If City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has his way, New Yorkers will see hide but not hair on store racks in the near future.
Johnson is pushing a bill that will forbid the sale of nearly all fur products in the five boroughs—but said on Wednesday that he wouldn’t pursue the same for leather. The legislative leader justified his decision by asserting that hides harvested for jackets, wallets and shoes come from animals slaughtered for food.
"This is a luxury product. There are alternative products, like faux fur, other materials that can be used," he said. "It is cruel and inhumane to trap animals for fur, to raise animals just for the purpose of wearing them."
"Leather is a co-product of meat. So right now, if you're killing a mink, or a chinchilla, or a coyote for fur, you're not eating their meat," he said. "They're being skinned alive, gassed, trapped, farmed for fur, just to take the fur off their body for clothes. That's not what happens with leather."
There are some reports, however, that suggest that in certain cases, Johnson has it backwards: leather is less a co-product of meat processing than meat is a co-product of obtaining leather—especially leather produced from the hides of birds, reptiles, horses or very young calves. This is the case when animals' skin commands a higher price than their flesh and thus serve as the primary incentive for farmers and slaughterhouses to raise particular species.
Johnson's remarks came shortly before African-American leaders in the city rallied against the measure outside City Hall, arguing that fur has a special significance in their culture. Should the ban pass, it is expected to contain a religious exemption that would apply to fur hats commonly worn by ultra-Orthodox Jewish men. A cultural exemption would seem less likely to make it into the legislation, which is opposed by the fur industry and other business interests.
So far, only 10 of the council's 51 members have signed onto the proposal.