Jack Patrick Lewis
State representative, Framingham Democrat
Massachusetts residents made it abundantly clear that we cared about animals when we passed the 2016 farm animal protection ballot initiative with nearly 78 percent of the vote. Now we should finally say “no” to fur, a product so outdated and cruel that many fashion retailers – including Massachusetts’ own TJX and most recently Saks Fifth Avenue – are forgoing it for better alternatives.
To that end, I filed H965, a bipartisan bill with 40 cosponsors from across the Commonwealth, which would phase out the retail sale of new animal fur products. A companion bill in the Senate (S623) would do the same.
To be clear, my bill would not prevent hunters and trappers from selling their pelts to fur dealers and other intermediaries, as some currently do. Most fur products come from fur farms. Investigations carried out by Humane Society International have shown foxes, minks, and raccoon dogs living in extreme fear and discomfort in cramped cages. The distress from being unable to run, dig, or swim can lead to self-mutilation and injury. The only reprieve for an animal’s suffering is death by electrocution or gassing. But not even that is guaranteed, with well-documented instances of animals being skinned alive to keep costs low and reduce damage to their pelts.
Fur production is also a nightmare for the environment. Waste runoff from fur factory farms and toxic chemicals used in the tanning and dyeing process can seep into soil and waterways. Innovative, environmentally friendly fur alternatives exist that are plant-based or are derived from recycled plastic.
Moreover, with the World Health Organization investigating the role of the fur trade in the spread of COVID-19, and with fur-farmed minks the only animals known to have transmitted the virus to humans (after the initial transmission), this legislation would help combat the pandemic and prevent the next one.
Is a fashion statement worth the suffering, environmental damage, and public health risk?
California passed its fur sales prohibition in 2019 and Wellesley joined it ast year. Six states have introduced similar legislation, and the United Kingdom is considering a ban. It’s time we make Massachusetts a kinder, more humane state.
Senior Writer and researcher, TruthAboutFur.com, a website about the North American fur industry, supported by national trade associations and the International Fur Federation
If we look at facts, those who care about sustainability, ethical lifestyles, and social justice should promote the use of natural fur, not seek to ban it.
Fur today is produced responsibly and sustainably. Only abundant furs are used, and state, federal, and international controls ensure wild animals are not endangered by the fur trade.
Many wild furbearers would have to be culled even if we didn’t use fur. Overpopulated beavers flood property. Coyotes prey on livestock and, increasingly, pets. Raccoons and foxes spread rabies and other diseases…the list goes on. But if we must cull some of these animals to maintain a balance, surely it is more ethical to use the fur than to discard it?
About half the fur produced in the United States is raised by farmers, and they have a strong incentive to ensure their animals receive excellent nutrition and care; it’s the only way to produce the high quality fur for which the United States is known.
Farmed mink are fed leftovers from our own food production – parts of cows, chickens, and fish that we don’t eat and might otherwise clog landfills. Farm wastes are composted to produce high-quality organic fertilizer, completing the agricultural-nutrient cycle.
Fur products — hand-crafted by skilled artisans — are long-lasting, restylable, and after decades of use can be thrown into the garden compost. In contrast, fake fur and other synthetics which account for about 60 percent of today’s clothing are really plastics, which are not naturally biodegradable and pollute our waterways. Microparticles of these plastics are now being found in marine life and even breast milk. Cruelty-free indeed!
Proposals to ban the sale of fur, including the legislation in Massachusetts, are shameful attacks on the cultures and livelihoods of hard-working farm families; of trappers who are among the last Americans maintaining our land-based heritage; and of artisans producing warm and durable clothing with responsibly produced natural materials.
No one has to wear fur or leather, or eat meat or dairy; these are personal choices, not decisions to be usurped by elected officials. But if you believe it’s ethical to use animal products that are produced responsibly and sustainably, you can wear fur with pride.
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is not a scientific survey. Please only vote once.