A fur buyer with a load of deer hides near San Antonio in 1973. Photo: U.S. National Archives

People seeking fur goods in Berkeley will have to get them second hand following a council vote Tuesday on a fur ban designed “to promote community awareness of animal welfare.”

The agenda item was the final vote of a long night focused on homeless services, an urgency ordinance to purchase new land for affordable housing (and city meetings), and a lengthy zoning appeal. Council also voted, as part of the consent calendar, in support of the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

Perhaps a dozen speakers stuck it out until after 11 p.m. until council took up the fur ban, which originally was slated to appear on the consent calendar. Councilwoman Sophie Hahn pulled it from consent — and ultimately made a substitute motion — to allow the sale of cowhide with hair, and sheep or lambskin with fleece. (UGG fans can breathe a sigh of relief.)

Hahn said those animals are already raised for meat, and that their hide can be important alternatives for young families trying to avoid synthetic products. Ultimately, her motion prevailed with a 6-3 vote. The “no” votes, council members Lori Droste, Kriss Worthington and Kate Harrison, said they would have preferred an outright ban rather than the carve-outs Hahn proposed.

Councilman Worthington brought forward the fur ban to “foster a consciousness about the
way we live in the world and create a more humane environment in the City of Berkeley.” According to his agenda item, which cites the Free Fur Berkeley (FFB) website, more than 30 million animals are killed each year for their fur.

“These animals are often victims of cruel conditions that include ‘intense stress, distressed and repetitive movement, self-mutilation, and even cannibalism,’” he wrote, citing the FFB website. “With the availability of countless varieties of adequate fabrics, there is no need for this brutal industry.”

The city of West Hollywood is reportedly the only other city to implement such a ban, which it passed in 2013. Supporters of the Berkeley ban who spoke to council Tuesday said West Hollywood’s ordinance has been successfully defended in court at the state and local levels. Tuesday night, Berkeley became the second city to eliminate the sale of most new fur apparel.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals estimates that “fur farms” produce 85% of the world’s fur, killing millions of mink and foxes every year. “Raccoon dogs,” rabbits and chinchillas are other common sources of fur.

Unlike West Hollywood, which describes itself on its website as “one of the West Coast’s premiere shopping destinations for luxury fashion,” the city of Berkeley probably doesn’t have a lot of fur for sale as it is.

“Although virtually no Berkeley businesses sponsor the fur industry’s exploitation, this proposed law would ensure they never do,” Worthington wrote.

No one from the public spoke against the fur ban.

“It’s time for Berkeley to stand up and set an example for the world,” one woman told officials.

Said another, “I moved to Berkeley because this is a city with a culture of compassion.… Animals’ voices are so often silenced. And they have voices.”

According to the ordinance approved Tuesday, “The City Council finds that animals who are slaughtered for their fur, whether they are raised on a fur farm or trapped in the wild, endure tremendous suffering. Animals raised on fur farms typically spend their entire lives in cramped and filthy cages. Fur farmers typically use the cheapest killing methods available, including suffocation, electrocution, gas and poison.”

The city initially had included a carve-out for non-profits in the ordinance, but removed that at the time of the vote. The only remaining exceptions are for animal pelts or skins preserved through taxidermy, and used fur products found at second-hand stores, pawn shops and the like.

Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...