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Proposed Ban on Fur in NY has Dealers & Orthodox Jews Paired as Critics

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City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, “As an animal lover, I believe it is cruel to kill an animal just for the purpose of people buying and wearing a fur coat. There is really no need for this.” Photo Credit: Shutterstock

A bill that would ban the sale of new fur apparel is making waves in NYC.

New legislation proposed in the City Council could threaten the livelihood of 150 stores in New York that earn the majority of their income by selling furs. As reported by the Times of Israel, the bill was first introduced in March by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “As an animal lover, I believe it is cruel to kill an animal just for the purpose of people buying and wearing a fur coat. There is really no need for this,” Johnson said in a statement before introducing the bill. In May, the council heard testimony from the bill’s opponents, including local dealers. Following the hearing, Johnson somewhat softened his stance, saying he would phase the bill over time to decrease the dramatic impact on the industry. Similarly, the New York State Senate and Assembly are also considering bills to ban the sale of fur in NYS.

According to Fur NYC, which opposes the ban, the bill would endanger the jobs of roughly 1,110 people currently employed in the sale of furs. To add to that figure, there is a whole supply chain including marketing, banking and insurance for furs, which would also be negatively impacted. “A fur ban would be catastrophic to New York City — eliminating a historic manufacturing community, along with thousands of jobs for New Yorkers who’ve never made another living and millions of tax revenue that fund critical government programs that help New Yorkers,” according to Fur NYC.

“If they don’t want to wear furs, they don’t [have to] wear it,” said Marc Kaufman, a fifth-generation fur dealer with a store in Midtown Manhattan. “If they don’t want to eat meat, let them not eat meat. But don’t impose your views on me.”

Besides fur dealers, many of whom are historically Jewish, other critics of the proposed bill include members of the African-American community, for whom furs are still a status symbol. Some environmental activists are also opposed, arguing that the ban will lead to an increase in non-biodegradable fake fur coats.

In addition Hasidic Jews are opposed to the ban. Sects of the ultra-orthodox community wear fur hats known as shtreimels on Shabbat and holidays. The hats are traditionally made from the tails of sables and foxes, and can cost up to $5,000. Brooklyn Councilman Chaim Deutsch said he opposes the ban, despite its clause giving religious exemption to allow the sale of fur for those using it as part of a religious custom. “If we ban fur and then you have people that are still out there wearing it, considering the fact that hate crime in New York City is on the rise, people will be targeted on the streets, saying, ‘Why are you wearing this if there’s a fur ban?’” said Deutsch.

Bezalel Stern, an attorney at Kelley, Drye & Warren, LLP, who represents the International Fur Federation, says the religious exemption may not even hold up in a court of law. “I think the [City Council] speaker knows that the religious exemption is unconstitutional and he’s putting it in because he wants to — excuse my pun — pull the fur over people’s eyes in order to get it passed,” Stern said.

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