SACRAMENTO -- Tuesday state senators in the Natural Resources Committee voted to advance Assembly Bill 44, legislation that would essentially ban fur production and sales in California.
“I believe it’s time for us to take the first step in the country and say as a state, we're going to go fur-free,” said Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale.
AB 44 bans the manufacture and sale of new furs in California, excluding animals that are not typically killed primarily for their fur, like deer and sheep.
The bill allows for the sale of secondhand fur and does not forbid people from wearing fur or buying fur from out of state. The bill also excludes fur product made for religious or Native American cultural uses.
Animal rights groups voiced strong support for the proposed law in front of senators.
“Animals are being tortured needlessly for fashion. Laura Freedman has brought up that these are wild animals who have no place inside of farms,” said Cassie King with Direct Action Everywhere.
However, there were also dozens who voiced opposition in front of the Natural Resources Committee.
“A tobacco user may not buy tobacco if they can't buy it in California but a fur buyer can go anywhere to buy fur,” said Keith Kaplan with the Fur Information Council of America. “They travel, they have the money, so your overall impact is going to be negligible, if at all.”
Kaplan argued that a ban on fur wouldn’t stop Californians from buying fur, it would only penalize honest actors, cost California jobs and expand the black market. His argument should sound familiar to California lawmakers.
“It’s odd that we can very thoughtfully regulate the cannabis industry but somehow we can’t regulate the fur industry,” said Sacramento Lobbyist Matt Gray.
Kaplan proposed an amendment to the bill. Instead of banning new fur sale and production, he recommended putting in place animal welfare standards to regulate all fur sales and production and certifying fur products that meet the requirements.
“This prevents groups from merely shifting their purchases out of state where it wouldn’t be covered by animal welfare standards,” he said.
However, supporters of AB 44 claim you can't legislate the cruelty out of the fur industry.
“The opponents will try to say that you can standardize fur, you cannot humanely regulate an industry where animals are tortured,” said Marc Ching with Animal Hope in Legislation.
The bill will head to the Senate Judiciary Committee. If passed it needs to be signed by the governor to become law.
However, opponents also argue this bill restricts freedom of expression, and therefore the First Amendment. They say they will mount court challenges if the bill becomes law.