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California Governor Signs Bill Barring Most Animals From Circuses and Banning the Sale of New Fur

California will ban the sale and manufacture of new fur products and bar most animals from circus performances under a pair of bills signed Saturday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Under the first-in-the-nation fur law, residents will no longer be able to sell or make clothing, shoes or handbags made of fur starting in 2023. California is the third state to ban most animals from circus performances, joining New Jersey and Hawaii.

Animal rights groups cheered the fur ban as a stand against inhumane practices. The proposal was vigorously opposed by the billion-dollar U.S. fur industry, and the Fur Information Council of America has already threatened to sue.

It follows Newsom’s signing of legislation that makes California the first state to outlaw fur trapping, and follows bans on sales of fur in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The new law doesn’t apply to used fur products or fur used for religious or tribal purposes. And it excludes the sale of leather, dog and cat fur, cowhides, deer, sheep and goat skin and anything preserved through taxidermy.

It could mark a significant blow to the fur industry that makes products from animals including mink, chinchillas, rabbits and other animals. The U.S. retail fur industry brought in $1.5 billion in sales in 2014, the most recent data available from the Fur Information Council.

Fashion designers including Versace, Gucci and Giorgio Armani have stopped or say they plan to stop using fur.

Under the new California law there is a fine of up to $1,000 for multiple violations.

“Given the overwhelming evidence of inhumane practices in the fur industry and the availability of so many different options for warm and fashionable fabrics, we will not continue to be complicit in unnecessary cruelty,” Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman said when she introduced the bill.

Animal rights groups have said animals may be subject to gassing, electrocution and other inhumane actions to obtain their fur.

Opponents of the legislation have said it could create a black market and be a slippery slope to bans on other products.

The ban is part of a “radical vegan agenda using fur as the first step to other bans on what we wear and eat,” spokesman Keith Kaplan of the fur information council said in a prior statement. He further said fake fur is not a renewable or sustainable options.

The circus performance bill, meanwhile, exempts domesticated dogs, cats and horses and does not apply to rodeos.

Circuses have been declining in popularity for decades. The most well-known act, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, closed in 2017 after 146 years of performances.

State officials say at least two circuses that include live animals were scheduled to perform in California this year. At least 18 circuses don’t use animals, including Cirque du Soleil.

At first, critics warned the proposal was too broad and would impact county fairs, wildlife rescues or rehabilitation organizations. In response, lawmakers narrowed the definition of circus to include “a performance before a live audience in which entertainment consisting of a variety of acts such as acrobats, aerialists, clowns, jugglers, or stunts is the primary attraction or principal business.”

The law includes penalties of up to $25,000 per day for each violation.

Democratic Sen. Ben Hueso authored the law, arguing that wild animals in circuses endure cruel training and near-constant confinement.

“We cannot allow this type of abuse to occur in California,” Hueso said, according to a legislative analysis of the proposal that eventually became law.

The Southwest California Legislative Council opposed the law, arguing it will prevent people from being able “to experience the thrill of a circus performance featuring beautiful, well cared for animals.”

The Fur Debate: What Designers Say

Fur is on everyone's mind. Designers were open about their positions and, often, their conflict on the subject.

Tom Ford

Tom Ford “Oh, my God! The fur question! There’s no way to answer this fur question without getting in trouble with somebody… “I have recently become vegan — within the last year. [Going vegan] starts to make you question [fur]. I have started using much more fake fur. I’m not yet ready to say that I’m fur-free. Now, I have limited the fur in these collections and going forward to food by-products, which does not sound very sexy. “I’m selling you a food by-product!” That means cowhide, it means shearling, it means not doing fur that is raised purely for its pelt.

Miuccia Prada

“This subject would need very lengthy discussion, and once you approach fur you should possibly approach the larger issue of sustainability and the environment and maybe much more, all issues that our company is committed to. I have always preferred doing, acting, instead of making announcements: Of course, we are researching and analyzing the possibilities very seriously, and I have stopped showing fur on the catwalk. The subject is serious and has to be addressed, but let’s not forget it’s a small part of a much bigger picture that needs the same attention.”

Stella McCartney

“It’s about time that the fashion industry woke up to the fact that fur is cruel, barbaric and simply incredibly old-fashioned and unfashionable. The use of new materials and new technology is really what’s exciting in the future of this industry. To kill animals in the name of fashion and to use their skins when you can’t tell the difference any longer just seems ridiculous.“I’m so excited that the fashion industry is seeing forward and using its creative ability and business sense to seize the opportunity of change and mindfulness in the future generations of consumers.“I have been doing this from Day One and I feel very proud that I have been true to myself and my beliefs….But this isn’t about me and my voice, it’s about the entire industry collectively working together for the better of the planet and the better of animal welfare. “Also, just understanding that things shift and change and that everything is changing in this direction and people are being more conscious about what they eat, about what they bring into their homes, how they travel, how they live their life. And why should fashion not be part of that change? It should be an incredibly exciting thing. “The people that work in the industries of fur should really look at this as a moment to shift and change how they’re approaching their work. Can they open their arms and open their hearts to thinking of a new way and finding a new, exciting business model within that change? “I do see a point when the world is going to suddenly wake up and see that killing animals is incredibly inefficient, unsustainable and cruel. It’s the only way that we can go forward. We can’t sustain this use of land, this use of grain, this use of water. It’s just inefficient and it won’t work.”

Phillip Lim

“As a company, we have always steered away from exotic furs such as minks, sables, foxes, etc. It’s is not in our brand DNA as we believe that luxury is more defined as “a state of mind”‘ rather than an exotic skin. Although we use leathers and shearlings, we always strive to be conscious of consumption and only using what is necessary and byproducts of animals we consume.

“I respect every brand’s choice to do what’s right for them and realize our industry is undoubtedly going through many necessary shifts and changes at the moment, and I expect that as an industry we are constantly evolving our choices and decision-making to reflect a more conscious world.”

Diane von Furstenberg

“I am excited that technology has provided a way for women way to feel as glamorous with faux fur.”

Jeremy Scott, Moschino

“I stopped using fur in my designs a few years ago and have always been a big proponent of faux fur in my collections.”

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