New York City Hearing on Fur Ban Draws Hundreds of Supporters, Opponents

About a hundred yards from New York City Hall on the northern bank of Steve Flanders Square stood a group of a few dozen people chanting, “Fur trade, death trade!” Directly south, separated by steel barricades, was another crowd of about the same number who repeated in unison, “No fur ban!”

Both groups — composed of activists, fashion designers, small business owners and more — rallied today at the foot of City Hall ahead of a hearing to address a measure, which, if passed, could have a significant and long-term impact on the fashion capital of the world.

The ban, formally called Bill No. 1476, seeks to prohibit the sales of fur apparel, footwear and other accessories throughout the five boroughs. Introduced by Council Speaker Corey Johnson in late March, the legislation states that “no person may sell or offer for sale any fur apparel except for used fur apparel or fur apparel made from fur sourced exclusively from used fur apparel.”

Hosted by the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing, today’s hearing is expected to see the testimonies of approximately 150 people throughout the day. (More than 300 people were in attendance.)

Among the groups present include the Voters for Animal Rights, which brought up a citywide survey conducted by Mason-Dixon that found a majority of New Yorkers support outlawing the sale of fur apparel. (The poll showed that 74% of Democrats, 71% of Republicans and 79% of independents were in favor of the ban.)

“These polling results demonstrate that New Yorkers of all political persuasions oppose animal cruelty and overwhelmingly support a prohibition on the sale of fur apparel, which comes from tortured animals on fur farms and the wild,” said VFAR president Allie Feldman Taylor. “It is common sense that ending the egregious practice of selling apparel made from abused animals is the right thing to do.”

Business owners and furriers, on the other hand, argued about the impact of the legislation on their livelihoods as well as the larger issue of sustainability. According to FURNYC, about 7,500 jobs related to the fur industry would be axed, with more or less 150 small businesses expected to shutter within a year of the bill’s passage. (In those initial 12 months, the organization reports that NYC would lose $76 million in taxable revenues.)

Meanwhile, multiple witnesses who spoke out against the ban mentioned that fur was biodegradable while faux fur — made of synthetic polymeric fibers, which are forms of plastic — are not.

A representative from the American Apparel & Footwear Association added during the hearing that the “choice of materials used in apparel and footwear products is very important, and consumers make educated decisions about the types of products that they purchase.”

As of 5 p.m. ET, the committee is still hearing witness testimony.

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