NEW YORK: A proposal to ban the sale of fur in New York has pitted animal rights advocates against an unexpected alliance of local industry figures and minority groups who say wearing fur is an important cultural marker.
Separated by police, hundreds of protesters on both sides of the debate squared off outside City Hall on Wednesday as the city council debated the bill, which would impose fines starting at $500 for people who sold new fur products but would permit the sale of second-hand gear.
“For me, this is really an argument about how we treat animals and how we act as a humane society,“ Corey Johnson, a city council member backing the bill, said last week. “I think it’s unnecessary to kill animals just to wear them.”
Opponents of the ban say it would endanger 150 small businesses and 7,000 jobs, while others have pointed out that wearing fur hats is a religious practice for Hasidic Jews, who have a large community in New York.
Black Americans also regard wearing fur as a time-honored tradition, opponents say.
At the protest, where opponents waved signs saying “Protect New York jobs – no fur ban” and ban supporters carried placards decrying using animals as “fashion tools,“ rapper Safaree Samuels tweeted a video of himself attending dressed in what looked to be a fur coat.
“No fur ban!” and “Our choice, our right! Leave us alone!” he chanted.
“Fur has long held importance to the African American community,“ he tweeted. “Fashion has long been a way that people of color express themselves. Banning fur is one more way to silence us.”
While a final vote on the New York bill hasn’t been scheduled, the fur industry is under increasing pressure from American cities.
San Francisco and Los Angeles have already approved fur bans and London Fashion Week organisers announced in September that fur would no longer appear on its runways.
Fashion giants Gucci, Versace and Burberry have also discontinued the use of fur in their designs. — AFP