The growing opposition to Assembly Bill 44, which proposes a statewide fur retail ban in California, has taken longer than it should have for a simple reason: no one who farms and sells furs expected the state legislature to seriously try to target their centuries-old craft for elimination – certainly not businesses that legally operate, produce jobs, and pay their taxes.
Introduced in December 2018, AB 44 would “make it unlawful to sell, offer for sale, display for sale, trade, or otherwise distribute for monetary or nonmonetary consideration a fur product, as defined, in the state. The bill would also make it unlawful to manufacture a fur product in the state for sale.”
AB 44 sailed to passage through its house of origin but is now encountering some increasing headwinds in the State Senate. A larger-than-expected number of opponents of AB 44 turned out at the measure’s hearing before the Senate Natural Resources Committee, June 25, a video of which can be found on the committee’s webpage.
SEE ALSO: Progressive politicians should promote fur, not ban it. By Alan Herscovici.
Opponents Line Up in Senate
Lining up to speak against AB 44 were people from all over California, including a Native American who told of fur’s importance in helping many of his people fight their way out of poverty. Earlier, the president of the California Black Chamber of Commerce and prominent leader with the Black Business Association told committee members of the affront AB 44 was to many members of his community who had fur as the only avenue open to them to overcome the many indignities of job and housing discrimination.
Two senators, one Democrat and one Republican, asked the author of the bill, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, if it is possible to amend her measure in a way that achieves her goal of improving the treatment of animals without destroying a whole industry.
There is a way to do that, which Friedman has steadfastly opposed so far. It would be amending AB 44 to adopt a global traceability and certification program that ensures all fur farms adhere to strict, science-based standards of animal welfare and sustainability with independent third-party audits and inspections every 15 to 18 months, as well as the integration of block chain technology to ensure traceability and access to information on every fur skin used in a garment all the way from the farm through processing and manufacturing and to the retailer.
Key word, that: “traceability”. According to an Agence France-Presse news report, “French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier said Wednesday [July 3, 2019] he could go back to using fur if he could be sure it was entirely traceable. The flamboyant creator announced in November he was renouncing fur, a move hailed as a major victory by animal rights groups like PETA who have previously tried to disrupt one of his shows and occupied his Paris boutique.”
SEE ALSO: North American fur trade: Ahead of the curve on traceability. By Truth About Fur.
Retailers Fear Disruptions – or Worse
Friedman thought she made a point in asking members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee why, if her bill were so harmful to retailers, none of them were there to testify against it. Here’s why. Because retailers fear that groups like PETA and Direct Action Everywhere, one of whose adherents recently charged a stage to swipe a microphone from US Sen. Kamala Harris, would be organizing disruptions in their stores. Or worse, that they would subject retailers and their clients to the kind of harassment and intimidation that they have experienced at the hands of animal extremists for years, including vandalism of their stores and homes, destruction of inventory and, in some cases, even the use of Molotov cocktails thrown into their stores.
In fact, in 2017 animal activists were sentenced for splashing flesh-eating acid and other chemicals on the outside of a San Diego fur store, gluing their locks and spray-painting anti-fur screeds on the store’s exterior. The homes of the store owner and her elderly parents were similarly targeted.
However, it should be noted that retailers, consumers and other Californians have collectively sent upwards of 600 letters opposing AB 44, because they have had enough of government overreach and the attack on small businesses, jobs and personal choice.
Pushing for Compromise
AB 44’s next hearing was to be before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 9. That committee is chaired by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who is also a member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee and at its June 25 meeting asked Friedman if there was a way to “create some kind of a compromise situation for those who insist upon producing fur, for those folk who are trying to do it the most humane way possible.”
It will be interesting to see if Jackson’s committee follows through on finding a compromise, which the proposed amendment mandating the comprehensive certification program is.
One of the greatest challenges AB 44’s opponents face has been the process itself:
• Accelerated scheduling of hearings to challenge our ability to respond.
• The setup of the testimony itself whereby the author has 10 minutes and each of her sponsors has five minutes to introduce their bill, and we are allowed only two people who each have only two minutes to testify.
• Our being prohibited from raising questions or challenging falsehoods in these hearings.
• Instructions to the Senate Judiciary Committee staff to use the analysis done on the Assembly side.
The state’s handling of conflict diamonds holds a lesson for fur. As awareness of the consequences of conflict diamonds grew, including insurgencies and loss of human lives, lawmakers here did not ban diamonds. Instead, they adopted the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme rather than eliminate an entire industry. Why can’t lawmakers apply the same thinking for fur?
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An earlier version of this article appeared on the website Fox&Hounds Daily.