Israel says it intends to ban the buying and selling of animal furs, apart from in specially approved cases, making it the first country to do so.
Announcing plans for new regulations, environmental protection minister Gila Gamliel said the use of skin and fur for the fashion industry was “immoral”.
Her ministry said future permits would only be considered under certain, limited criteria.
Until now, only a handful of cities – in the US, and São Paulo in Brazil – have banned the sale of all animal fur.
At present, anyone in Israel wishing to buy or sell fur must apply for a permit, but under the new rules this will only be allowed in cases of “scientific research, education or for instruction and for religious purposes or tradition”.
The exemption is likely to apply to Israel’s sizeable ultra-Orthodox community, among whom many of the men wear large round fur hats called shtreimels, believed to have originated as a custom in Eastern Europe.
“The fur industry causes the killing of hundreds of millions of animals around the world, and involves indescribable cruelty and suffering,” said Ms Gamliel.
“Utilising the skin and fur of wildlife for the fashion industry is immoral.”
Anyone found breaking the law in Israel will face a fine of up to $22,000 (18,500 euros; £17,000) or a year in prison.
Gamliel’s announcement was praised by Blue and White MK Miki Haimovich, a known advocate for animal rights who also chairs the Knesset’s Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee.
“Wearing fur should completely disappear from the world, as in this age there is no justification for killing animals just for the sake of wearing their fur for fashion or for heating. There are excellent substitutes that do not cause suffering and murder,” Haimovich said in a statement.
She explained how it was important that Israel advance this legislation, and said that she and her committee fully backed Gamliel’s plans, as well as promising to help enforce them.
“Humanity is beginning to understand in recent years the immense damage that man is causing to animals and nature and the extinction of the species that are ultimately responsible for the ecological balance that preserves us,” she explained.
“We in the Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee will provide the full backing for this, and will monitor it over time to ensure that the regulations are enforced and the fur trade in Israel will cease.”
The move was also applauded by Israeli animal rights advocacy group Animals Now, who noted that a wide majority of Israelis support such legislation, though prior attempts at introducing them into law have failed.
“We applaud and welcome the environmental protection minister’s courageous decision to put an end to the sale of furs in Israel,” Animals Now said in a statement.
“Already at the beginning of the struggle, 86% of Israelis expressed a clear position that caging, torturing and brutally killing foxes, minks, dogs and cats for extravagant and unnecessary fashion items is unacceptable.
“The minister’s important decision will save countless animals.”
“We’re very happy that the fur trade will be banned in Israel,” the Society for the Protection of Animals in Israel (SPCA Israel) told The Jerusalem Post.
However, they added that the battle is not yet done, pointing out that haredi Jews will still be able to use fur for shtreimels.
“The SPCA is against this practice,” they told the Post. “It’s a primitive way to practice Judaism to cause so much pain to animals. We hope this practice will one day disappear. It’s absolutely terrible, and we hope that one day religious reasons will no longer be an excuse to practice the fur trade.”