'Animal Fur Is Obsolete': Lawmakers Push Bills to Ban Sales in California, Hawaii and NYC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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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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