California is moving forward with some of the most sweeping anti-pollution legislation to date. On the heels of banning plastic straws, a bill recently passed the Assembly that would ban lodging establishments from supplying guests with small plastic bottles for shampoo and other products unless they ask for them.
Clearly, the Golden State has made being a clean state a priority. So why did the Assembly just pass a bill that would likely increase plastic pollution?
Hot on the heels of local fur bans passed in Los Angeles and San Francisco, fury over fur has arrived in Sacramento. Animal activists including PETA and Berkeley-based Direct Action Everywhere are pushing for the statewide fur ban, known as AB 44. These activists, who are also against wool and leather, demand people wear fake fur instead of the natural kind.
But Californians who care about the environment should know a dirty little secret these activists won’t tell you: fake fur pollutes.
Generally composed of nylon and polyester, faux fur is designed to have tiny “hairs” that mimic its natural counterpart. The trouble is, plastic clothing leaches microplastic particles when cleaned. According to one study, a single fake fur coat could shed 100,000 of these microparticles in the wash. These tiny particles then get into the water supply.
This matters because microplastics are a major pollution threat to our oceans. In fact, the notorious Great Pacific Garbage Patch is principally composed of these tiny microplastics.
Microplastics impact us too. It’s not unheard of for these tiny particles to be found in fish or shellfish that end up on your dinner plate. What’s more, scientists aren’t even fully aware of the negative effects these microplastics have once they’re ingested in the human body.
Faux fur is also a part of the trend towards “fast fashion,” which encourages consumers to dispose more clothes than ever before. But what happens when faux fur is disposed? While real fur will biodegrade in less than a year, faux fur can take more than 1,000 years to break down.
Advocates of banning real fur who champion faux fur as “sustainable” are misleading at best. This is especially obvious when it’s pointed out that real fur is already sustainable. Fur comes from a renewable resource, whether from farms or as part of wildlife population management. This is not to mention that a fur coat can be passed down through the generations—quite different from the faux fur of fast fashion that only lasts a season or two.
Some people don’t want to wear fur, and that’s absolutely their choice. But why should state lawmakers meddle in the personal decisions of Californians who want to buy the real McCoy? As a new Gallup poll documents, a majority of Americans view natural fur as morally acceptable.
If Sacramento starts being the fashion police on fur, it won’t stop there. The animal activists who want to ban fur also want to ban Californians from buying leather and wool — as well as meat, cheese, milk and other food that comes from animals. Does the state legislature really want to get into the business of legislating morality when it comes to consumer choice?
Californians want animals to be treated well, and there is an opportunity for a compromise in this bill: requiring all fur in California to be humanely certified by an independent third-party body under a program that is strictly designed for animal welfare and sustainability. California would be the first state in the nation with such a requirement. Even the proposed bill to ban plastic bottles in hotels still allows for consumer choice by letting hotels provide these amenities if guests request them. Why can’t we do the same here?
Unfortunately, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, the ban’s sole sponsor, has publicly rejected this reasonable compromise. Friedman’s rejection of any middle ground may win over some animal liberation radicals, but it’s hard to believe that’s an approach most Californians want.
One thing’s for sure: it’s difficult to see how people being forced to switch to fake fur is going to actually improve living conditions for the animals on land and sea that rely on a pollution-free ecosystem to thrive.
Banning fur would be two steps back for California, dealing a blow not just to the environment but also to consumer choice.
Will Coggin is the managing director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, an advocacy group fighting for the rights of the American consumer.