An old battle over fur farming heats up with new environmental twist

By Shannon Kelleher

Wearing fur has long been a controversial choice in the United States, with a large roster of fashion brands embracing bans on fur garments on the grounds that the practice is cruel to the animals farmed for their pelts. But a new twist on the issue has been gaining momentum and spurring debate over the impacts of mink farming on human and environmental health.

Earlier this year, California implemented the first state ban on the sale and manufacturing of fur products, including coats, trim on hooded jackets, and pompoms for hats and gloves. Many US cities and towns have banned fur sales, and in June, US Rep Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat from New York, introduced a bill that that would pay mink farmers to shutter their operations and create a nationwide ban on farming the small animals whose silky, sleek coats are coveted for use in high-end attire.

The aim of the federal bill is to reduce the chances that mink farming could trigger outbreaks of viruses that harm humans, an issue that triggered international concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic. Proponents of the measure say they hope it will be included in the upcoming Farm Bill.

Fur farming has also become a subject of intense debate over its environmental impact, with opponents arguing its practices contribute to water pollution and harmful climate change.

Fur farming takes “a huge toll on the environment as well as animals and public health,” said PJ Smith, director of fashion policy for the Humane Society of the United States.