California becomes the first state in the nation to outlaw fur trapping

Gabrielle Canon, USA TODAY
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco. Newsom signed a bill into law that makes California the first state to ban the fur trade on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019.

California has just become the first state in the nation to outlaw fur trapping. The Wildlife Protection Act of 2019, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Wednesday, will prohibit the trapping of native animals including grey fox, coyote, beaver, badger and mink, along with the sale of their pelts, which often end up in foreign markets. 

The new legislation will officially end an industry that lawmakers argued was too small and costly to regulate.

Only 133 trapping licenses were bought in California in 2017 according to the bill.  Along with just four fur dealer licenses sold in the same year, just over $16,000 in revenue was generated for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. During the same year, 68 trappers killed more than 1,500 animals, among them, grey fox, coyote, beaver, badger and mink. The pelts collectively sold for less than $9,000, a sum far beneath the costs accrued by the state to oversee the industry.

Under the new law, fur dealer and fur agent licenses will no longer be issued.

“Not only does the cruel fur trapping trade decimate our increasingly vulnerable wildlife populations, running this program doesn’t even make fiscal policy sense,” California Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, the San Diego Democrat who wrote the legislation, said in a statement. “Taxpayers are subsidizing this unnecessary commercial activity because the cost of managing this program isn’t even covered by the revenue from trapping license fees.”

Backed by animal advocacy organizations, Center for Biological Diversity and Social Compassion in Legislation, proponents of the new bill emphasized that it brings the state in line with its environmental ideals, prioritizing wildlife watching — which contributed close to $3.8 billion to the state economy in 2017 — over animal cruelty.

“Today marks a milestone in the process of bringing California’s wildlife laws into the 21st century,” Brendan Cummings, conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.  “The overwhelming majority of Californians value our wildlife alive, not to be trapped and cruelly slaughtered for foreign fur markets.  We thank Governor Newsom for relegating this cruel and antiquated practice to the dustbin of history in California.”

Opponents to the bill included the California Farm Bureau Federation, which argued that it could negatively affect the agriculture industry as landowners would lose a way to manage wildlife. The new law still allows for trapping of rodents, but the organization voiced concerns that trapping costs would increase and that there would be no way to address wildlife damage to agriculture.  

It passed handily, 30-9 in the Senate, and 51-19 in the Assembly.  

AB 273 is just one of the fur-based bills introduced this session. The other, AB 44, if enacted, would ban the manufacture and sale of new fur products across the state. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: California becomes first state in nation to outlaw fur trapping