PETA hails Israel as first country to ban fur, but major exceptions remain

Legislation still allows imports of sable shtreimels, worn by many Haredi men on Shabbat and holidays, which makes up majority of fur worn in temperate Middle Eastern country

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)

Animal rights group PETA on Wednesday hailed Israel as “the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur” after Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel signed the move into law.

“This historic victory will protect countless foxes, minks, rabbits and other animals from being violently killed for their skin,” the statement said.

“For decades, PETA and our international affiliates have exposed horrific cruelty on fur farms, demonstrating that animals spend their entire lives confined to cramped, filthy wire cages. Fur farmers use the cheapest killing methods available, including neck-breaking, suffocation, poisoning and genital electrocution,” PETA said.

Despite the accolades, critics say the new law is mostly toothless, as it continues to allow the import of fur for religious reasons, their main use in Israel.

PETA honorary director Pamela Anderson was among the first to bare all for PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign. (PETA)

PETA said efforts to bring about the ban were the fruit of years of lobbying by animal rights activists, including PETA Honorary Director Pamela Anderson, who had personally appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

PETA thanked Gamliel, who responded by saying: “Proud to be the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur.”

“Now the whole world knows we made history today, fur is no longer in fashion,” she tweeted.

However, the new law appears to be largely symbolic.

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.

The amendment to 1976 regulations passed within the framework of the Wildlife Protection Law, which Gamliel signed Wednesday, limits the INPA director’s room for maneuver but allows 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.

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.

Illustrative: Hasidic men wearing fur shtreimels reading from the Book of Esther on the Purim holiday. (Illustrative photo: Dror Garti/Flash90)

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.

Beyond the cruelty issue, PETA said fur farms should be banned, noting the recent outbreaks of coronavirus in mink farms.

“Cramming sick and stressed animals together in unsanitary conditions on fur farms creates the perfect breeding ground for deadly diseases,” PETA said.

An employee removes dead mink from a chamber after they were gassed. The herd consists of 3,000 mother mink and their cubs on their farm near Naestved, Denmark, on November 6, 2020. (Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP)

Denmark and the United States were among six countries that reported new coronavirus cases linked to mink farms.

Denmark imposed strict measures on the north of the country after warning that a mutation of the virus had jumped from minks to humans and infected 12 people.

Copenhagen warned the mutation could threaten the effectiveness of any future vaccine and has ordered the slaughter of all the estimated 15-17 million minks in the country.

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