California will be the first state to ban the sale and manufacture of new fur products.
Under the legislation, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, it will be illegal to manufacture, sell or donate new fur products. The law applies to clothing, shoes, handbags and other items that contain fur. It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023.
The law — known as AB 44 — exempts leather, cowhide and shearling, as well as used fur and taxidermy products. Fur products used for religious purposes or by a Native American tribe are also exempt, as is fur taken legally with a hunting license. There is a penalty up to $1,000 for violations.
While the ban has been praised by animal rights groups, the Fur Information Council has threatened to sue, reports USA Today.
California's fur legislation was one of several bills Newsom signed designed to prevent cruelty to animals. One banned the use of wild animals like elephants and bears in circuses, another protected horses from slaughter, and another prohibits trapping, hunting or killing bobcats.
“California is a leader when it comes to animal welfare and today that leadership includes banning the sale of fur,” said Newsom in a news release. “But we are doing more than that. We are making a statement to the world that beautiful wild animals like bears and tigers have no place on trapeze wires or jumping through flames.”
Following city-wide bans
Before the statewide ban, several cities in California had similar laws already in place.
San Francisco was the largest U.S. city to ban coats, gloves, keychains and anything else covered or decorated in fur. City supervisors voted unanimously in 2018 to ban the sale of fur. Although the ban went into effect Jan. 1, 2019, retailers have until Jan. 1, 2020 to sell the rest of their inventory.
The legislation states that, "the sale of fur products in San Francisco is inconsistent with the City’s ethos of treating all living beings, humans and animals alike, with kindness."
Two other California cities, West Hollywood and Berkeley, had already banned fur sales. A third, Los Angeles, introduced similar legislation that goes into effect in 2021, making it illegal to sell, manufacture or trade fur clothing and accessories such as coats, handbags and key chains within the city limits, reports The Los Angeles Times. There are several exemptions including used furs, taxidermy and pelts from animals that were taken legally with a hunting license.
Both sides weigh in
Not surprisingly, animal rights activists were ecstatic with the vote.
"The signing of AB 44 underscores the point that today’s consumers simply don’t want wild animals to suffer extreme pain and fear for the sake of fashion," said Kitty Block, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States and president of Humane Society International, in a press release. "More cities, states and countries are expected to follow California’s lead, and the few brands and retailers that still sell fur will no doubt take a closer look at innovative alternatives that don’t involve animal cruelty."
Not everyone, however, was thrilled with the ban.
The ban is part of a "radical vegan agenda using fur as the first step to other bans on what we wear and eat," spokesman Keith Kaplan of the fur information council said in a prior statement, according to NBC News. He said fake fur is not a renewable or sustainable option.
Globally, more than a dozen European countries, including the United Kingdom, Austria, Norway and the Netherlands have also passed laws to restrict the fur trade, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Many retailers are also ending fur sales. In mid-October, Macy’s announced it will phase out fur from all its stores — including Bloomingdale’s — by the end of 2020. The stores will also close all fur vaults and salons. Other fashion brands such as Prada, Gucci, Michael Kors and Burberry have taken similar steps in recent years.
“Over the past two years, we have been closely following consumer and brand trends, listening to our customers and researching alternatives to fur," said Jeff Gennette, chairman and chief executive officer of Macy’s, Inc. "We’ve listened to our colleagues ... and we have met regularly on this topic with the Humane Society of the United States and other NGOs. Macy’s private brands are already fur free so expanding this practice across all Macy’s, Inc. is the natural next step."
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new information since it was originally published in March 2018.