The New York City Council has been discussing a ban on fur, a proposal that soon met with unexpected resistance from some faith groups.
[B]lack pastors and Hasidic leaders … say a [fur] prohibition would fly in the face of centuries of religious and cultural tradition. Black ministers have staged protests, saying that for many African-Americans, wearing furs is a treasured hallmark of achievement. Hasidic rabbis point to the many men who wear fur hats on the Sabbath.
According to the New York Times,
The bill being considered by the Council would ban the sale of fur garments and accessories, but it would allow the sale of used fur garments and new apparel using fur from older garments. Violators would be subject to fines of $500 to $1,500, and any money made from selling banned fur would be subject to forfeiture. The bill would not ban wearing fur.
Now get this: The proposal to outlaw fur sales actually carves out an exemption for the religious. Fur items worn as a “matter of religious custom” are not banned by the bill. So why the hand-wringing on the part of many African-American and Jewish religious leaders?
Councilman Chaim Deutsch of Brooklyn notes that many Hasidic Jewish men wear fur hats called shtreimels or spodiks.
“If we ban fur and then you have people that are still out there wearing it, considering the fact that hate crime in New York City is on the rise, people will be targeted on the streets, [with protesters] saying, ‘Why are you wearing this if there’s a fur ban?’” Mr. Deutsch said.
The Rev. Johnnie Green Jr., a Harlem pastor who leads the group of black Christians opposing the ban, had this to say:
“In our culture, fur is a sign of status, achievement, that we’ve made it against all odds. Show up to any black church on a Sunday in the winter, and you will see a heap of mink coats. To ban the sale of fur in New York City, but allow it to be sold in Westchester [County, just North of Manhattan], is culturally insensitive. …
I’m more concerned about saving black lives. When the activists are more concerned about saving black lives than black minks, let me know.”
If anyone knows the correlation between saving black lives and buying $20,000 coats that have almost literally been ripped off a warm-blooded animal, kindly fill me in.
I’m generally in favor of less rather than more legislation. Even so, moving toward a world in which fewer animals suffer is surely a worthy goal. I submit that perhaps this is best achieved by continuing to make it socially unacceptable to wear fur rather than to impose new laws.
In any case, it seems only a minor inconvenience to have to travel 20 to 30 minutes in order to buy an exclusive, non-everyday item like a fur coat — if you really must have one.
Of course, there’s power in playing the oppression card, and I suspect that that’s what’s really going on here. As we’ve seen, it’s something that religious groups — of various stripes — are very, very good at.
If they succeed (again), it admittedly won’t be any skin off my back.
(Image via Shutterstock)