First fur, now wool?

The war on animal products is bad for conservation and bad for the poor.

Whether it is silk, cashmere, leather or fur, animal-derived fashion products are increasingly coming under fire from activist groups.

Campaigns to ban fur have transformed into a broader movement against all animal-derived products. The animal-rights organisation, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), is now using its considerable resources to campaign against wool. Even though farming wool does not kill any animals, PETA claims there is no ethical way to shear sheep for it. It is pressuring fashion retailers like Forever 21 to stop using wool completely.

It is fine for individuals to choose to avoid animal-derived fashion products for ethical or even aesthetic reasons. But these campaigns are restricting consumer choice and having unintended adverse consequences.

Campaigns to ban fur, for instance, have resulted in animal-derived products being replaced by plastic ones – fake fur is based on polyester. But while faux fur is lauded as animal-friendly, environmental campaigners are forever criticising plastic products for polluting the oceans. Natural fur is compostable and doesn’t impact the environment in this way. Leather is also biodegradable, while silk and wool are both biodegradable and easy to recycle.

What is more, the harvesting of animal products can be incredibly important to the conservation of these animals. When Chanel decided to ban the use of so-called wild skins (from snakes, crocodiles, lizards and other reptiles), a number of conservationists argued that this would significantly harm conservation efforts. ‘Well-managed and sustainable trade in wildlife has proved to be an effective incentive to conserve, and the consequences of removing the incentives are serious and disturbing’, they wrote in Business of Fashion.

There is also a significant human cost to banning certain products, particularly in the developing world. While cashmere (or pashmina), for instance, is derided by animal-rights groups, the production process of goat farming, fibre collection, spinning, weaving, dyeing, design stamping, embroidery and washing contributes enormously to local economies and communities.

Of course, concerns about animal welfare need to be heard. Bad actors need to be held to account and driven out of the market where necessary, whether they are producers who flout animal-welfare rules or those who do not accurately label their products.

But bans on animal-derived products end up damaging conservation, hurting the global south and restricting consumer choice.

Bill Wirtz is a policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at


About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Los Angeles receives the BAN Award for outlawing animal fur

The City of Los Angeles, California receives the February 2019 BAN Award for being the largest municipality in the United States to outlaw the sale of animal fur, depriving consumers of fashion choices and endorsing a policy that ignores evidence on animal conservation.

The ban is expected to go into full force by 2021, unless the second vote on the matter changes and Mayor Eric Garcetti doesn’t sign the bill. However, because the vote was a 13-1 margin, it is likely to pass.

“Rather than following the evidence on animal conservation, the city council of Los Angeles has blindly succumbed to the wishes of activist animal rights groups who have spread misinformation on the fur trade,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a millennial consumer advocacy group.

“Such a ban will have immediate consequences. First, it deprives consumers of the choice to wear fur or not. Second, it ignores the evidence of vital wildlife conservation for balancing our ecosystems. Last, it will force the existing companies out of business and underground, creating a black market that will be unregulated without regard for consumer standards and safety,” said Ossowski.

“Responsible wildlife management is a vital part of maintaining our ecosystems, and responsible players in the fur industry have done this. Criminalizing these elements will do more harm than good, and deprive consumers of their fashion choices.

“Making the buying and selling of fur an illegal act is anti-consumer, anti-free expression, and a huge blow to legitimate animal welfare efforts,” said Ossowski.

“Rather than following the whims of activists, municipalities should allow consumers to choose the fashion items they wish to wear, whether those be made of fur or not, and help support a vital fur trade that actively helps support and balance our environment and ecosystems.”

About the BAN Award:

Every month the Consumer Choice Center awards an institution, person, or organization with the Bureau of Nannyism or short BAN Award. The BAN Awards recognize the work of an individual or organization that has made major contributions to advocating limits on consumer choice. This award serves to recognize extraordinary abilities in disregarding consumers and evidence-based public policy. The award was created by the Consumer Choice Center to draw attention to the important role politicians, lobbies, and advocates play in limiting consumers’ choice and ignoring them in the policymaking process.

Selection criteria: The Bureau of Nannyism (BAN) is a group of consumer choice advocates that discuss nominations on a monthly base and award the nominee with the most innovative or most blunt actions against consumer choice with the BAN award.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at


About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Debunking animal-derived material myths

A LEADING consumer group has hit back against animal rights activists who have been encouraging consumers to stop using animal-derived materials, on the grounds that they are hazardous to the environment.

Last Thursday, the Consumer Choice Center launched a campaign titled #ChoiceInFashion – which seeks to inform consumers about animal-derived materials used for fashion and debunk myths and urban legends spread by what they call ‘self-proclaimed animal rights groups’.

Managing director Fred Roeder explained: “The Consumer Choice Center values animal rights, animal welfare, and protection of the environment but this campaign seeks to debunk some of the myths used by animal-rights groups to cloud the judgments of consumers.

“More and more innovations already allow consumers to switch to animal-free food products and fashion items,” he continued. “At the same time, a trend of emotionally charged campaigns, such as those undertaken by PETA, that misinform consumers about animal welfare in developed countries has been on the rise. With alternatives at hand, there is no reason to stigmatise against the use of real fur and leather in fashion choice,” said Mr Roeder.

“In the coming weeks and months, we will provide more information and arguments for choice in fashion on our website:” he concluded.


About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

Let consumers make informed choices about fur

Wearing fur is becoming more and more taboo. The issue is increasingly fraught and some large brands and fashion shows have decided to opt out of fur altogether.

It isn’t just firms and consumers making the choice to ditch fur. Fur farms are outlawed in many European countries, such as the UK, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, or Croatia. Some countries are in the process of phasing out fur production before a complete ban. Those include Belgium, Bosnia, the Netherlands, and Norway.

It’s perfectly fine not to like fur. And yes, in a free society you can yell at people in the street, telling them that their fur is evil. But for all your freedom to do so, you should also accept some realities about fur. For much of the campaign against fur is built on misapprehensions.

First, fake fur, which looks about the same for the non-expert consumer and which doesn’t necessitate animal farming, is not the harmless solution many take it to be. In an age in which every plastic bottle cup is demonised and outlawed, the environmentalist answer to fur is polyester. The same polyester decried as a major ocean pollutant. Fur on the other hand is a product with a long, yet circular approach: the fur on your winter coat is biodegradable. This is not a call to throw last year’s collection into the woods, but adding hair to compost is something you can indeed do.

In many countries, a large amount of fur is the by-product of meat production or hunting. In Germany, red fox hunting produces large amounts of fur as a by-product.

Yes, the fur and leather industry has an interest in selling their product, but the trade surrounding animal-derived fashion products affects millions of others in the supply-chain, including those working directly with animals involved. Be it indigenous Aborigines in Australia, pashmina (i.e. cashmere) producers and entire families involved in goat farming and fibre collection in the Kashmir region, or the 150,000 people associated with the python industry in Indonesia: people and animals are hurt when a ban is introduced, or companies drop fur products. These producers are the conservation specialists needed to maintain a population.

In a powerful recent op-ed, four conservation experts made exactly this point. They also argue: “Apparently, many millennials prefer to buy products that are “ethically sourced.” But the irony is that the economic use of wild animals is far more ecologically sustainable (i.e. ethical) than domestic animal production.”

And there are instances in which countries have failed on a regulatory level without imposing outright bans. Often, existing consumer and retail regulations are not been applied so consumers can make informed decisions about their purchases. Consumers are misinformed or outright lied to on the description of their clothing. Some producers have been negligent about this, others have sought to dupe consumers. However, responsible representatives of the industry itself have called for mandatory precise labelling of fur products and adequate enforcement in parliamentary hearings. Both law enforcement and producers have their role to play.

It is easy to demonise all consumers, but blatant bans will hurt both responsible farmers and consumers in their choice of buying fur products. Initiatives such as Furmark, an industry-led labelling system which uses independent and recognised experts from Baltic Control and NSF for animal welfare checks or ChainPoint as traceability systems, is an effective and logical solution that would help producers and consumers in the fur industry.

The idea that all fur is evil is a myth, and it doesn’t help consumer choice, wildlife protection, or responsible industry behaviour. Consumers should ask for responsible industry-led initiatives in order to have fruitful interaction between those who produce responsibly and those who wear. Screaming at customers won’t do anyone any good.C

Bill Wirtz is a Policy Analyst at Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at


About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.