The Fur Flies In Beverly Hills

Fur coats in the fancy shops on Rodeo Drive may soon come with a warning label with gruesome details of how the fur's original wearers - the animals - were killed.

Thanks to a petition drive by animal rights activists, citizens of this mecca of luxury shopping will get the chance on May 11 to vote on a referendum requiring furriers to tag their products.

"Consumer notice: This product is made with fur from animals that may have been killed by electrocution, gassing, neck breaking, poisoning, clubbing, stomping or drowning and may have been trapped in steel-jaw, leg-hold traps," the tag would read.

A reluctant City Council voted 3-1 Tuesday, with one abstention, to call the initiative election. Mayor Les Bronte was the lone dissenting vote.

"I don't want our police officers going to stores and checking the linings of coats," Bronte said. "We don't need a pelt posse here."

A group called Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choices collected the signatures of more than 3,300 registered voters, forcing the council to put the measure on the ballot. Supporters believe it would be the first fur warning of its kind in the country.

The group says most furriers tell buyers that the animals are killed by injection, which isn't always the case.

Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, supports the proposed law.

"Fur is purely a status symbol, and more and more it is a symbol of cruelty," he said. "Beverly Hills has a warm climate. The only reason why people would want to wear fur is for the status."

The proposed law doesn't take into account that there are no laws regulating the killing of animals for their fur, countered Teresa Platt, executive director of Fur Commission USA, an association representing mink and fox farmers.

"For mink, the preferred method is gas, and for fox it's injection, but occasionally it is something different," she said.

The proposed tag "lists a variety of methods by which the animals may or may not have been put down," she added. "Imagine if such a label were required for meat, chicken, fish, medicine the list is endless."

For William Carothers, of Santa Barbara, who was looking for a fox-trimmed leather coat at Somper Furs for his wife for Valentine's Day, said the tag wouldn't affect his decision.

"I love animals myself, but fur has been worn forever," he said. "I learned long ago that Bambi no longer runs in the wild."

The manager of Somper Furs, Douglas Fine, called the ballot measure "one more attempt by the extreme animal activists to generate publicity to hurt the fur industry."