No more fur in West Hollywood

Late last month the city council of West Hollywood passed a bill that made the sale of fur in their local businesses illegal. As usual in today’s day and age, what should have been a local stride for progress has turned into a maelstrom of opinion pieces and scathing articles in publications statewide.

The law was made with the best of intentions, but unfortunately for them, West Hollywood is getting hit from all sides, as both vegetarians and meat-eaters, Republicans and Democrats alike  have criticized them vehemently. As to be expected, conservatives are considering the law to be a violation of basic business rights. Animal advocates, on the other hand, condemn the law for focusing only on fur, and not addressing any of the other animal products that are bought and sold just as frequently. By focusing on fur, they claim, the West Hollywood city council has chosen to claim that the use of wool, dairy, leather and meat are perfectly acceptable industries and do not cause harm to animals.

To avoid any misinterpretations of my tone, I’m going to be direct and state my stance on the entire debate as a whole. I love meat. I think meat is the tastiest thing on the whole planet, and I’m not going to stop eating it, ever.  I also love milk and cheese. I don’t care much for leather, but if we’re going to kill the cow anyway, we might as well use all parts of it, right?

On the flip side, however, I can perfectly understand the detestability of the current animal product industry. Animals are kept in pens with barely enough room to breath, fed corn byproducts and even parts of other animals. Not only is this unnecessarily cruel to the animals themselves, it also increases the chance of spreading disease to humans, causes extreme damage to the environment. Let’s be honest here: it makes the meat taste worse. So while I’m never going to jump on the “animals are our friends, let’s never kill them” campaign, I’m all for an overhaul of the industry.

Because the fact of the matter is that animals do kill each other in the environment, and the most highly-evolved creatures on the planet are omnivores, with the capability of eating both meat and vegetables. Unfortunately, humans can’t use that reason alone to justify our current animal product industry. Animals don’t waste 4.8 pounds of grain for every one pound of meat that they consume. Animals don’t torture their prey before killing them. And, perhaps most importantly, animals don’t kill each other for exceedingly stupid reasons, like fur.

The anti-fur campaign is one of the oldest in history, and one of the most infamous. It’s where PETA got their obnoxious start, tossing fake blood onto starlets in fur coats. And I’d like to point out the fact that, if the fur coat is ruined, then not only did the animal it came from die for nothing, but the starlet will have to buy a new one, so it really doesn’t solve the problem, now does it? Not to mention the fact that PETA kills more pets than it saves, due to its euthanasia plan for homeless pets.

But I digress. The point is that, while the campaigns against fur are often self-defeating and pointless, one has to wonder why we even bother wearing fur at all. It’s not like leather or wool, where the animal was going to die anyway. Instead, we go into an ecosystem where we are in no way a natural predator, kill a tiny mammal that has no nutritional value whatsoever, and then strip it of its skin and throw away the rest of it. When you think about it in simple terms of waste-not-want-not, using fur when we have plenty of viable substitutes is pretty asinine.

Of course, this debate spans upward even further, beyond the realm of animal advocacy. The question spirals from: “Is it wrong to sell fur?” to “Is it wrong to say that it’s wrong to sell fur?” If we were to oversimplify the situation and say that animals don’t have basic human rights (which they don’t) and tack onto that the fact that capitalism ought to be as reasonably laissez-faire as possible, then maybe the local government of West Hollywood has no right to stop shop owners from selling whatever they want, as long as its not considered illegal by the federal government.

Ryan Cady is a second-year psychology major. He can be reached at rcady@uci.edu.