit to the fur industry since California accounts for the greatest value of fur sales in the U.S.
In 2017, sales of fur clothing raked in $574 million, including $129 million from California, according to the Humane Society quoting data from the U.S. Economic Census, part of the U.S. Census Bureau.
But some major retailers have turned away from fur, including Gucci, Calvin Klein, Nordstrom and Walmart. Gucci took to Instagram in 2017 to announce the decision, which at the time became their most popular post on the platform.
Fashion designers don’t seem miffed by the ban.
The use of natural fur “seems unnecessary,” said Phoenix-based fashion designer Megan Barbera. “We have so many more options now.” The most obvious, of course, is faux fur, a synthetic that mimics the look of fur without harming animals.
California’s fur ban received widespread support from animal activist groups like the Humane Society and People for the Ethical Treament of Animals. And it is also gaining ground with younger generations and consumers in general, who overwhelmingly agree with banning the use of fur in fashion.
“It’s clear that wearing animal fur is a thing of the past,” said Ashley Byrne of PETA. “There are still a few holdouts, so this legislation is helpful.”
The Humane Society’s Smith calls California’s fur ban “an amazing feat.”
Smith pointed to the generational shift towards younger consumers, such as Gen Z, as being a factor behind the momentum toward lawmakers and private companies embracing a fur-free market.
“They understand the marketing potential of reaching the Gen-Z consumer that cares about not only the environment, but animals as well,” Smith said.
Generation Z consumers are the first to overwhelmingly prioritize animal welfare when purchasing luxury goods, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group. “Gen Z have a clearly different set of behaviors and values that brands should better monitor and understand,” the study found.
Some 81% of consumers now consider animal welfare when buying clothing, according to Vogue Business, the highest it has ever been.
The fur industry has pushed back against the bans, saying animal-based products are sustainable and can break down in landfills unlike clothing made from synthetic materials.
The ban is driven by those who not only want to ban fur, but want to end use of animals for food as well, said Mike Brown, spokesman for the Natural Fibers Alliance, a trade group representing producers of leather, wool, fur and other sustainable products, in an email to Cronkite News.
“If advocates truly wanted to end the practice of ‘animal cruelty’ they would push for a complete ban on both commercial farming and fishing. But instead, they push legislators to introduce legislation that hides their true intent,” Brown wrote.
Brown said that the new California law has led to manufacturers moving their production to states like Nevada, Florida and Texas to do the same work and serve the same clients that they were prior to the law taking effect.
And while sales of new fur clothing are prohibited, the ban doesn’t prevent fashionistas from continuing to sport natural fur.
“Wearing fur in California is still allowed, and the product is still widely worn in the state,” Brown said.