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Israel moves to ban fur trade, with major exception for ultra-Orthodox hats

Proposal announced by Environment Minister Gamliel will still allow imports of sable shtreimels, worn by many Haredi men on Shabbat and holidays

Illustrative photo of a man trying on a shtreimel in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, Jerusalem. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a man trying on a shtreimel in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, Jerusalem. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israel has moved to ban the trade in fur. However, the new initiative is seen as largely symbolic as it continues to allow the use of fur for religious reasons.

Furthermore, it does not distinguish between the pelts of animals trapped in the wild and wild creatures raised on fur farms.

“This morning we launched an important initiative to ban the fur trade,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel on Sunday. “There is no need or justification for using fur in the fashion industry.”

Gamliel said she hoped other nations would soon follow.

The authority to issue permits for the import and export of wild animal fur lies with the director of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

An amendment to 1976 regulations passed within the framework of the Wildlife Protection Law, which the Environment Ministry has issued for public comment, would limit the INPA director’s room for maneuver but allow him to continue issuing permits if the pelts are to be used for “religion, religious tradition, scientific research, education or teaching.”

This loophole exempts ultra-Orthodox Jews, who often wear cake-shaped sable hats known as shtreimels on Shabbat and holidays, although importers will now need to apply for special permits.

Sable fur skins in Milan. (Public Domain, Wikipedia, Kuerschner)

Made from the tails of sables and foxes, the hats can cost as much as $5,000. They are pretty much the only widespread users of fur in Israel, with its warm Mediterranean climate.

Wild sable are bred in fur farms across Russia, as documented by the BBC.

An animal pops its head out a cage at a sable fur farm in Russia. (BBC screenshot)

The move to limit the issue of permits was praised by animal rights group PETA, which hailed Israel “for recognizing that the trade in coats, pom-poms, and other frivolous fashion items made from wild animals’ fur offends the values held by all decent citizens.”

Also welcoming the move, the Israeli Animals rights group Animals Now said that according to a survey, 86 percent of Israelis agreed that it was unacceptable to use cages, torture and brutal methods to kill foxes, mink, dogs and cats for “extravagant and unnecessary fashion items.” The ministers move would save “countless animals,” it added.

An INPA spokeswoman said that very few permits for trade in wild animals or their parts were issued anyway and that conservation issues and national conservation agreements to which Israel was a signatory were always weighed first.

She added, “The issue has been published for public comment. Once we receive the comments, we will study them and formulate a professional response.”

According to the Humane Society, every year around one hundred million animals are farmed and killed on intensive fur farms to supply the fashion industry while unknown millions are trapped and killed for their fur in the wild, mainly in the USA, Canada and Russia.

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