Fur retailers opposed a ban on fur sales when it was introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang in 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Fur retailers opposed a ban on fur sales when it was introduced by San Francisco Supervisor Katy Tang in 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF fur ban challenged by industry group lawsuit

A fur industry group has sued San Francisco in an effort to block a ban on the sale of fur.

The International Fur Federation filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging the ban, which was approved in 2019 and took full effect on Jan. 1, violates the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution, according to a report from the Sacramento Bee.

The group is also critical of the ban on environmental grounds, because fur substitutes tend to be made from plastics and fossil fuels.

“If this law is allowed to stand, there’s nothing stopping San Francisco from banning wool, leather, meat, or other products that a small group of activists don’t approve of,” said Mark Oaten, CEO of the IFF. “Californians should have no fewer rights than residents of other states. They should be free to buy legally produced goods unless there is a public safety or health issue—which does not exist here.”

Another industry group, the Fur Information Council of America, said in a statement that the ban “opens the door to greater infringement on consumer choice and was “driven by ideological animal liberation radicals.”

“This ban does nothing to improve animal welfare,” FICA spokesman Keith Kaplan said.

“True progressivism is not the city council dictating to people that they can’t buy fur or what they must eat or wear, but in supporting science-based programs such as FurMark that ensure sustainability and animal welfare,” Kaplan said, referencing an industry program that verifies sustainability and animal welfare in fur production.

City Attorney’s Office spokesman John Cote said the city would “vigorously defend” the legislation in court, and rejected the group’s environmental claims.

“Fur farming contributes to air and water pollution, and fur processing often involves the use of harmful chemicals, like chromium and formaldehyde,” Cote said. “Fur farming also consumes significant amounts of energy: producing a coat made with real fur can consume 15 times more energy than the energy required to produce a fake fur garment.”

“San Francisco’s legislative leaders have made it clear that this city does not condone killing millions of animals a year in fur farms to make a fashion statement,” Cote added.

Animal rights group the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals issued its own statement condemning the lawsuit.

“The fur industry is desperate to keep confining animals to filthy cages, breaking their legs in steel-jaw traps, shooting or electrocuting them, or breaking their necks for fur that most designers won’t use and kind consumers won’t wear,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said. “Just as the meat industry has begun investing in vegan meats, investing in vegan materials would be a far better use of time and money than battling to block a ban that’s simply a symptom of the fur industry’s decline.”

San Francisco approved the ban in March of 2018, and parts of it first took effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

The state of California followed suit, approving legislation in October 2019 that will ban the sale and manufacture of new fur products by 2023, as well as a separate bill in September of 2019 that banned fur trapping. Los Angeles, Berkeley and West Hollywood have also passed similar bans.

The ban on fur sales was was opposed by retailers and business groups when it was introduced by Supervisor Katy Tang. The Chamber of Commerce estimated in 2018 that 50 fur retailers accounted for around $40 million in fur sales annually, although city staff estimates were significantly lower, at around $10.8 million.

Union Square, which hosts many luxury retailers, was especially hard hit, with the Union Square Business Improvement District estimating it represented around 30 businesses that sold items with fur.

This story has been updated to include a statement from IFF CEO Mark Oaten.

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