Fur Hits the Ban in West Hollywood, Calif.

Reported by ABC News’ Mary Plummer:

A tightly packed crowd of activists on both sides of the fur debate lobbied West Hollywood City Council members during a seven-hour-long meeting that began Monday evening and stretched  into Tuesday morning, but when the vote finally came it was unanimous: Fur  be gone.

 The  city council  voted 5-0 to ban the sale of fur-apparel products, making West Hollywood the first  U.S. city to pass such an ordinance,  KABC-TV reported.

 ”West Hollywood is really taking the lead,” said animal rights attorney Shannon Keith, who said she’s seen animals beaten, gased and skinned alive by people out to get their fur. “The animals can’t speak for themselves and nobody should have to die for vanity.”

 But for some, the vote amounted to little more than a sham.  Keith Kaplan, executive director of the Fur Information Council of Americaa and a 26-year resident of West Hollywood, was outraged that the city council didn’t take more time to consider the economic impact.

 Kaplan said  a study that found that 46 percent – or 91 fashion stores – in the West Hollywood area sell fur would have been ready for review this week. But city officials declined to postpone the vote, he said.

 ”It’s a shock to many that the city council has allowed themselves to be hijacked by a special interest and rather extremist group,” Kaplan said, adding that those who opposed the ban were far outnumbered at the meeting. Three retailers, he said, decided not to speak a half hour before they were scheduled to, citing fear of retaliation by anti-fur activists.

 As a lead up to the vote, the group Fur Free West Hollywood has hosted rallies since January. Keith said four or five retailers expressed their worry about the ban during the public debate.

 West Hollywood, which is in Los Angeles County,  is known for groundbreaking legislation. In 2003, it became the first U.S. city to ban declawing cats. West Hollywood has also banned the sale of dogs and cats within city limits, as well as the testing of cosmetics  on animals.

As for Monday night, city Public Information Officer Tamara White said it was business as usual. West Hollywood City Council meetings often take on hot-topic issues that run late into the night, she said.

 ”We’ve consistently worked to enact cutting-edge animal welfare legislation,” she said. ” This is in line with our values.”

 Worldwide, about 50 million animals are raised on fur farms and killed for their pelts each year, according to the animal rights group Last Chance for Animals. Mink production alone in the U.S.  totaled 2.82 million pelts in 2010, with Wisconsin and Utah leading production numbers, according to the most recent study by the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

 The new ban in West Hollywood is tentatively set to go into effect in  June 2012, but the city council plans to meet again in two weeks to set the effective date, penalties for violating the ban and whether to provide exemptions for vintage clothing.