West Hollywood Fur Ban Passed by Council: WeHo to Become Nation's First Fur-Free City

Fancy L.A. ladies looking to add some baby seal to their fall collections, or hipsters sniffing out their own clip-on foxtail in the Burning Man/Wiz Khalifa tradition, can't hunt their prey in West Hollywood anymore.

The city tentatively approved an ordinance last night that will halt all sales of fur beginning June 30, 2012.

Mayor John Duran made it clear that some wording in the ordinance would have to be cleared up during the next couple City Council meetings:

Councilmembers still need to decide whether selling vintage fur at consignment shops or yard sales should be banned as well (though the overwhelming sentiment among them last night was that no, it should not), and Councilwoman Abbe Land thought it very important to consult the West Hollywood business community on how, and when, this can realistically be implemented.

"Would it be acceptable for us to approve this in concept?" asked Councilman John Heilman. And that's just what they did, 5-0, to a bleary-eyed yet overjoyed crowd at 1:30 a.m.

By 4 a.m., fur-ban advocates were still celebrating. The campaign's PR guy, Gary Smith, sent us this victorious email:

"After a seven-hour meeting, and lots of public comment, the council voted unanimously (5-0) to move forward. There are a few details they want to settle in advance of the next meeting, such as the date of implementation and civil penalties, but it's just what the Fur Free West Hollywood campaign wanted."

The fur ban's most ardent supporter was Councilman John D'Amico, the newest face at City Hall. It was his most highly publicized campaign promise -- one that likely gave him the edge in a competitive pool of candidates last March.

"This item is not about what to wear," he said last night. "It's about how we live now."

Strangely, though, before unanimously approving the ban, D'Amico's colleagues spent their time on the mic making (quite logical) arguments against it:

Heilman said the ordinance seemed to be drawing lines in the sand. He wondered aloud: Why is killing animals for food any better than killing them for fur, when one can easily survive without meat? Duran, who has HIV, piled on, asking himself why should he should oppose fur as fashion, when he supports animal testing in the name of advancing medicine and "eats a lot of meat on a daily basis."

But there was no swimming against the tide of popular opinion in council chambers last night. Almost 50 speakers, most from outside city limits, stood up to push for an all-out ban on fur sales, comparing West Hollywood's moral duty to stand up for animals to slavery, child abuse, the Civil Rights movement, etc.

Activists declared triumph from the outset:

"I cant tell you how excited and proud I am to be here tonight," said Ed Buck, WeHo resident and driving force behind the ban (pictured with dog, above). "West Hollywood is more than just this city. We are a beacon; we are the city on the hill. When we do something here, it reverberates around the city and the world."

Damn. Even more rampant were the adorable-animals-in-trouble emotional appeals: "It takes 10 baby seals to make one fur coat," said one woman. "As they're being clubbed, they scream and howl in pain and terror." And another guy: "I saw 500 foxes anally electrocuted right in front of my eyes."

What kind of death-wishing politician wants to argue against that?

Likewise, only a handful of stakeholders in the West Hollywood fashion industry spoke up in defense of their business practices, citing fear amongst their peers.

Genevieve Morrill of the WeHo Chamber of Commerce argued that activists' efforts would be much more effective if channeled toward "raising the consciousness of the consumer" instead of aggressively forcing local shops to shoulder the burden. A couple boutique owners said they were positive they'd lose customers and designer lines to nearby Los Angeles if barred from buying up the couple fur items in most collections.

Charles Hamilton, who proudly identified himself as producer of "The Cove," countered the economic argument with: "If you take the moral high ground, the money follows."

Guess we'll see about that (if the ban even manages to stand up in court). But in the meantime, a ban like this deepens the ironic divide in free-thinking West Hollywood -- L.A. County's balls-to-the-wall Boystown -- between radical moralists and advocates of personal freedom at all costs. See also: West Hollywood's puppy-selling ban, cat declawing ban, plastic-bag ban and strict nonsmoking ordinance.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]


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