Sydney council investigates banning leather and fur items

The councillor who put forward the motion tries to explain what would be banned under the controversial proposal.

A Sydney councillor claims she is not advocating for a ban of "leather chairs, shoes, bags, belts or footballs" after she tabled a controversial motion in December.

Instead, North Sydney Council is investigating which leather and fur items held on its property could be deemed “controversial” and removed from its property.

The decision follows a warning by Georgia Lamb, a Sustainable Australia Party member, that council's current use of leather and fur could see it "cancelled" by future generations.

A man on a horse with an Akubra. A copy of the council's report.
North Sydney Council will create a policy on using leather and fur at council events. Source: Getty/North Sydney Council

If Councillor Lamb's original motion was approved it could have seen all leather and fur being banned. But instead, North Sydney Council decided to prepare a policy on the matter and engage a historian.

This resolution followed fierce debate between Councillor Lamb, who was just 20 years old when she joined council in 2021, and its other members for close to 15 minutes.

Speaking before the chamber, Councillor Lamb had argued her plan was about how we treat animals and "fixing a problem before it becomes a big problem in our cancel culture".

Councillor questions whether leather shoes would be banned

Debate began with Councillor Lamb introducing a last-minute amendment to seek further advice on the ban. This decision was made after she was informed the chairs councillors were sitting on contained leather.

Quick to slam her proposal was the chamber’s longest-serving councillor, former mayor Jilly Gibson, who was worried the plan could see many consumer items banned. She called the motion “a step too far”, saying she could not support it.

“Councillor Lamb has been the most amazing addition to this council. And you’ve brought forward lots of really good motions, but sadly this isn’t one of them,” Councillor Gibson said.

Is the leather and fur debate generational?

Early in the debate, Councillor Lamb suggested Councillor Gibson’s criticism of her plan could just be “a generational thing”. She said that while her idea “might not seem relevant right now, it’s about fixing a hole".

Councillor Gibson responded by saying while some have a problem with fur, many people in the building would be wearing leather shoes.

A number of high-end leather shoes on wooden displays.
Councillor Gibson questioned what the motion would mean for leather shoes. Source: Getty

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia on Tuesday, Councillor Gibson highlighted her concerns about the ramifications of the plan, saying “trying to ban Akubra hats wouldn’t be a great policy for Sustainable Australia”.

She was the only councillor not to vote in favour of the motion, despite a series of amendments being made to its wording.

What sparked the leather and fur ban motion?

Councillor Lamb’s motion was penned after she attended a talk given by Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst at the University of NSW.

During her talk, Ms Hurst said her party had given guidance to other councils when preparing motions about fur and exotic skins.

Speaking with Yahoo News Australia on Tuesday, Ms Hurst said she was surprised by the public outcry after the amended proposal was passed.

“Looking at her motion it seems completely sensible,” she said. “Preparing a report would be the first step in having changes put through — where would it work, where would it not work, what do we need to consider, are there any cultural sensitivities we need to consider?”

Minks inside cages at a fur farm.
A number of other Sydney councils have banned fur over animal cruelty concerns. Source: Getty

Ms Hurst said she thought Councillor Gibson may be over-exaggerating the impact of the motion. “The fact that the other councillors supported it shows that fur is dead as far as society is concerned,” she said.

Turning her attention to Councillor Gibson’s warning about Akubra hats no longer being allowed, Ms Hurst said she would be in favour of such a move. While Akubra once used wild Australian rabbits in its hats, it now sources them from farms overseas.

“It’s almost like she’s standing up for a particular fur product, and I wonder if she has any idea how those animals are being farmed and killed,” she said.

Councillor Lamb did not respond to a request from Yahoo News Australia for an interview. In a written statement published on the Sustainable Australia Party website, she conceded the original draft of her motion was "rushed" and could have been misinterpreted.

"I want to clarify that it was never my intention to impact on or take away rights to private property including common objects like chairs, shoes, bags, belts or footballs," she said.

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