By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
It is the height of absurdity that, in 2023, animals continue to be born to be killed and skinned for a coat trim or a pom-pom on a hat. But we are heartened that with each year we see monumental progress toward our vision: a world in which not a single animal is killed just for fashion.
The fight against the fur trade is at the heart of our humane movement and has been for decades. Every year that passes sees a heightened public awareness of the importance of this fight. In 2023, we’ve continued to put pressure on the industry, leading to a significant decline in fur production globally. This means millions fewer mink, foxes and raccoon dogs will be forced to live their short lives in cramped cages, only to die a painful death. By working with internationally renowned fashion brands to go fur-free and local policymakers to pass ordinances ending the sale of new fur products, we’re eliminating the very markets that allow the fur trade to continue. Fur farms, unable to turn a profit, transition to other industries. And a new generation of innovative alternatives to animal fur is beginning to thrive, which is better for both the animals and the environment.
This year, as part of the global coalition the Fur Free Alliance, we celebrated fur-free policies from Italian luxury fashion companies Herno and Aeffe Group (the parent company for brands Moschino, Albertao Ferretti, Philosophy and Pollini). In addition, Canada’s Hudson Bay Company, the parent company for U.S. department store Saks Fifth Avenue, went fur-free. In response to our campaign asking Dillard’s to go fur-free, which garnered nearly 80,000 emails and 4,500 calls from supporters, the U.S. department store chain removed all fur products from its website.
On the U.S. policy front, this year saw California become the first state to implement a ban on new fur sales. According to federal fur sales data, California made up nearly 25% of all fur product sales in the country. Etna became the first municipality in Pennsylvania to ban new fur sales. Lexington, Massachusetts, became that state’s sixth municipality and the 14th in the country to pass such a ban.
Earlier this year, responding to the risks of spreading diseases that can be contagious and potentially life-threatening to humans, including coronaviruses and the avian flu, U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., introduced the federal bill: Vectors for Infection Risk in the United States Act (“Mink VIRUS Act”), which would end U.S. mink fur production and help support fur farmers as they transition away from the industry.
Numerous outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza on fur farms in Finland resulted in the mandatory killing of more than 400,000 foxes, mink and raccoon dogs on public health grounds. This tragedy highlighted the continued dangers of zoonotic diseases and prompted two highly respected UK-based virologists to speak out about the risks posed by the trade.
Internationally, we welcomed a ban on fur farming in Lithuania, where more than 1 million animals are bred and killed for their fur each year. We also saw continued progress on a bill to ban fur farming in Romania, as well as positive discussions towards ending fur production in Bulgaria, Sweden and Finland. We were delighted that the Fur Free Europe campaign amassed more than 1.5 million signatures, sending a clear signal to the European Commission that European citizens want to see an urgent end to fur production and trade across the European Union, but deeply disappointed that the Commission missed this opportunity to deliver a death blow to the industry in Europe. In the United Kingdom, our FurFreeBritain campaign secured more than 250 Members of Parliament and Lords in support of a fur import and sales ban, as well as support from key opposition parties ahead of next year’s general election. We also continued to expose the cruelty of the international fur industry with our hard-hitting investigations making headlines and we celebrated fur-free commitments from several retailers including luxury department stores Harvey Nichols, Matches Fashion and Arctic Army.
There is no going back to a world in which using animal fur for fashion is the acceptable norm. It’s a cruelty that, once seen, cannot be ignored or tolerated. The public simply will not stand for such severe animal suffering, and we are confident that a fur-free future is near.
Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.