A citizen petition calling for a ban on sales of new fur products had Wednesday night’s Special Town Meeting agenda to itself, and dozens of citizens had their say. In the end, despite pleas from merchants that this new rule exclusive to Wellesley could be financially “devastating” to them, Town Meeting voted in favor of an amended article for the ban, with many echoing sentiments this would make Wellesley a leader in the movement against animal cruelty.
Wellesley is now the first U.S. community outside of California to vote in favor of a ban on sales of new fur products.
There was little debate about whether fur production is cruel, and Town Meeting members voting for Article 28 trotted out familiar stories of horrible animal treatment. Some cited that a growing list of large retailers, Macy’s and Nordstrom’s among them, have announced plans to stop selling fur products.
Though some cautioned that banning new fur sales could be the start of a slippery slope that leads to bans on other products, from fleece to leather, one by one.
Another question raised was whether such a ban needed to be done at the local level vs. working at the state level, or going after the fur producers themselves. Concerns were raised that if Wellesley is the only community with such a ban, shoppers might must go to Needham, Natick, or another nearby community instead to find such products.
Liza Oliver, the Wellesley College professor and town resident who brought forth the petition at the start of the year in anticipation of a spring Town Meeting, stated that action at the local level has been proven to lead to action at a broader level, such as in California.
“It’s not just symbolic,” Oliver said during the meeting. “Because the fur industry isn’t sustained by large fur coat stores. Rather it is sustained by all of these little accessories that towns and cities all deem too negligible to address, which collectively adds up to the suffering of 100 million animals and untold environmental degradation.”
While dedicated to this cause, and inspiring many Wellesley College students to hit up Town Meeting members with their pleas to vote in favor of the article, Oliver did agree to a compromise. That was in response to Town Meeting member James Gorman proposing an amendment about 90 minutes into the meeting that the ban not be enacted until a year from now if approved.
Numerous references were made throughout the night regarding the previous night’s meeting, which went on and on in large part due to an amendment brought to the floor regarding the town’s tree bylaw.
Wednesday’s night’s amendment, however, made for relatively quick work at the 2-hour-plus meeting. The Advisory Committee went off for a bit and discussed it, coming back with a favorable recommendation (Advisory did not recommend favorable action on the original article).
The argument for delaying the ban, as proposed in the amendment, was that this could give retailers that have already ordered their inventory an opportunity to sell that off. Keep in mind that when Oliver introduced the original petition, the reality of COVID-19 had not set in for most and the financial impact of that on merchants couldn’t be envisioned.
Isabel Harvey’s Kimberly Kissam, whose shop sells products with real and fake fur, said the delay could help businesses, though that it’s hard to say with the pandemic-ravaged economy’s future so uncertain. “My designers and customers dictate what I sell,” she said. Kissam was one of several local retailers who spoke against the article at the start of the meeting.
The amended article passed by a vote of 140 yes, 64 no, 2 abstaining.
A sigh a relief could be heard when the meeting appeared to be over, with moderator Mark Kaplan asking if anyone opposed dissolving the meeting. One hand was raised, prompting a more formal vote. Nothing was easy this time around.