Fur the sake of animal rights


Grant Levinson, Staff Columnist

The narrative surrounding fur products and clothing has been changing; once viewed as an elegant addition to one’s outfit, it is now commonly thought to be cruel and unnecessary. This changing narrative is starting to manifest in the form of legality, and Cambridge, Massachusetts is an excellent example. The Cambridge City Council recently voted on a proposed ordinance titled “Sale of Fur Apparel Products.” If passed, this ordinance would, with specific exceptions, ban the sale of new fur clothing and accessories in Cambridge.

While a ban may seem extreme, the facts show you why extreme measures must be taken. For starters, minks (one of the animals most commonly farmed for their fur) are the only animal known to be able to transmit COVID-19 to humans, which means the presence of mink farms is a public health risk. Europe, in response to this realization, culled nearly 20 million minks showing the unsustainable and dangerous nature of this industry. The second reason is fur production produces significant pollution, such as the waste runoff that pollutes nearby soils and waterways. Finally—and in my mind, most importantly— we are raising animals whose fate is to be killed and skinned for fur. Fur production is one of the cruelest industries on the planet, and while in the United States, livestock may be protected under the Animal Welfare Act, animals raised for fur are not. Slaughter through suffocation, electrocution, gassing, or poisoning are all standard practices.

The ordinance, luckily, was given a unanimous “yes” by all Cambridge City Council members and will now be voted on again, for a final time, in a couple of weeks. Seeing as it will be the same council members voting, the result should be the exact same. So, expect that at some point next year, fur will be off the shelves in Cambridge.

But this progressive step got me thinking about what other steps Cambridge has taken to protect animals. For example, did you know that in 2017 the Cambridge City Council unanimously voted to ban the selling of animals from commercial breeders? At the time of its passing, this was the most far-reaching bill of its kind throughout the nation, as it made it illegal for stores to sell any animal raised in operations where animals are bred for money. The ordinance was publicly supported by organizations such as the MSPCA, the Humane Society, and the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

However, changes on a state level have not been so easy to come by. For example, many of you may remember that in 2016, Question Three, “An Act to Prevent Cruelty to Animals,” received overwhelming support from voters, with 77% voting in favor. Like the Cambridge ban on bred animals in pet stores, this bill was the broadest statute of its kind in the country at that point. The bill required Massachusetts farmers to give chickens, pigs, and calves enough room to turn around, stand up, lie down, and fully extend their limbs. If passed, it would also prohibit the sale of eggs or meat from animals raised in conditions that did not meet these standards. Although the ability for farm animals to turn around in their living spaces doesn’t seem like too much to ask for, this bill has somehow faced immense backlash. As a result, it has been amended and delayed multiple times. Although it is upsetting that this bill has yet to be passed, it still brings forth important conversations and sheds light on the path forward in the fight for animal rights.

Cambridge, surrounding cities, and Massachusetts as a whole, have all made great strides for animals. Strides that today would not be possible on a federal level. While I chose to focus on animal rights in this column, this concept has broader implications. Every four years, there is a massive and public push to get people to vote during the presidential election, and rightfully so. The person who sits in the Oval Office will be the face of the country. But, if we can acknowledge the president’s importance, we should also recognize the significance of local government. Our town’s mayor, council members, and school board, to name a few, all in some way have a direct impact on our lives and the lives of our neighbors. If we want a government that truly represents us as a community, then it would be a good first step to make sure our own city represents us. However, that can only happen if we advocate, and, as the clichéd line goes, “be the change you want to see in the world.”