A Naked Attack on Consumer Choice

Will Coggin
Director of Research at the Center for Consumer Freedom

Should the government police what goes on in your bedroom? How about advancing a bill in the state legislature that would stick the government in everyone’s closet?

The legislation, A.B. 44, would ban Californians from buying clothing made with natural fur. If enacted, the ban, which passed the state Assembly on Tuesday would be the first step in intrusive legislation designed at restricting the lifestyle choices of Californians, from what they wear to what they eat.

The bill is ostensibly being pushed for animal welfare reasons, with animal activists claiming fur production is inhumane. Yet the bill sponsor, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, has publicly rejected a compromise that would have required all fur in California to be humanely certified under an international program. This would have protected both animal welfare and consumer choice.

If the goal is to ensure animals are treated well and that California leads the nation in promoting animal welfare, what’s wrong with mandatory humane certification?  As it has often been said, animals raised humanely for food or fur only have one bad day in their life. The rejection of this compromise reveals the radical far-reaching agenda of the fur ban’s hardcore proponents.

The loudest lobbyist for the ban is the Berkeley-based organization Direct Action Everywhere. This group has become notorious in recent years for harassing people inside restaurants and grocery stores. Whole Foods had to get a restraining order against them. Its activists break into farms and steal livestock.

Direct Action Everywhere is open about its ultimate agenda, which includes banning meat in Berkeley and eventually across the whole country. Some proponents of banning fur, including PETA, oppose pet ownership.

They don’t think Californians should be allowed to wear fur—or leather or wool, either. And if they can get the government to ban one kind of clothing arbitrarily, they will be able to justify expanding the ban to more animal-sourced products.

If consumers were broadly opposed to fur, the free market would be sending that message through declining product sales. But that is not the case.

The popularity of natural fur products continues to grow in California, as evidenced by a 50% increase in annual sales over the past 20 years. Nationally, furs account for around $531 million in sales—25% to 30% of that in California.

Ironically, banning fur would go against Californians’ support for the environment. While natural fur is a sustainable product—all parts of the animal are used—fake fur is a synthetic byproduct of fossil fuels. Synthetic clothing leaches plastic microfibers which travel into the water supply. Microfibers are considered by environmentalists to be a serious pollutant in our oceans.

The prohibitionists behind A.B. 44 view it as a foot in the door toward their greater goal: a California where all meat consumption and all uses of animal products such as leather and wool are banned.

Banning fur isn’t merely unnecessary in the face of real problems—homelessness, wildfires, transportation—that the state legislature should be prioritizing. It is an unacceptable use of the government as morality police for special interests. These intrusions are at the core of citizen distrust in government. The state Senate should reject it.

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