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Monday, February 08, 2010

Taking a Bite Out of Fur

A legislative committee in Israel this weekend advanced a bill that would ban the import and export of all furs, except for those used for religious purposes. The panel previously approved a ban on the sale of dog and cat fur, and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon is hoping to expand the law to include fur from any animal. The religious exemption would largely be used by the ultra-Orthodox community to manufacture shtreimels, a traditional fur hat.

Urge Congress to pass The Truth in Fur Labeling Act to
address fraudulent fur selling.

“Wild animals suffer as a result of the fur industry, which is a cruel industry made for the production of luxurious artifacts,” Simhon said. “The animals’ skin is stripped from them while they are still alive. There is no reason why Israel should continue to strengthen this industry. We should set an example to the rest of the world on this matter.” He added that the law would be easier to enforce if it bans all fur products, as airport inspectors “will not have to inquire to which animal each fur belongs.”

Israel has been a leader in the humane treatment of animals, and it’s no surprise given the country’s laws are rooted in the Jewish tradition. Like all of the major religious denominations, Orthodox Judaism speaks to the concern for animal protection. Rabbi Solomon Granzfried, for example, wrote in the Code of Jewish Law, “It is forbidden, according to the law of the Torah, to inflict pain upon any living creature. On the contrary, it is our duty to relieve the pain of any creature, even if it is ownerless or belongs to a non-Jew.”

The international community has been making tremendous headway on the fur issue in recent years. The 27 member nations of the European Union banned the trade in dog and cat fur in 2007, and banned the trade in seal products in 2009. This pair of policy reforms has helped to dry up the markets for some of the cruelest fur products in the world—dog and cat fur from China and seal skins from Canada’s annual slaughter of baby harp seals—even in many northern-latitude, fur-wearing countries.

Here in the United States, which also bans the sale of seal fur and dog and cat fur, the public policy efforts have been focused on accurate and consistent labeling to make sure consumers can make informed purchasing decisions in the marketplace. A federal law from the 1950s requires most fur apparel to be labeled, but there’s a gaping loophole that excludes garments containing $150 or less worth of fur material. Many fur-trimmed jackets are sold without labels, and dog fur is slipping into the country undetected. These unlabeled jackets are allowing some retailers to falsely advertise animal fur as “faux.”

Five states—Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin—have stronger fur labeling laws, and a bill was introduced in the California legislature to give consumers additional protections. But we need a national standard to address this fraudulent fur selling. The Truth in Fur Labeling Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and U.S. Representatives Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), would require all fur garments to be labeled regardless of value. The legislation has 33 cosponsors in the Senate and 162 in the House, and it’s time for Congress to pass this common-sense consumer protection measure.

If Israel is on its way to banning the trade in nearly all fur items, the least the United States can do is make sure it’s labeled properly, giving consumers the opportunity to make the right choices and avoid fur products. Please contact your members of Congress today and ask them to pass the Truth in Fur Labeling Act.


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