February 4, 1999
BEVERLY HILLS, California (CNN) -- An anti-fur strategy approved for the Beverly Hills ballot -- but possibly facing a legal challenge -- would tell shoppers in the trendy Southern California city how the foxes, minks and other animals that keep them stylishly warm may have been killed.
Voters will decide on May 11 whether to force merchants to tag fur items with labels stating that the animals may have been electrocuted, gassed, poisoned, clubbed, stomped or drowned.
If approved, it would be the nation's first law requiring such labels.
The credit-card sized tags would be attached to coats, stoles, hats or any other fur-made product over $50 sold in Beverly Hills, which is home to Rodeo Drive, one of the world's most expensive shopping districts.
Those in violation could be fined $100 per item.
The issue was forced onto the ballot by a local animal rights group called Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choices.
It gathered more than 3,300 signatures, forcing the city council to place the measure on the ballot, despite questions from some council members about its legality.
Among the celebrities who signed the petition are Jack Lemmon, Jay Leno, Vidal Sassoon, Pat Boone, Buddy Hackett and Sid Caesar.
Mayor Les Bronte was the only member of city council to vote against putting the issue on the ballot. He dislikes the $60,000 cost of the special election and worries about a "pelt posse" of police having to check tags in stores.
He also told CNN the anti-fur activists should have targeted the fur industry, not stores in one city.
The proposal is wasteful and "designed to confuse people," argues Teresa Platt, executive director of California-based Fur Commission USA. The fur industry group urges the city to challenge the ballot measure in court.
The industry itself may also fight it as frivolous and unnecessary.
On its Web site, FCUSA ridicules initiative leader Luke Montgomery, quoting him as calling some Beverly Hills City Council members "morons" when they raised questions about it.
Montgomery, campaign manager for Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choices, is a former gay activist who has called himself Luke Sissyfag and once heckled President Clinton.
The Humane Society of the United States has endorsed the measure, but opponents say the tags will be misleading because they do not describe how the animals in a specific coat were killed.
"Is the waiter in the restaurant able to give you the information about what bait was used to catch the fish you're eating?" asked Keith Kaplan, president of the Southern California Fur Association. "That's an unreasonable burden."
Montgomery countered: "We're saying that these are methods the fur industry uses and letting people decide if they want to support that."
The consumer group contends the industry tries to deceive buyers into thinking animals are killed by lethal injection or other painless means.
"They use anal electrocution, clubbing, neck breaking and even stomping," Montgomery said. "They're afraid if people know the truth they won't buy the product."
Nonsense, fur retailers said.
"If a consumer asked, we certainly would tell them," said Douglas Fine, manager of Somper Furs. "I've never been asked the question."
Though Southern Californians bask in sunshine, Beverly Hills sells plenty of fur products. Sales of everything from belts to full-length minks total about $20 million a year, Kaplan said.
Fall luxury from Fendi
Fur Commission USA
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