How We Banned Fur in Berkeley

post by jayquigley · 2017-08-05T14:53:47.331Z · EA · GW · Legacy · 7 comments



Cross-posted from Medium.

Late last month, the City Council of Berkeley, California banned the sale of new fur apparel items within city limits. The ban is the second of its kind in the United States, following a 2013 ban in West Hollywood, California. 

The group responsible for the ban is Berkeley Coalition for Animals (BCA), an all-volunteer legislative advocacy group of which I am secretary.

Many animal rights advocates have asked how a small all-volunteer group with zero funding achieved success with the Fur Free Berkeley campaign. This case study can help provide a template for those wishing to sponsor animal rights or other altruistic legislation in their jurisdictions.


Key components were


Key Strategies


What should you do if you want to pass similar animal protection legislation in another jurisdiction in California, a different U.S. state, or elsewhere?


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by remmelt · 2017-08-06T13:55:44.259Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This looks like a well-structured analysis. My respect for the successful lobby work in California. I was curious how you would place interventions on helping fur-bearing animals in an overall strategy to reduce the most animal suffering.

It makes intuitive sense to me that these animals (as well as dogs traded for meat) live decidedly miserable lives. The case made by organisations like Animal Charity Evaluators though is that the suffering of livestock animals like broiler chickens should be prioritised because they occur on a massive scale and tend to get even less attention from people.

As a quick comparison, each year roughly 25 million dogs are killed for food worldwide, 100 million animals for their fur, compared to about 53 billion chickens (at least 500x as much).

What are your views on this? How much is the strong statement that banning fur makes against speciesism part of Berkeley Coalition for Animals' strategy? How do you think to continue from here? I'm generally curious here to learn about your organisation's reasoning process for concentrating on a specific area.

Replies from: jayquigley
comment by jayquigley · 2017-08-09T04:38:15.693Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Speaking specifically for Fur Free Berkeley, and speculating on behalf of Fur Free West Hollywood, the reasons for focusing on banning fur were that it was:

  • attainable yet challenging

  • a meaningful step in an incremental progression toward further, more all-encompassing reforms

  • a farmed animal issue with which the general public has substantial sympathy

  • an industry wherein welfare misdeeds are egregious and relatively well-understood

  • an issue on which both welfare reformers and staunch abolitionists can agree (because it is a form of outright prohibition rather than welfare-oriented reform)

  • a form of animal farming that people can thoroughly sympathize with, encouraging further sympathies with other varieties of farmed animals, including the massive classes of individuals you mention

Specifically in the case of going for a second ban, there were additional advantages:

  • The legal language was already formulated

  • The WeHo law had already been successfully defended in federal court

As for the reasoning process for pursuing a given item, our unofficial criteria tend to be related to attainability (especially, in talking with legislators, do they feel excited enough about an idea to sponsor the item), defensibility (how worried would the bill's backer be about backlash), and momentum for the broader animal advocacy movement.

We do have further legislation ideas, some of which would make Berkeley the first to accomplish a particular feat. While we're not ready to announce anything yet, you can stay tuned on what we're up to by following us on Facebook:

Replies from: remmelt
comment by remmelt · 2017-08-11T16:57:18.061Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for the explanation for your decision to focus on fur at this point.

a form of animal farming that people can thoroughly sympathize with, encouraging further sympathies with other varieties of farmed animals, including the massive classes of individuals you mention

I'm curious – if you see this particular ban as a stepping stone to larger behavioural change in the state of California – how are you using your success here as leverage to make citizens become aware of the suffering happening on a much larger scale in intensive factory farms?

I saw this article on extending your progress to other animals. But, to be fair, it isn't clear to me yet how you're prioritising these areas.

In the Netherlands, I have seen a tendency amongst animal welfare charities to run around and try to do something about every incidence of suffering they see. While I understand this and admire these efforts, I try to bring across to them that becoming really good at one or two areas would make them capable of helping more animals overall, even by virtue of specialisation.

Replies from: jayquigley
comment by jayquigley · 2017-08-11T22:07:10.423Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

If BCA were a major animal protection organization such as HSUS or PETA, I would mostly agree with you. But we are an all-volunteer force of around 4 dedicated members in one of the very most progressive cities in the U.S. What we should prioritize is not the building of awareness but rather the accumulation of inspiring legislative victories which will help mobilize the rest of those who are already aware of animal issues.

Rather than "run[ning] around and try[ing] to do something about every incidence of suffering [we] see", we are prioritizing attainable, potentially replicable, key legislative victories.

Incidentally, we've begun to think that if we run out of such potential initiatives, we should switch focus to educating local progressive political leaders about farmed animal issues.

Replies from: remmelt
comment by remmelt · 2017-08-12T09:40:09.086Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Fair point. You seem to be opening up the way to show what's possible to larger organisations.

Having said that, can't you connect these two? Can't you one one end take practical steps to showing that real legal progress is possible while at the other end show the big picture that you're working towards and why?

Thinking big around a shared goal could the increase cohesion and ambition of the idealistic people you're connected with and work with on each new project from now on (this reminds me of Elon Musk's leadership approach, who unfortunately doesn't seem to care much about animal issues).

Replies from: jayquigley
comment by jayquigley · 2017-08-13T22:43:13.342Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Your point is well taken. Indeed, the goal is a world where everyone's interest is given the same weight as equivalent interests, regardless of species.

It is probable that lofty philosophical visions motivate and inspire people, just as you indicate.

I suppose the reason we don't always lead with that kind of messaging is that it can scare away opponents who aren't ready to dare challenging the "meat" industry and worry about slippery slopes. Including lawmakers whose constituents include scores of entrepreneurs who sell animal bodies as food.