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City's fur ban a first step in ending cruel industry

By Jane Velez-Mitchell, HLNtv.com
updated 12:07 PM EST, Wed December 7, 2011
Workers handle foxes at a farm outside Minsk, Belarus. Jane Velez-Mitchell says West Hollywood's fur ban will reduce demand.
Workers handle foxes at a farm outside Minsk, Belarus. Jane Velez-Mitchell says West Hollywood's fur ban will reduce demand.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jane Velez-Mitchell says West Hollywood recently passed ban on selling furs in the city
  • She says if you would be troubled by your own pet being skinned, you should reject furs
  • She says shop owners in that city have nearly two years to find alternatives to selling fur
  • Velez-Mitchell: The ban is an idea that should spread among civilized people

Editor's note: Jane Velez-Mitchell hosts "ISSUES with Jane Velez-Mitchell," a topical event-driven show with a wide range of viewpoints that airs every night at 7 ET on HLN.

(CNN) -- As you celebrate the holidays with family, friends and those adorable companion animals known as pets, you should be thrilled to learn that the distant cousins of your pets have just won a historic victory. West Hollywood, California, recently passed a first-in-the-nation ban on the sale of fur within its city limits, effective in 2013.

West Hollywood City Council member John D'Amico, who spearheaded the ordinance, told me, "We didn't want to be a city that supported the raising of animals to be killed just for fashion."

Well put. If you wouldn't want somebody skinning your dog or cat for their fur, then why would you allow the same horror to befall other equally sentient beings? The raccoons, foxes, beavers, chinchillas, minks, rabbits, and yes, sometimes even dogs and cats that are killed for fur are not very different from your beloved dog or cat. They all have eyes, ears and hearts. They all experience pain when they are physically maimed. They shake with fear when they experience terror.

"I am just so baffled by this. This is pure politics at its worst," the executive director of the Fur Information Council, Keith Kaplan, said.

But there's nothing to be baffled about. Historically, the exploitation of animals is driven by the desire for profit. And throughout history, the most predictable argument against progress toward civility is that change is going to cost us money.

Jane Velez-Mitchell
Jane Velez-Mitchell

Opponents claim nearly half of the 200 apparel stores in town sell at least some fur items.

But the law doesn't go into effect for nearly two years. D'Amico says that's plenty of time for stores to cycle out their fur inventory. They can either sell it off fast or -- better yet -- donate it to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA in turn gives the furs away to the homeless.

The councilman told me he believed the ban will ultimately bring West Hollywood much more business than it will lose. He is working to develop a "fur-free shopping day," he said, and a yearly fur-free event, leading up to the time when the ban kicks in.

He also plans to leverage the global attention that the fur ban has garnered to draw sympathetic shoppers to West Hollywood. There are obviously cruelty-free alternatives to fur that are very functional and warm the body even more than fur. Those can be, and are, sold for profit.

Some wonder, well, if you take the anti-fur argument to its logical conclusion, is banning the sale of leather next? D'Amico responds, "Incremental thinking about the way we are in the world is important and has always been important and this is an example of it."

Unfortunately, fur is still flying off the racks. It's a billion dollar industry. To those who say, "I love animals, but --" I say, check out the facts. Do you even have the stomach to watch a minute or two of these innocent creatures -- who have done nothing to humans -- trying to bite off their own legs because they're stuck in excruciatingly painful leg hold traps? Or how about watching the electrocution of fur-bearing animals on so-called fur farms? I've seen both. As an animal rights activist, I've supported the documentary "Skin Trade," which shows it all. The images haunt me, particularly when I see women head to toe in fur.

Irish statesman Edmund Burke said, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Well, the good people of West Hollywood have actually done something. They've gone out of their way to fight for the most voiceless in our world -- animals. D'Amico hopes the state of California will one day follow suit and start turning the West Coast fur-free. But even though he knows of no other city that is considering a similar ban, he hopes -- as do I -- that West Hollywood's action has sparked a collective re-examination of a practice that many believe has no place in the 21st century.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jane Velez-Mitchell.

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