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San Francisco bans fur, continues exploitation

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San Francisco has become the largest U.S. city to ban the sale of fur, following in the tracks of cities like West Hollywood and Berkeley, who take no stance on the sale of meat or dairy… or most other forms of exploitation. The city supervisor who proposed the bylaw explained to the LA Times that she believes fur is inhumane. “I think it’s wrong to profit off the backs of animals,” said Katy Tang, who admitted she buy leather shoes.

The anti-fur movement has gained worldwide traction over the last decade leading hundreds of major designers and brands like Gucci and The North Face to stop using fur in their products. Still, most of those brands continue to use materials like goose down, wool and leather.

Why the specific issue with fur? Do companies using wool, down and leather not profit off the backs of animals in exactly the same way?

I have no doubt that people like Tang, and other who protest the use and sale of fur, genuinely do believe it to be an immoral and inhumane practice. But I wonder if they can reasonably explain how killing an animal for fur is wrong but killing an animal for meat is not? There’s no way to justify the use of animals in some practices while condemning the use of animals fur their fur.

Still, the anti-fur movement is a favourite amongst non-vegans. It’s attractive to the general public as it doesn’t require any change in most people’s lives. The majority of the world after all, don’t wear or can’t afford animal fur. It’s the same reason why non-vegans protest Seaworld or the Yulin festival. They recognize the immorality of these practices but ultimately don’t have to question themselves or their own practices.

Some would argue that the fur industry, and the killing of dogs in the Yulin festival are more despicable than say, killing cows for dairy. They might maintain that the treatment of animals is different. We know this not to be true but regardless, the root problem here is not how “humanely” the animals are treated during their lives awaiting slaughter. The root problem is the idea that humans have the right to use and exploit animal bodies at all.

Others might deem the fur industry as immoral because it’s unnecessary. Meaning, we don’t need to wear fur and so our insistence on using it, instead of using alternative materials that don’t require killing an animal, is selfish. We’re clearly able to recognize that our personal pleasure or profit is no excuse for harming animals, so why the disconnect when it comes to other forms of exploitation?

Beyond the hypocrisy, some seem to think that we should accept this win as simply a win – that this is one step in the right direction. The theory that once one form of exploitation is eliminated, others must follow ignores that in this context, this theory draws false lines between what is acceptable and what isn’t. What banning the sale of solely fur does is promotes the idea that fur is somehow more inhumane and immoral than say, leather or wool. It emphasises the treatment of animals raised for fur rather than questioning why we feel entitled to animal bodies at all, in any capacity.

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