Thursday, August 12, 2010

Californians: Urge Gov. Schwarzenegger to Sign Fur Labeling Bill Into Law

And everyone, please ask your U.S. Senators to support the federal bill that would enact a similar law nationally

The California State Assembly earned major kudos yesterday for passing AB1656, a bill that would close a longstanding loophole allowing retailers to sell fur clothing worth $150 or less without labeling these items as animal pelts. However, before this bill can become law, Governer Arnold Schwarzenegger has to sign it*. Information about how you can encourage the Governor to put his name on the dotted line—and urge federal lawmakers to pass a pending national fur labeling law—can be found at the end of this post: but first, here's some background explaining why it's important that they do so.

Congress ratified the original Fur Products Labeling Act nearly 60 years ago, but under industry pressure conceded that stores could still sell fur products worth $150 or less without labels. This was long before the technological advent of synthetic fur production, the popularity of fur trim and dyed fur in fashion design, and the development of society's widespread ethical awareness about animals exploited for clothes (which was raised almost exclusively by animal advocates' ongoing outreach efforts). I guess that's why it's only now, in the 21st century, that lawmakers are gradually getting around to fixing their predecessors' oversight.

In this day and age, when at least as many animals are killed for fur-trimmed garments as body-length coats, and few people can tell the difference between real and faux fur, many thousands of consumers unknowingly buy fur clothing and accessories because they assume that if it isn't labeled as such, it must be fake. Yet the reality today is that one in eight genuine animal fur garments are legally unlabeled, and while most of these are made from racoon dogs, some are actually the skin and fur of dogs and cats slaughtered in China. It's illegal to sell canine and feline fur in the U.S., but the outdated Fur Products Labeling Act makes effective enforcement challenging, to say the least.

With federal law lacking the teeth to keep people informed about the suffering behind their purchases, some state governments have taken forceful action to close the information gap. While California often leads the nation in passing progressive legislation, they will actually in this case only be the sixth state to enact a comprehensive fur labeling law (if Governor Schwarzenegger signs the bill). Better late then never though, so rather than dwelling on the past, let's now just get the Governator on board!

I've written before in this blog about Governor Schwarzenegger's somewhat chequered animal protection record. He has yet to weigh in either way on AB1656, but because this bill passed both chambers with overwhelming majorities, there's a good chance he'll do the right thing. Still, we need to ensure that he does—which is why we California voters need to make our voices heard now.

- Call Governor Schwarzenegger at 916-445-2841 and politely ask him to sign AB1656 into law, then follow up by sending a personal email to his office. A short, direct message is best in this case when time is of the essence, so all you need to say/write is something like "Governor Schwarzenegger, as a voter and constituent I respectfully ask that you please sign AB1656. This bill will ensure accurate labeling of fur clothing sold in California, and was recently passed with overwhelming majorities by state legislators. Thank you."

- The U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of the Truth in Fur Labeling Act (HR2480) in July 2010, and now it's the Senate's turn to follow suit by passing S1076. Call your Senators at 202-224-3121 urging them to do so, and follow up by sending them an email using the Action Alert provided by the Humane Society of the United States (sponsor of the fur labeling bills in California and other states).

* Sadly, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed AB1656 on September 27, 2010.