Motion: Banning the sale of fur and exotic animal skins on Council property

I tabled this motion at our Inner West Council meeting on Tuesday 23 June in regards to prohibiting the sale of animal fur and exotic skin products on Council property. I'm pleased to say it passed with near-unanimous support, with only one vote against.

THAT Council:

1. Reviews its event and market application forms and guidelines to prohibit the sale of fur products, mislabelled fake fur products, and other exotic animal skins on Council property, including looking at how an exemption for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander vendors that may be impacted could be applied;

2. Writes to the Minister for Home Affairs to call for the introduction of random forensic testing of imported fake fur products, as well as an investigation into prohibition of fur product imports into Australia;

3. Writes to the NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation to request a fur task force be established to assess the size and impact of illegal fur labelling;

4. Promotes through its website and other suitable communications channels:

a. Information to help local residents and businesses report the sale of suspected illegal animal products to the relevant authorities;

b. Ethical and sustainable alternatives to reselling or throwing out old or vintage fur products.

BACKGROUND

Numerous reports have highlighted the animal cruelty involved in fur production. Animals are being kept in small cages unable to act out their natural behaviours, after which they are killed in harrowing ways such as electrocution, bludgeoning, or being skinned alive.

Increasing awareness of this cruelty has reduced consumer demand for fur products. However, some producers and vendors are now mislabelling fur products sold in Australia. 

Late last year, forensic tests on faux fur products sold at the Queen Victoria and South Melbourne markets revealed they were made from racoon and racoon dog fur – animals known to be mistreated in fur harvesting facilities in China.

Similarly, the trade in exotic animal skins – such as snakes, alligators, crocodiles and other reptiles – is marked by cruelty and significant environmental impacts, with wild animals removed from their native habitat and harvested for skins.

Over the last few weeks, the international trade in wildlife for fur, exotic animal skins and other products has been subject to renewed calls for bans due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the risk that this trade will lead to other deadly disease outbreaks in future.

Stamping out the trade in fur and exotic animal skins requires action at a state and federal level, which is why I am asking Council to call on the NSW and Australian governments to do this.

Under the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW), which allows a council to establish policies for the use of its land, Council can also act to prevent the sale of these products on our properties.

For example, markets operate under section 68 approvals that permit them to use Council land. It is possible under section 68 approvals to add a condition prohibiting the sale of fur and exotic animal skins in any markets operated on Council-owned land.

Additionally, an amendment to Council’s General Conditions of Hire for Community Facilities and Town Halls that prevents the sale of such products in our venues could reduce markets for these cruel industries, particularly if combined with information to help local residents and business report suspect sales of illegal animal products to the relevant authorities.

The resale of second-hand or vintage fur products can also contribute to demand by perpetuating the idea of ‘fur as fashion’, but throwing these products out conflicts with the Inner West’s vision of becoming a zero waste community. 

Again, Council can act by helping raise awareness of alternatives such as donating to Snuggle Coats, a not-for-profit organisation that collects furs for animal groups, carers and wildlife parks across Australia, which in turn use the furs to rehabilitate and comfort animals in their care.

Similar resolutions on this issue have recently been passed by the City of Sydney and Canterbury-Bankstown Council. Globally, local and city governments in the UK, USA and Brazil have enacted bans on the sale of animal fur. 

Given our community’s strong and demonstrable commitment to animal welfare, I believe Council should take this stand alongside these governments against this cruel and unethical trade, and work to ensure that its products are not sold on Council premises.


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