We’re pleased with the news today that the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced it is extending Endangered Species Act protections for two breeds of lions in response to a large decline in their numbers in Africa over the past two decades. Lions in central and West Africa will now be listed as endangered and lions in southern and East Africa will be classified as threatened.

The ruling does not completely ban the import of lion parts obtained from trophy-hunting, but does make it significantly more difficult for hunters to do so. While this is progress, we believe much more needs to be done in order to protect the rapidly declining lion population, including classifying the lions in Southern and East Africa as endangered as well.

“If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the Africa savannas and forests of India, it’s up to all of us — not just the people of Africa and India — to take action,” said Dan Ashe, the agency’s director.

The African lion has increasingly been in danger of extinction. Over the past two decades they have declined by 43%, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In West Africa, only 400 are left. Overall, estimates suggest that there are about 20,000 lions left in the continent. The IUCN classifies the species as being “vulnerable” to extinction.

In their announcement today, officials said these ESA designations will result in stricter criteria for obtaining the permits needed for the import of live lions and lion parts from trophy-hunting, like heads, paws or skins. Currently, no permit is needed for sports hunters to import a lion.

Although this is decision today a step in the right direction, we are advocating for stronger actions to be taken. Prior to Cecil’s death, Friends of Animals had already drafted a bill that would protect lions and 5 other frequently trophy-hunted species in Africa. The law would completely prevent their bodies from being exported back to the United States through New York, which will go a long way to help stop this grotesque practice. The law was renamed Cecil’s Law  and is currently working its way through the New York state legislature; it will be the most comprehensive law ever passed in the United States to end trophy hunting.

You can help take action and ensure trophy hunters finally get the message about  their sick “hobby” by contacting NY lawmakers about passing “Cecil’s Law” today.

As 2015 comes to a close, we have a huge cheer for Eugene, Ore., mayor Kitty Piercy for declaring 2016 Vegan Awareness Year—a year dedicated to raising awareness of the impact individual choices have on the planet and all of its inhabitants.

We are thrilled that because of her collaboration with the Eugene Veg Education Network (EVEN) and through her mayoral proclamation, Piercy has acknowledged growing global recognition of the environmental, health and ethical concerns surrounding consumption of animal products. In her official proclamation, which you can read here.

She cites the United Nations Environmental Programme: Each day a person eating a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested lands, the equivalent of 20 pounds of CO2, and one animal’s life. Friends of Animals hopes that other cities will be inspired by Eugene and make a plant-based lifestyle a priority in 2016. We offer a Vegan Started Guide right here.

#FlipOffFur: We have a big cheer today for Johnny Barounis, owner of multiple Manhattan bars, who’s decided to give fur the finger since 2011 by not allowing fur-wearers inside his bars. 

Before patrons are allowed to enter his establishments, Barounis ,whose bars include the Lower East Side’s Revision Bar and Gallery and the Back Room, has his doormen question the authenticity of pelts and even inspect fur pieces if there is any doubt about whether or not it is made of animal skins. 

“It has been something I have done my whole life,” 51-year-old Barounis told a reporter, “I was always anti-hunting, anti-fur.”

Not only does the cruelty nature of the fur industry upset Barounis, but that the animal’s death being applauded as a status symbol only adds to his frustration. We applaud his efforts to #FlipOffFur and hope that more establishments adopt this cruelty-free rule for their patrons. Especially since more people buy fur in New York City than anywhere else in the United States.

Despite fur being a fashion a fashion faux pas in the 80s and 90s, the global fur industry is now being valued at more than $40 billion, roughly the same as the global Wi-fi industry, because the industry got busy renovating its image, and designers and consumers have fallen into its trap.

But no matter how many feel good labels it sticks on its fur coats, the fur industry still farms, traps, kills and processes millions of animals who could have lived full free lives.

So join Friends of Animals in flipping off fur! Tag your anti-fur photos with #FlipOffFur and have them shared by our fox on the @FlipOffFur accounts below!