It didn’t really seem like that controversial of a bill. California Assembly Bill 1656 would prohibit the sale of any item of clothing made of any amount of fur without a tag or label naming the animals from which the fur was acquired, and the country of origin of any imported furs. (Used items would be exempt.) Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

It was certainly reasonable to the California Assembly, which passed Bill 1656 in a 58-10 vote. And it was reasonable to the California Senate, which passed the bill by a vote of 22 to 11. However, apparently a little bit of truth in labeling was not reasonable to the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. This week he vetoed the bill.

First, a little bit of info as to why Bill 1656 was needed. In 2009, an investigation by a local CBS news affiliate found that many unlabeled fur items were being sold in California stores. These items were often described by salespeople as containing fake fur. Accurate labeling isn’t required by federal law, which exempts items of clothing priced at less than $150 from any fur labeling requirements. (Although the federal Truth in Fur Labeling Act would change that.) In most cases, the faux fur actually was the fur of a raccoon dog.

Raccoon dogs are, like their name implies, canines with a strong resemblance to raccoons. Native to Asia, they are social, friendly animals. They are also a source for cheap fur. Raccoon dogs are raised and slaughtered in brutal conditions in China, so their fur can be used to adorn the clothing of would-be fashionistas. Often, the clueless fashion victims don’t even know they are wearing dead dog. Investigations by the Humane Society of the United States over a three year period found that raccoon dog fur trim was on more than two-thirds of the jackets they tested, labeled or advertised as faux.

So why would Schwarzenegger veto a bill that would simply make it easier for consumers to make informed, humane choices? According to the San Francisco Gate, “he had concerns about the costs for both merchants and manufacturers, as well as the potential fines — $500 for the first violation, and up to $1,000 for subsequent ones.”

This is ludicrous reasoning. For one, clothing companies can surely afford to put a cheap label on a piece of merchandise. After all, the labels aren’t printed in gold on rare papyrus. As for the fines, stores involved in the CBS fur investigation included such struggling mom-and-pops as Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. I tend to doubt either of these would face bankruptcy due to a $500 fine. Finally, five states — Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin — enacted similar fur labeling laws with no negative effects. Ask your senators to pass the federal bill; if that becomes law, California retailers will have to make the switch anyway.

Of course, the “merchants and manufacturers” that are so close to Mr. Schwarzenegger’s heart could easily avoid both the cost of labeling fur items and the potential fines from failing to do so. They could simply stop making and selling anything made with fur, real or fake. The only reason this sort of thing even exists in the 21st century is to appeal to the misguided vanity of a dwindling minority who still finds fur somehow “fashionable.” Isn’t it time we acknowledge that an animal’s fur belongs on the animal, not on us?

Photo Credit: Animal Defense League

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