Proposed fur ban stirs up arguments of culture and ethics

Demonstrators rally against a proposed fur ban at City Hall on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Wearing fur, a reverend said at a City Hall rally, has long been an important signifier of “dignity and achievement” in the black community.

Demonstrators rally against a proposed fur ban at City Hall on Wednesday.
Demonstrators rally against a proposed fur ban at City Hall on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Crosby Bar/Simon Brown

A ban on selling fur in New York City would unfairly target members of the African-American community who view it as an important part of their culture, according to a group of religious leaders and their congregants who rallied outside of City Hall on Wednesday.

“Why should citizens of New York be denied the right to buy products that have signified dignity and achievement in our communities throughout history?” Rev. Dr. Johnnie Green of Mount Nebo Baptist Church told the crowd. “Buying and wearing fur let us understand we could rise above poverty.”

The City Council will hold its first hearing on the proposed ban, a bill sponsored by Speaker Corey Johnson, next Wednesday.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other supporters of the ban said a flyer urging people to come to the rally “to make our voices heard” never mentioned the fur ban. Instead, it promoted a free bus trip to City Hall with a hot boxed lunch and a chance to win a $250 Amex gift card.

Green said the fur ban had been discussed at pulpits across the city and people knew that was the purpose of the bus trip.

Celebrities including actor Anjelica Huston, singer Morrissey and style guru Tim Gunn have joined animal activists to lobby for the ban, saying animals used for their fur are subject to inhumane and cruel conditions.

The fur industry, which hired two well-connected lobbying and public relations firms, James F. Capalino & Associates and SKDKnickerbocker, has ramped up its efforts to battle the ban with mailings, television spots and news conferences. Industry officials say the ban would put longtime furriers out of business and impact the city economy.

“It just makes me really sad because I think that if any of those people would have seen any of the videos I have seen [of animals being killed for their fur] they wouldn’t feel the way they do now,” said Desmond Cadogan, an African-American PETA activist who came to City Hall to watch the news conference. “They are taking advantage of a community that doesn’t necessarily know all the facts behind what they are up here protesting.”

Lisa L. Colangelo