'Animal Fur Is Obsolete': Lawmakers Push Bills to Ban Sales in California, Hawaii and NYC
By Michael Sainato and Chelsea Skojec
In the 1980's and 90's, fur activists were mocked and viewed in the mainstream as a radical nuisance, embodied by a stereotype of dousing wearers of fur coats in red paint. Since then, undercover investigations and campaigns targeting leading fashion corporations have swayed public opinion against the use of fur in the fashion industry, and lawmakers have started to respond with proposals to ban its sale and manufacturing.
West Hollywood, California was the first city in the U.S. to pass a fur ban in 2011. Berkeley followed in 2017, with San Francisco passing their own fur ban in March 2018 and Los Angeles, the largest city to ban fur, passing the sale and manufacturing of fur within city limits in September 2018. As cities in California have led the way to banning fur in the U.S., a bill in the state assembly was recently proposed that would ban the sale and manufacturing of animal fur throughout the state of California.
"The City of Los Angeles has just gone through their process to ban the sale of fur, San Francisco had already done it and several other cities, so I felt it was time to have the conversation at the state level," said California Assemblymember Laura Friedman, the author of the legislation, AB44, which passed a vote in the appropriations committee and will likely reach a floor vote within a few weeks. "We have a lot of evidence and heard from clothing manufacturers that it's nearly impossible to find out whether the fur was sourced for clothing is raised in a humane way."
In the U.S., the animal fur industry is widely unregulated and receives little to no oversight from the government. The results of this lack of transparency have been uncovered in recent investigations of animal fur farms in the U.S.
"The secrecy of the fur industry, and the secrecy they're allowed by law enables them to have so much cruelty within their industry," said Lewis Bernier, an activist with the animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). In 2018, Bernier led an investigation of a chinchilla fur farm in Ohio. Dxe declined to disclose the exact name, location of the farm or dates of the investigation due to legal concerns. "The cages were very tightly packed, row to row, wall to wall, with open cage designs so the ones on the bottom were being defecated and urinated on by the chinchillas on top of them. There was cannibalization and no way they were being provided necessary medical care."
This cruelty and secrecy within the animal fur industry has driven consumer demand for cruelty-free products within the fashion industry, as leading fashion brands have stopped using animal fur. Gucci banned animal fur in 2017, as its CEO called it "outdated." Michael Kors phased out using fur in December 2018. Versace announced its ban in March 2018. Chanel banned animal furs and exotic skins in December 2018. Gucci and Coach also went fur-free in 2018, joining other fashion brands such as Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and others that stopped using fur in previous years. For the first time, London's fashion week in 2018 was completely fur-free as a requirement for brands to participate. On May 22, 2019, Prada announced it will begin phasing out the use of animal fur for its products.
"This is a clear global movement away from the use of animal furs, especially among the world's most respected brands and retailers," said Joshua Katcher, a New York City fashion designer and author of Fashion Animals. "The demand for brands to stand proudly of how things are made, not just what they look like. The demand for the beauty of an object and how it was made, more and more consumers want that and want to support these new systems they want to see flourish."
Katcher noted these demands are felt by young designers who are seeking cutting edge, sustainable and ethical materials over materials like animal furs. "Animal fur is obsolete at this point," he added.
In New York City, city council members are currently in the process of deciding on a bill to ban the sale of new animal fur products within the city after public hearings were held on May 15. A recent poll conducted by Mason-Dixon found 75 percent of New York City voters support the ban. No date has yet been set on when the city council will decide on the legislation.
Dan Matthews, senior vice president of campaigns at PETA, was one of the bill supporters present at the hearing to demonstrate to council members the type of animal traps used by fur traders to catch animals.
"Trap lines are completely self regulated, nobody can check on them because only the trapper knows where they've placed the traps and the coyote trap I've been showing to council members is a coyote trap meant for coyotes, but they don't discriminate. They often trap family dogs, cats, owls, other wildlife," Matthews said. He noted the traps are used as close to New York City as Westchester County and Connecticut.
PETA has been one of the leading organizations against the animal fur industry, conducting several undercover investigations and targeted campaigns against clothing brands.
"We found minks in Maryland being injected with weed killer. We found a fur farmer in Indiana who electrocuted chinchillas with cords attached to a car battery, and he often didn't use enough voltage so animals would come alive on the skinning table, which he thought was funny," added Matthews. "So these fur farmers and trappers, they have no veterinary training and no interest in training, yet they are involved in killing animals for their business."
In Hawaii, a bill to ban the sale of animal fur was introduced for the first time this year.
"I thought of all places our state doesn't really need fur clothing given our warm, tropical climate," said State Senator Mike Gabbard (D), who proposed the bill in January 2019. The bill, which received five co-sponsors in the Hawaii State Senate, was referred to the consumer protection and health committee, but did not receive a hearing this legislative session. "Sometimes it takes a couple years to get good legislation like this moving, so I plan to reintroduce the bill next session, in January 2020, and I hope Hawaii can be one of the first states to pass a fur ban."
Kimberly Moore, spokesperson for the Fur Free Society, a non-profit that helped write the bill with Senator Gabbard, added, "The fact it was taken up as a legislative matter is extremely heartening because more and more countries are banning fur around the world."
She cited examples of countries that have either banned fur farming or the sale of animal fur outright, including Serbia, Luxembourg, Norway, Croatia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, UK, Belgium, Japan, Austria, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and partial bans and regulations in several other countries around the world.
"The private market itself is moving away from fur and exotic skins. In the last couple of years, the movement against using fur has really accelerated," Moore noted. "There was a little activity in the 1990s with PETA, but in the last couple of years there has been major movements by governments to ban the sale of fur. That trend is being picked up by more municipalities in the United States."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By Emily Grubert
Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
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What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
Witnessing Emotions in Animals<p>Not all scientists are comfortable concluding that elephants grieve. Among the more than 30 reports of elephant reactions to death that Wittemyer co-reviewed in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-019-00766-5" target="_blank">a study published in November 2019</a> were accounts of "enormous variation and nuance" he says. "It can be incredibly involved and intricate for extended periods or can be relatively cursory checks."</p><p>In Wittemyer's own experience, it can be difficult not to attribute some kind of emotional experience to the more involved interactions between elephants and their dead.</p><p>He shares the story of an "extraordinary event" involving the death of a 55 year-old matriarch in Kenya in a protected area that happened to be near his place of work. She was visited by multiple unrelated families while she was dying, including another matriarch that exerted such enormous effort attempting to lift her to her feet that she broke her tusk, which Wittemyer says, is "like breaking a tooth." </p><p><span></span>"It was a remarkable example of this heightened emotional state, it was very clearly a very stressful interaction," he says.</p>
A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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