Proposed Fur Ban in New York Pits Animal Rights Advocates Against Black Ministers

“With the City Council considering a ban on sales, protesters yelled, “Put people first,” and counterprotesters responded, “How many animals have to die?””

By William Neuman and Jeffery C. Mays – The New York Times

May 15, 2019

As Corey Johnson, the speaker of the New York City Council, urged his colleagues on Wednesday to ban the sale of fur in the city, he argued that it was the “moral thing to do.”

But the proposed ban, backed by animal rights advocates, has met an unexpected challenge from a diverse set of opponents, including black pastors and Hasidic leaders. They say a prohibition would fly in the face of centuries of religious and cultural tradition.

Black ministers have staged protests, saying that for many African-Americans, wearing furs is a treasured hallmark of achievement. Hasidic rabbis point to the many men who wear fur hats on the Sabbath. And fur shop owners and garment manufacturers have raised alarms over the potential loss of jobs and an attack on an industry with a deep history in New York.

With the Council holding a hearing on the proposal on Wednesday, the deep dissension was evident outside City Hall. Protesters yelled, “Put people first,” and counterprotesters responded, “How many animals have to die?”

Each side had celebrity power: The anti-fur movement was represented by Tim Gunn, the “Project Runway” style guru; the pro-fur crowd had Safaree Samuels, a rapper and television personality, who was wearing a lynx coat that he said he had bought for the event.

The bill being considered by the Council would ban the sale of fur garments and accessories, but it would allow the sale of used fur garments and new apparel using fur from older garments. Violators would be subject to fines of $500 to $1,500, and any money made from selling banned fur would be subject to forfeiture. The bill would not ban wearing fur.

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