The following statement from the four signatories below was released to the media on Jan. 24, 2021. “Harvesting and trading… Read More
The following statement from the four signatories below was released to the media on Jan. 24, 2021.
"Harvesting and trading fur and other gifts of nature is our inherent right since ancient times, not a privilege to be bartered or revoked!" says Chief Brian Wadhams, trapper, of the 'Namgis First Nations.
As Indigenous trappers and traditional trapline holders, we
can no longer remain silent about self-appointed “animal rights” activists who
think they have a right to spread lies about the fur trade and call on
politicians to ban the production or sale of fur products.
The latest example of this vicious and misleading campaigning is a recent call by animal activists for the Canadian Government to ban mink farming, after mink on two BC farms tested positive for COVID-19. While mink farming is not a tradition in our culture, we oppose this attack on small family-run farms and on rural communities where the majority of Indigenous harvesters live. And we are not naïve: we understand that this attack on mink farming is just the latest weapon in an orchestrated plan to turn the public against any use of fur – a campaign that directly attacks our culture and inherent rights as Indigenous peoples of Canada. We call this for what it is: Cultural Genocide.
The fur trade played a central role in Canada’s history, and it's an important part of our Cultural Identity; our people were harvesting and trading furs long before Europeans ever set foot on our eastern shores. The harvesting and sale of fur still provides income for many First Nations communities throughout Canada. Beavers, muskrats, and other furbearing animals also provide nutritious food for many hunters and their families. The respectful harvesting of fur and food from abundant wildlife populations is central to our relationship with the land – a relationship that the federal and provincial governments are legally mandated to protect.
Let us be crystal clear: the goal of animal activists – including those now calling for a ban on mink farming – is to destroy all markets for fur, to further their own ideological agenda. In doing so, they are directly attacking our right to responsibly harvest and trade nature’s gifts, which is our inherent right, a right recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada and by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).
It is doubly unfortunate that animal activists seek to mislead the public and the government about fur at a time when Canadians seek to live in better harmony with nature. Furs are a sustainably produced, long-lasting, and biodegradable natural clothing material. It is the Honest Fabric. By contrast, the fake furs and other synthetics promoted by animal activists are generally made from petroleum, a non-renewable, non-biodegradable, and polluting resource.
Indigenous people have respected and protected the survival of the animal populations upon which we depend since time immemorial. Our message today to self-appointed “animal rights” extremists and their celebrity cheerleaders is this: Your misguided attacks on the fur trade are not “progressive”; they are attacks on Indigenous people. Your uninformed and misguided lies must stop NOW!
We take this opportunity to remind the Government of Canada,
and their provincial and municipal counterparts, that fur trapping, trading,
displaying and selling fur is our Inherent Right, not a privilege to be
bartered or trifled with. You are responsible for protecting these rights!
Furthermore, governments cannot make any changes in policy or legislation concerning the responsible harvesting, production, displaying, selling or bartering of fur products without full consultation and consent from Indigenous people, as the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.
We will no longer remain silent while self-appointed urban activists attack our cultural traditions and livelihoods. It is time you showed some honesty, decency, and respect for Indigenous fur harvesters and our fur trade partners.
It's time to take a stand. We call on all Canadians to say “No!” to the lies and cultural intolerance promoted by anti-fur groups. We ask you to support Indigenous harvesters, to support the responsible and sustainable use of nature's gifts -- and to buy and proudly wear Canadian Fur.
It’s the Holiday Season, a time of good cheer, so let’s pretend for a moment that Covid-19 hasn’t made the… Read More
It’s the Holiday Season, a time of good cheer, so let’s
pretend for a moment that Covid-19 hasn’t made the last year thoroughly miserable
for everyone, including the fur trade. After all, every cloud has a silver
lining, right? What follows may seem like a stretch, but not everything about
2020 was bad.
Silver Lining 1: Closed Season on Retail Bans
Let’s start with something that didn’t happen in 2020: if there were any new campaigns launched to ban fur retail in the US, Truth About Fur didn’t hear about them. This bore out a prediction we made last March that, with the pandemic building, no one would have time to argue about animal rights.
Before the pandemic, animal rights groups were on a roll in California. They started small, in trendy West Hollywood, where a retail ban went into effect in 2013. Then Berkeley fell in 2017, San Francisco’s ban began last January, and a Los Angeles ban starts in 2021. In 2023, California’s statewide ban is scheduled to begin. (The sad irony, of course, is that the politicians who supported these bans pride themselves as being "progressives" -- in which case, as Truth About Fur's Alan Herscovici explained, they should be promoting fur, not trying to ban it!)
The fur trade mounted challenges to all these campaigns -- and legal challenges forced San Francisco to acknowledge that furs can still be purchased by mail order in that city -- but putting out fires left and right is expensive and time-consuming. Then Covid-19 came and stole the show, ably supported by such explosive events as the Black Lives Matter riots and the US election. Any interest in talking up fur sales bans evaporated, and they remain irrelevant to this day.
It won’t last, of course. Once Covid is under control and there’s a slow news day (remember those?), animal rights extremists and attention-hungry politicians will be teaming up again. But until then, the fur trade can take a breather and regroup. It’s not much of a silver lining, but a breather was definitely needed!
Silver Lining 2: Denmark’s Loss May Be Your Gain
It’s never nice to benefit from another’s misfortune, but it happens in business all the time. Now the world’s largest exporter of mink has been struck down, and other producers -- especially in North America -- stand to gain.
In November, the Danish government ordered the culling of the country’s entire mink herd – believed to be about 14 million animals according to insiders, not 17 million as widely reported – after a mutation of the coronavirus was found that, some feared, might reduce the efficacy of a human vaccine. The government has admitted it had no legal authority to order the cull, and the threat posed by the mutation has been questioned (not least because it hasn’t been seen since September). But the cull went ahead anyway, and the Danish government has forbidden further breeding in that country until 2022.
It’s still unclear whether Denmark’s mink industry is really finished, but Kopenhagen Fur, the world’s largest auction house whose main supplier is the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association, seems to think so. “It is a de facto permanent closure and liquidation of the fur industry,” said chairman Tage Pedersen, who predicted 6,000 lost jobs -- including more than 1,100 farm families. The auction house has said it will clear reserve stocks while implementing "a controlled shutdown over a period of 2-3 years."
So what’s the silver lining here? Well, if the Danish industry is truly over, as Pedersen suggests, the next few years should see a significant drop in supply and, consequently, rising prices. In particular, North America's mink farmers should benefit since their fur pelts are widely considered to be the world’s finest, though its chief rival, Denmark, produced far more. Other fur types, like fox, may see a rebound too as garment makers look for alternatives.
In fact, Saga Furs, in Finland, may have shown a glimpse of the future on Dec. 15 when it concluded its first international auction – online, of course -- since the Danish cull. Summarizing the results for Truth About Fur, a representative said that almost all (90%) of the one million mink on offer were sold “at overall prices up by 50% since last auction, with North American mink sold at a premium. China, with support from Italy and Turkey, were the main buyers, with multiple bids per lot. Blue foxes were also up, by 17%, and shadow foxes up 10%.”
The mink-farming sector now has an unexpected opportunity to reset its output. Until 2013, when prices were peaking, many observers feared rapidly escalating over-production. Both prices and production have fallen since then, but with Denmark out of the picture, we could see a leaner, meaner, and more profitable industry with world production more closely aligned with actual demand. Of course, farmers in other countries might just ramp up production to fill the shortfall. But with prices still barely covering production costs (if that), and the current uncertainty in retail markets, it is unlikely that mink production will return to recently-seen levels any time soon.
Personally, I find it hard to believe Denmark’s mink industry will roll over and die so easily. But its production will, at the very least, take a major hit in the short- to mid-term. And therein, sad as it may be, lies a silver lining for most everyone else.
Silver Lining 3: The Rush to Replace NAFA Is On
Last but not least in our doggedly joyous roundup of 2020, there’s the North American auction scene. After the biggest player bowed out, a period of great uncertainty ensued as others jockeyed to take up the slack. They haven’t quite sorted themselves out yet, but the good news is that a number of strong options have already emerged.
Until late last year, North American Fur Auctions was, by far, the continent’s largest fur auction house. Based in Toronto with facilities in Wisconsin and elsewhere, NAFA was North America's leading marketer of both farmed and wild fur. This dominance was assured in 2018 with the collapse of its Seattle-based competitor, American Legend Cooperative.
And then it all came unglued. On Oct. 31, 2019, NAFA was granted creditor protection, leaving many fur farmers wondering how to sell their furs – or, for that matter, what would happen to furs already consigned to -- or sold by -- the auction house.
The auction scene is still in flux, with news that New York-based American Mink Exchange will be selling in collaboration with Fur Harvesters Auction in North Bay, while Saga Furs is also poised to play a stronger role in North America. Meanwhile, Fur Harvesters Auction -- a cooperative venture of First Nations and other trappers -- is gearing up to greatly expand its wild fur offerings, while Illinois-based Groenewold Fur & Wool Co. has stepped up its presence in Canada. Other projects are also rumoured to be in the works.
In the meantime, the silver lining of NAFA’s demise is that there seems to be no shortage of parties ready to take its place. Imagine if no one had wanted the job! But if there are two words that describe the people of the fur trade, they are "tenacity" and "adaptability". Let's see how they play out in 2021!
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
Quick to turn the misfortune of others to their own benefit, animal activists have jumped on reports about Covid-19 on… Read More
Quick to turn the misfortune of others to their own benefit, animal activists have jumped on reports about Covid-19 on mink farms in Europe (and some US states) to call for a complete ban on fur farming in North America. In media interviews and opinion pieces they are sounding the alarm that the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutated in Danish mink and, in some cases, was passed back to humans; this new mink-related strain could threaten the efficacy of future vaccines, they argue. Their fear-mongering received a boost when the Danish Government ordered the culling of millions of mink, citing the same concerns.
In fact, most public health authorities do not agree. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control issued a statement on November 12 in which it concluded that the overall level of risk to human health posed by SARS-CoV-2 mink-related variants is low for the general public, no different than other (non-mink) strains. (1)
World Health Organisation chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that “mutations [in viruses] are normal ... I don’t think we should come to any conclusions about whether this particular mutation is going to impact vaccine efficacy.” WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris added that some members of the international community and the media have misunderstood the threat level. (2)
Similarly, respected US virus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said: “It does not appear, at this point, that that mutation that’s been identified in the minks is going to have an impact on vaccines and affect a vaccine-induced response.” (3)
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) stated that “although several animal species have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, these infections are not a driver of the COVID-19 pandemic; the pandemic is driven by human to human transmission.” (4)
The OIE does not propose mass culling of mink herds, let alone an end to mink farming. Rather, it advises a range of preventative measures including human testing; infection prevention and control for workers; animal testing and prevention of spread from animals; and the development of preparedness and response strategies. These are precisely the precautions that US and Canadian mink farmers have implemented to protect their animals, their own families, and the public.
North American mink farms, like most animal agriculture, maintain biosecurity protocols to prevent the spread of infection from wildlife or other farms. These measures were immediately tightened when it was learned that mink in Europe had contracted Covid-19 from humans. Only essential personnel are permitted onto farms, and workers who feel ill must be tested for Covid-19 before coming into contact with the animals. Masks, visors, and gloves are used when handling mink. If Covid-19 is found on a mink farm, this must be reported to the state or provincial chief veterinary officer and public health authorities, who decide whether further measures are required.
“The European situation gave us lead time to put stricter biosecurity into place,” said Matt Moses, a Nova Scotia mink farmer and president of the Canada Mink Breeders Association. No cases of Covid-19 have been found on Canadian mink farms, and while some cases were recently found on US farms, they appear to have been rapidly and effectively contained.
Mink farming is also very different in North America than in Europe. While some 3 million mink are being produced annually on about 200 farms spread out across Canada and the US, in Denmark, more than 1,200 farms were producing over 17 million mink in an area smaller than Vancouver Island -- or less than one-fifth the size of Wisconsin. The risk of inter-farm contagion is clearly far lower in North America.
None of this has dampened the enthusiasm of animal activists
who sense an opportunity to deliver a body blow to the fur industry. There is
no justification for taking even the smallest risk, because fur farming is
“cruel” and “unnecessary”, they argue.
Cruel? In fact, animal welfare is a priority on North American mink farms. Producers work hard to provide their animals with excellent nutrition and care, as this is the only way to produce top-quality fur.
By contrast, the fake furs and other synthetics proposed by animal activists are generally made with petroleum, a non-renewable and non-biodegradable resource. These synthetics represent about 80 percent of our clothing, and leach millions of micro-particles of plastic into our waterways each time they are washed; plastics now being found in marine life. Cruelty-free indeed!
Mink are raised on small, family-run farms, supporting employment in rural communities. Mink help to reduce waste: they are fed left-overs from our own food production, the parts of cattle, poultry, and fish we don’t eat -- by-products that might otherwise end up in landfills. Mink manure, straw bedding, and carcasses are composted to produce organic fertilizers, replenishing the soil and completing the agricultural nutrient cycle.
As for the new risks posed by Covid-19, mink farmers take their biosecurity responsibilities very seriously, to protect their livelihoods, their animals, and their families. Of course, no one is obliged to wear fur -- or leather, or wool; or to eat meat or dairy -- but that does not give activist groups the right to unfairly attack the livelihoods and reputations of North American farming families.
The Israeli Government recently announced that permits for the importation, fabrication or sale of fur will no longer be issued,… Read More
The Israeli Government recently announced that permits for the importation, fabrication or sale of fur will no longer be issued, except for religious, scientific, or educational purposes. In short, the fur business will be effectively banned by regulation, by-passing the normal legislative process that was tried -- and failed -- a decade ago. This short-circuiting of due process is justified because banning fur is a moral issue, claims Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel. "Utilizing the skin and fur of wildlife for the fashion industry is immoral,” she insists. But she's so wrong.
What does it mean to say that using fur – or any other animal product -- is “immoral”? Some of the best research into public attitudes about using animals was done by the Canadian Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing. Based on opinion polling in six Western democracies (the UK, France, Germany, Norway, Canada, and the US), the Commission determined that four criteria must be met for animal use to be considered morally acceptable. Let’s see how the modern fur trade measures up to these four criteria:
For animal use to be considered morally acceptable, it must not threaten the survival of the species. So it’s important to know that all the fur used today comes from abundant populations, and never from endangered species.
Eighty percent of fur is produced on farms, so there's no threat to wildlife there.
The remaining 20% -- the wild fur trade -- is strictly regulated in North America by states and provinces, and internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES. These laws and regulations ensure we are using only part of the surplus that nature produces each year, because beavers, muskrats, martens, raccoons, and other furbearers produce more young than their habitat can support to adulthood.
The second criterion for moral acceptability is that the animals we use should suffer as little stress or pain as possible. The modern fur trade takes this responsibility very seriously.
In Canada, mink and fox farmers follow codes of practice developed under the auspices of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), with veterinarians, animal scientists, and animal-welfare authorities. Other countries have similar production codes, and farmers have every reason to follow them, because the only way to produce high-quality fur is to provide optimal nutrition, housing, and care.
A third moral criterion revealed by the Royal Commission is that animals should not be killed for “frivolous purposes”. This argument is at the core of much anti-fur campaigning, and is echoed by Gamliel in her assertion that it is immoral to kill animals “for fashion”.
Gamliel conveniently ignores the fact that animal-rights activists now openly oppose any use of animals, even for food. But to address the point at hand, humans have to wear something, and there is nothing frivolous about our need for long-lasting, eco-responsible clothing.
The fake furs and other synthetics promoted by animal activists are usually made from petroleum, a polluting, greenhouse gas-producing, non-renewable and non-biodegradable material. We now also know that these synthetics (which represent 80% of our clothing) leach nano-particles of plastic into our waterways each time they are washed, plastics that are now being found in the digestive tracts of marine life and even our drinking water. Cruelty-free indeed!
Fur, by contrast, is a long-lasting, renewable, recyclable, and ultimately biodegradable natural clothing material. So wearing fur is not so frivolous after all, especially at a time when we are trying to develop more sustainable lifestyles.
4. Complete Use
The fourth criterion for moral acceptability is that when an animal is killed to benefit humans, there should be no waste. This is why most people - animal-rightists excepted - consider it morally acceptable to use leather, because it’s the envelope that dinner came in. We ate the meat, so why not wear the skin?
All too often, however, people fail to understand that fur also respects this "no waste" principle.
In fact, farmed mink and fox help to reduce waste in our food production system, by consuming the parts of cows, chickens, pigs, and fish that humans don't eat. Furthermore, the manure, soiled straw bedding, and carcasses of farmed mink and fox are composted to produce organic fertilizer, returning nutrients to the soil and completing the agricultural cycle.
If Minister Gamliel were to honestly apply the criteria above, she would have to acknowledge that the modern, well-regulated fur trade is as morally responsible as other commonly accepted uses of animals in our society, for food, clothing and other purposes.
And there are other serious problems with her "immorality" argument.
In North America (and other regions) where wild furbearers actually abound, populations have to be managed whether we use the fur or not. Overpopulated beavers flood farmland, roads, and homes; raccoons and foxes become more susceptible to rabies and other dangerous diseases; coyotes prey on livestock and are now taking pets in urban areas; and the list goes on. But if some of these animals must be culled to protect property and health, is it "immoral" to use their furs? Quite the opposite, in fact. The immoral deed would be to throw those furs away.
Meanwhile, Gamliel faces some moral dilemmas on her own doorstep, because her proposed ban would exempt furs used for “religious purposes”. Obviously her intent here is to neutralize opposition from ultra-orthodox coalition partners, whose haredi men wear large fur hats, or shtreimels, on the Sabbath and other Holy Days. But these hats don't reflect any true religious practice; actually, they are rooted in 17th-century Eastern European fashion. Gamliel's exemption is driven solely by political expediency. So much for moral imperatives!
Then there's the inconvenient fact that the sacred Torah – the very heart of Judaism – is written on parchment, which is an animal pelt with the hair scraped off. Similarly, the prayers scrolled inside the mezuzot that grace every door of a Jewish house are also written on animal hides.
But what of the Jewish doctrine of bal tashchit – “do not destroy”, which is often cited by animal activists in Israel? In fact, bal tashchit is derived from a commandment in the Torah to not destroy fruit trees outside the walls of a city under siege. It is a recognition that people will need food, no matter who wins, and is one of the world’s first written environmental protection laws. It promotes responsible use and sustainability. But it certainly does not command us to abstain from using animals to meet human needs.
The Politics of Morality
In light of all the above, it is clear that Gamliel's proposal to ban fur has nothing to do with morality. Rather, it is just politically expedient virtue-signalling to curry favour with Israel's strong animal-rights lobby, while the financial cost is born by farmers and trappers half a world away.
Apart from streimmels, there is little fur trading in Israel, which is why international animal-rights groups have identified it as an easy target, a thin edge of the wedge. But if one country should understand the dangers of embracing calls for scapegoating and ostracizing the fur trade, it is Israel, which itself is targeted by the militant Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) on university campuses around the world – often the same people who campaign against the fur trade!
No one is obliged to wear fur – or leather or wool, or to eat meat or dairy. Everyone is entitled to draw their own line concerning the appropriate use of animals, so long as sustainability and animal welfare concerns are respected. What cannot be justified in a modern democracy are political bans aimed at imposing one group's views on everyone else.
When a ban on fur trading was last proposed in Israel, ten years ago, I testified before a Knesset committee hearing on behalf of the International Fur Federation. I reminded the committee members that animal-rights activists also campaign against kosher slaughter in many European countries, in concert with anti-semitic hate groups. I also reminded them that Jews -- including my own family -- have played a prominent role in the international fur trade, and that anti-fur campaigns have sometimes included anti-semitic innuendos.
The turning point in the committee meeting, however, came when the chairman read from a letter received that morning from then Canadian Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan. Van Loan reminded the committee that Canada has always been a loyal friend and ally of Israel, and that the regulated fur trade supports the livelihoods and cultures of thousands of First Nations and other Canadians, especially in rural and remote regions. The governments of Denmark, Greece, the US, and the EU also expressed concern at a proposal that would scapegoat a responsibly regulated and sustainable industry. Suddenly, there was a political cost to banning fur. The proposal was quietly dropped.
This time around, Gamliel hopes to side-step the legislative process and ban fur trading with a simple regulatory change, a much quicker procedure. It is important that people who support the fur trade and consumer freedom again call on their own governments to intervene, to put some balance into this discussion. (See, below)
Let me conclude with a last word about shtreimels. While there’s no theological basis to the tradition of donning these splendid sable-trimmed hats, haredi men often say that the beauty and craftsmanship of a shtreimel show respect both for the Sabbath and for the animals that were used to make it. Fur apparel is, in fact, a marriage of the beauty of nature with human creativity. Wearing fur should remind all of us of our dependence on nature, and of our responsibility to protect it. If we wear fur with this consciousness, it becomes a moral act. The Israeli Minister’s cynical proposal to ban fur most certainly is not.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
It is unclear how quickly the regulatory change proposed to ban most fur trading in Israel can be implemented, but it is likely that only international diplomatic pressure can stop it. Ask your government to express concern about this arbitrary and anti-ecological ban. The following links may help.
I hate to say “I told you so!” but only a fool could not have seen this coming. A few… Read More
I hate to say "I told you so!" but only a fool could not have seen this coming. A few short years ago, while clearly being manipulated by animal rights groups, a wave of designer brands very publicly announced they would be dropping fur. Inevitably, they are now being pressured to drop exotic skins too, and many are capitulating. After all, how can fur be bad, but exotic skins ok? The question now is: how much of their core business are the big luxury conglomerates ready to sacrifice on the altar of political correctness?
Indeed, all the arguments for and against fur and exotic skins are essentially the same. On the one hand, both are beautiful natural materials, and if produced responsibly, they're renewable and sustainable, leaving a negligible environmental footprint. On the other hand, both involve the taking of life, which animal rights groups oppose on principle and work hard to present as cruel. For a contemporary twist, those same groups now also claim that trading in furs and exotic skins increases the risk of pandemics like Covid-19.
Yet this time around, advocates of sustainable use are hoping for some stiffer resistance, and specifically from two of the world's largest luxury goods conglomerates, LVMH and Kering. Not only do their corporate policies strongly endorse sustainability, but they are also invested in their supply chains for exotic skins. It seems unlikely they will abandon these investments without a fight.
As a subplot to the bigger story, the fur trade should watch Kering subsidiary Gucci closely. This iconic brand rocked the fashion world in 2017 when it dropped fur in the name of "sustainability". If it now dumps exotic skins, that would at least be consistent. But if it toes the Kering line and sticks with exotic skins, how will it explain the double standard?
So What Are "Exotic Skins"?
But first, let's clarify what an "exotic skin" is. It's a loose category used by the Western fashion industry mostly for the skins of reptiles - snakes, crocodilians, and lizards. Some fish are in there too, like stingrays and sharks. And then there are ostriches. (The jury seems to be out on whether kangaroo leather is exotic or not.)
Some animals are taken in the wild - obviously stingrays and sharks - but most are now farmed, with ostrich and croc farming having long histories. As for where the skins end up, most are used for shoes, bags and belts, plus a few jackets and hats.
To put the current exodus from exotic skins in context, we need to turn the clock back just four years or so. For two decades, animal rights groups - led by PETA and HSUS - had been pressuring designers to drop fur. And then suddenly, the dominoes started to fall. Armani, Hugo Boss, Versace, Gucci, John Galliano, Burberry, Prada - the list just kept on growing.
A very few, like Donatella Versace, seemed genuinely happy to drop fur, but all were either nudged gently or prodded hard by PETA and HSUS. And when they succumbed, they usually felt compelled to make public statements against fur that inevitably made it harder for other fur-using brands to stand their ground.
And to make it harder still, animal rights groups made sure these brands got lots of press coverage and showered them with "green" points. Yes, "green", because this mass defection from fur was not couched in animal rights terms, and only partially as animal welfare. Above all, we were told, it was about "sustainability". In short, by ditching fur, these brands were saving the planet!
None of the new converts appeared more opportunistic -- or misinformed -- than Gucci, previously such a prolific user of fur. And to make matters worse, Gucci is seen as a leader in the luxury sector, so its influence on other brands and the negative press it generated for fur were tremendous.
In 2017, Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri raised the eyebrows of anyone who understood sustainability when he announced the company's new policy. Dropping fur, he explained, was a demonstration of “our absolute commitment to making sustainability an intrinsic part of our business.” So, bizarrely, it was goodbye to renewable, biodegradable, natural fur, and hello to non-biodegradable fake fur made from non-renewable petroleum.
As if that were not bizarre enough, conspicuous by its absence was any suggestion by Bizzarri that Gucci might drop exotic skins. His animal rights handlers were also silent on the subject, but was he really naive enough to think that would last?
In fact, for several years Gucci's parent company, Kering, has been in a partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in a conservation and sustainable use project farming pythons. Cooperative ventures of this type are now commonplace for species in the exotic skin trade, securing supply chains while relieving pressure on wild populations, not least by reducing poaching. In short, Kering's python farm is the epitome of sustainability.
So sooner or later Gucci will have to address a quandary of its own making. An estimated 85% of fur today comes from farms (and wild-fur harvesting is strictly regulated), but Bizzarri says the trade is unsustainable. Meanwhile, Kering supplies his company with farmed python skins. Will Gucci now defy Kering and drop exotic skins too? Or will it make the totally unsupportable claim that snake farming is sustainable but fur farming is not?
First to Fold: Chanel
First to fall among exotic skin users was independent fashion house Chanel, in 2018, and it came out of the blue. Designer Karl Lagerfeld told Women's Wear Daily it was "a free choice" rather than “being imposed on us. We did it because it’s in the air," implying that animal rights groups were not directly involved. It was generally assumed that Chanel's weak supply chain for exotic skins meant it could no longer meet its needs, so it just threw in the towel.
Whatever Chanel's motivation, it went public with the decision and PETA made a big song and dance over it, so they both got their free publicity.
And then, as in the fur exodus, others followed suit, all garnering the same free publicity and lavish praise from animal rights groups.
Yet perversely, this latest triumph of animal rights over sustainable use may be a blessing in disguise - the wakeup call the luxury industry needs to say enough is enough. Both LVMH and Kering are committed to exotic skins and fur, and while they don't dictate what materials their subsidiaries use, they have huge influence. They also have a public voice, so if they're ever going to make a strong stand in support of sustainable use, now is the time.
LVMH oversees such household names in fashion as Celine, Christian Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, Louis Vitton, Marc Jacobs, among many others. Kering's stable is smaller but nonetheless impressive. In addition to Gucci, it represents names like Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen.
So it was gratifying that at its virtual annual shareholders' meeting last June, LVMH issued a strong endorsement of both exotic skins and fur.
As a shareholder, PETA emailed a question asking whether LVMH would be giving up fur and exotic skins "as of today". Group managing director Antonio Belloni responded (at 46:28): "This is a recurring question on their part. Now, our position is that natural raw materials constitute a precious material and are at the heart of the outstanding products of our houses. Each house can decide on these materials, but must strictly comply with our code of practice pertaining to responsible sourcing of animal raw materials that sets out long-term commitments in three areas: traceability of supplies, animal welfare, and lastly the respect for local populations, the environment, and biodiversity."
The problem is, this endorsement didn't grab any headlines, but that just underscores the lack of media clout sustainable users have compared with animal rights groups. If LVMH had come out against exotic skins and fur, PETA and HSUS would have had the story on every front page from New York to Shanghai. Bottom line: there is a story here, and we just need to be more effective at telling it.
As animal rights groups continue to pressure luxury conglomerates to drop exotic skins and fur, the fur trade should be looking to revitalise the strategic alliance it has long had with these corporations, and demand they stand up and be counted. And if clueless Gucci continues to embrace exotic skins while rejecting fur, we should demand to know why.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
Animal rights NGOs are currently exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to close down animal farms and prohibit all trade in wildlife…. Read More
Animal rights NGOs are currently exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic to close down animal farms and prohibit all trade in wildlife. I am on the frontline of that battle. From 1982 to 1990, I headed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Today I speak as a founder and coordinator of the Sustainable Use Alliance, which seeks to represent the interests of countries, wildlife farmers, fisherfolk, traders, hunters, trappers and others who support the wise use of flora and fauna. So, here comes our beef.
I’ve been associated with CITES for around 45 years. In that time, I have witnessed a paradigm shift. Unlike when I was in charge, in the 21st century a CITES Conference of the Parties, or CoP, resembles a religious festival. The activists that attend in great numbers are immune to rational argument because they are on a mission to save nature from humanity. During debates, especially when they win the vote, activists stamp their feet, wave banners, clap and cheer, while sometimes dressed in animal costumes - synthetic, of course. They arrive at CITES CoPs with fixed agendas, secure in the knowledge that they have predetermined most of the outcomes.
How this transformation occurred takes some explaining, so let’s start at the beginning.
In the early 1970s, as a representative of the Canadian government, I played a small part in the creation of CITES, and I was proud to have been given that opportunity. Then almost ten years later, I was prouder still to be made its secretary-general. Back then I thought, as I still do, that CITES was a much-needed intergovernmental institution, which implemented improvements to the regulatory status of flora and fauna that were being endangered by international trade.
But over the decades, external meddlers took control of CITES' affairs and mission creep set in.
Species that CITES was never meant or equipped to list have been listed regardless of the consequences.
Today, numerous species that are not endangered by trade, and some of which are barely traded, have been added to the three CITES Appendices - lists of species afforded different levels or types of protection from over-exploitation.
Species such as most marine fish, that CITES was never meant or equipped to list, have been listed regardless of the consequences. Often CITES lacks the ability to implement listings effectively, or the listings undermine other more appropriate regulatory regimes. For land-based species, the consequences include depriving nations of the financial means and/or incentives to conserve species, such as elephants, rhino, giraffes and big cats.
This corrosion of CITES’s core purpose and integrity was instigated and led by NGOs.
There’s no doubt that CITES has been the victim of pork-barrel politics, much as was seen at FIFA, the international governing body of football. This includes vote buying, orchestrated by third parties which have taken advantage of the plight of the often chaotic decision-making processes in some developing countries. But there were two more important developments that handed the NGOs their "license" to deracinate CITES.
First, in the late 20th century, Western powers began to feel the urge to virtue signal. Actually, this represented little more than a modern makeover of their discredited 19th-century colonial outlook. Its main purpose was to demonstrate the "moral superiority" of the old powers over "lesser" countries, located mostly in Africa and Asia. This trend later became entwined with a second key ingredient that helped empower NGOs, which was the re-emergence of protectionism. Protectionism in its original pre-1945 incarnation, of course, had long been discredited, so the modern version came wrapped in the deceitful language of conservation or public health protection.
It was the popularization of these two trendy but disingenuous mantras that opened the space for mega-rich NGOs, such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Pew Charitable Trusts, to capture CITES. This was something they were itching do anyway because they oppose international trade in wildlife as a matter of principle, and not for scientific reasons. They are driven by emotions - the same emotions that have them ranting and raving about the "immorality" of alligator handbags and shoes, or garments made from fur.
So today, we are faced with the uncomfortable reality that the founding principles of CITES have been perverted. An example of this was the listing of the mako shark in Appendix II at CoP-18, in August 2019. More than 20 million makos are neither endangered nor threatened by international trade - of which there is very little. Actually, with some worrying exceptions, most mako populations are stable or growing. But CoP-18 saw fit to ignore the compelling scientific evidence that was put before it. And this was not an isolated incident.
On 11 separate occasions, COP-18 adopted proposals for listing species in CITES Appendices against the recommendations of the CITES Secretariat. Now, of course, I’m not suggesting that the CITES Secretariat is infallible. But I have to say that at CoP-18, its recommendations mostly reflected those of the established experts.
The reality is that well-resourced NGOs, staffed by sharp-suited zealots, work behind the scenes to manipulate the agenda-setting process. They spend millions of dollars on propaganda and other initiatives designed to list as many species as possible in CITES Appendices. These NGOs, such WWF, Pew, IFAW and the Humane Society of the US, consistently secure votes in support of their preferred outcomes ahead of debates. They do this vote-acquisition work even before the relevant scientists and authorities have had a chance to make objective assessments of the efficacy of particular proposals for a listing in the CITES Appendices.
Stop Meddling in Domestic Affairs
So, after CoP-18, many Parties and trade representatives from around the world were filled with a fury that I’ve never seen before. They can no longer tolerate or ignore how a body that once concerned itself with international trade has seemingly been completely lost to reason and common sense. They want CITES to stop meddling in their domestic affairs, for instance, by banning ivory markets and/or all trade in rhino and elephant byproducts. So, responding to that welcome mood, I played a leading role in helping to create the Sustainable Use Alliance.
Formed in Geneva in February 2020, the Sustainable Use Alliance brings together a diverse group of representatives of countries (10 so far) and trade bodies from around the world. The SUA is not a tight-knit organisation, but a loose grouping that is open to debate and disagreement. What unites the SUA’s ranks is a shared commitment to the founding principles of CITES, with the goal of restoring its integrity.
It will take a major, well-planned endeavour to ensure that the animal rights NGOs do not win this war of opinions and consequences.
And thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for our initiative is now more important than ever. It doesn’t take a genius to predict that in the next few years, the fear of zoonoses - diseases or infections that are transmissible to humans from other vertebrates - will feature prominently in the debates within the fora of CITES and elsewhere in society, as a fierce spotlight is shone on all trade in wildlife.
It will take a major, well-planned endeavour to ensure that the animal rights NGOs do not win this war of opinions and consequences. Because, make no mistake, the utopian view of the world pushed by animal rightists threatens more than international trade in wildlife, and the vital incentives this brings for science-based conservation. It also endangers every aspect of humanity’s relationship with nature, and the many benefits that the wise use of wildlife delivers - including my leather shoes and fur hat.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
Your idea of what makes a current event important may differ from mine, but occasionally a story comes along that… Read More
Your idea of what makes a current event important may differ from mine, but occasionally a story comes along that grabs everyone's attention. Enter coronavirus COVID-19. At the time of writing, some 6,000 people have already died, and that number is sure to rise - a lot. And if fears of a global recession to follow prove founded, billions of us will be negatively impacted. Millions already have been.
In short, it's the kind of event that makes people rethink their priorities. The price of potatoes suddenly seems inconsequential, and we may even put our favourite advocacies on hold. Who has the time to complain about white people wearing dreadlocks or mansplaining when lives are on the line?
And that's why I predict a small silver lining for the fur trade amidst the current catastrophe. In the coming year, there will be no major campaigns launched by animal rights groups in North America - or if there are, they will be roundly ignored. I also believe this lull will provide an opportunity for us to regroup and rethink our strategy after taking some tough knocks in 2019.
Last year was hardly quiet on the news front, but unless you lived in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Myanmar, or quite a few other places to be honest, the news was unlikely to kill you. Climate change advanced apace, but even the most pessimistic of forecasters think we can still turn it around. The refugee crisis in Europe worsened further, but it barely affects North Americans. The Hong Kong riots grabbed headlines for a few months, but the Western media lost interest when China failed to invade. And everyone was sick to death of Brexit years before it even happened.
So it was against this backdrop of a "normal" news year that campaigns to ban fur retail sales in California and New York City were able to gain traction. Politicians could posture before potential voters, the media lapped up a polarising issue as they always do, and advocates could focus fully on either saving or destroying an industry.
But now the whole news landscape has changed, and, in just the last few weeks, been turned on its head.
For me, the change began with the Australian bushfires. It took a few months for them to register on the international radar, but when they did, we were appalled to see the extent of the devastation and loss of life. It was also a huge shot in the arm for the climate change campaign.
Then for a few days in January, while the bushfires were still at their peak, we seemed to be staring down the barrel of World War III. The US assassinated Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, Iran vowed to retaliate, Trump vowed to retaliate back harder, Iran fired missiles, and bizarrely the situation was only defused when Iran "accidentally" shot down a civilian airliner with no Americans on board but loads of Canadians. All very scary.
So the transition from 2019 to 2020 was a rollercoaster ride. And just when you thought it couldn't get any hairier, along came a pandemic.
I don't need to tell you the details of COVID-19 because, unless you live under a rock, you know them already. Suffice to say, this story will hog the headlines for the next several months at least, with new life being breathed into it every time a famous person falls ill or a major public event is cancelled. And even after a vaccine is found, the global recession that some experts are predicting will keep copywriters busy for years.
So what does all this have to do with the great fur debate?
Well, I predict that life will change in myriad ways, one of which will be a resetting of priorities, not just at the government level but also at the personal level. Even more emphasis than before will be placed on cooperation on issues that really matter to the global community, while less time and effort will be spent on issues that are, in the grand scheme of things, unimportant.
It goes without saying that the world will emerge from this better prepared to face the next pandemic. Climate change will continue to garner great interest, in tandem with sustainable living. And it's way past time for governments to be held accountable for perpetuating war in Syria, Yemen, and anywhere else faced with this ultimate scourge.
In contrast, I believe, people wanting to "make a difference" will be less inclined to expend energy on petty and divisive issues to which there are no solutions anyway because there's no "right" or "wrong". When human lives and the future of the planet are at stake, there are surely better ways to spend your time than campaigning against smoking in public parks.
OK, so there's some wishful thinking on my part that this change will last, but I do believe that at least for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, animal rights groups will have a hard time getting anyone's attention, and might as well take a vacation. Remember, you heard it here first. For as long as the pandemic lasts, there will be no new initiatives launched to ban fur retail.
It's a simple matter of priorities. In quiet times, on the domestic front anyway, politicians obsess with pandering to any demographic group they think might help get them re-elected. But in a time of coronavirus, their focus must be on keeping their constituents alive. In quiet times, news desk editors lap up a PETA stunt, particularly if half-naked women are involved. But with coronavirus running amok, they're smart enough to know that their audience has no time for anything else. And as for the public, they're far too busy stockpiling toilet paper (I still can't see how that helps) to worry about whether Canada Goose is opening a new store for its coyote-trimmed parkas.
This new reality will provide an opportunity - or at least a time-out - for all animal users to regroup and strengthen our message in preparation for the time when animal rights groups think it's business as usual again.
We already have a formidable arsenal of arguments in our favour, dealing with issues that are important to a growing number of people. We can effectively argue sustainability, ethics, cultural heritage, jobs, wildlife management, and more. I believe that post-coronavirus, the world will be more discerning about which messages it listens to, and we just have to be more effective at getting ours across.
Don't get me wrong about absolute priorities. There's a potentially lethal pandemic under way, and nothing is more important than staying safe. And that goes for everyone - even animal rights extremists! But when the smoke clears, there may be a rare opportunity here for the fur trade to change the narrative.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
The following essay appeared recently in the Toronto Star (Canada’s largest circulation newspaper), as the pro-fur side of a debate… Read More
The following essay appeared recently in the Toronto Star (Canada’s largest circulation newspaper), as the pro-fur side of a debate on whether banning the sale of fur apparel and accessoriesis justifiable.
If we look at facts, those of us who care about the environment, ethical lifestyles, and social justice should promote natural fur, not seek to ban it. Let's review some of the reasons why wearing fur makes sense for anyone wishing to embrace a sustainable and responsible way of living.
Fur today is produced responsibly and sustainably. Only abundant furs are used, never endangered species. This is assured by provincial/state, federal and international regulations.
In the wild, most species produce more offspring than their habitat can support to maturity. Animals that don’t make it feed others, and we too can use part of this natural surplus. This is an excellent example of “the sustainable use of renewable natural resources”, a cornerstone of the World Conservation Strategy.
There is little waste. Many fur animals – especially beavers and muskrats -- provide food for trappers and their families. Others are returned to the woods to feed birds, mice, and other animals. And because fur is “prime” in late Fall/Winter when the young of the year are already autonomous, activist claims that coyotes or other animals leave behind “starving pups” are nonsense.
Many furbearers would be culled even if we didn’t use fur. Overpopulated beavers flood property. Coyotes are top predators of lambs, calves and, increasingly, pets. Raccoons and foxes spread rabies and other diseases ... the list goes on. But if we must cull some of these animals to maintain a balance, surely it is more ethical to use the fur than to throw it away?
Trappers take animal-welfare responsibilities very seriously: Canada is the world leader in humane trapping research, and traps are certified to conform with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. Trapping is also strictly regulated in the US, under state “Best Practices” provisions.
Fur farmers – producing more than half the fur in North America -- follow codes of practice to ensure their animals receive excellent nutrition and care. Farms are certified to confirm that codes are followed, and farmers may be charged for animal cruelty if they are not. In any case, providing proper care is the only way to produce high-quality fur.
Farmed mink recycle left-overs from our own food production
– parts of cows, chickens and fish that we don’t eat and might otherwise clog
landfills. Manure, straw bedding, and other farm wastes are composted to
produce high-quality organic fertilizer, completing the agricultural nutrient
In contrast to mass-produced “fast fashion”, each fur garment or accessory is crafted individually by artisans, maintaining skills passed from father to son or daughter. Furs are preserved (“dressed”) using alum salts, lanolin, and other benign chemicals; the activist claim that “a World Bank report cited fur dressing as polluting” is simply not true. Furthermore, furs come in a wide range of natural colours, minimizing the need for dyes.
Fur is long-lasting, recyclable, and after decades of service can be thrown into the garden compost. Compare that with fake fur and other synthetics: generally made from petrochemicals, they are not biodegradable and leach micro-particles of plastic into our waterways when washed -- plastics that are now being found in marine life. Cruelty-free indeed!
Fur, however, is the activists’ designated scapegoat. Perhaps because fur is often associated with glamour and wealth? But most fur producers are not wealthy or glamorous. The ugly lies parroted by anti-fur activists are all the more odious because they attack the integrity and livelihoods of hard-working farm families; of First Nations and other trappers who are among the last people maintaining our North American land-based heritage; and of artisans producing warm and durable clothing with responsibly produced natural materials.
There is little public discussion of how insulting and
hurtful activist lies are for the people involved. Living far from media
centres, their voices are rarely heard. TruthAboutFur.com was created to help
bridge that gap.
No one is obliged to wear fur, but each of us should have
the right to make this decision for ourselves. Especially because animal
activists now oppose any use of animals. The same misleading and insulting
arguments and tactics used against fur are now being mustered against wearing
leather, silk and wool; against eating meat or dairy products. Shall all these
products be banned as well?
Each of us can decide where we draw the line, these are
personal choices. But if you believe it’s ethical to use animal products that
are produced responsibly and sustainably, you can wear fur with pride.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
City’s Fur Ban an “Unconstitutional Attack on Consumer Rights” The International Fur Federation (IFF) has launched litigation to prevent San… Read More
City’s Fur Ban an “Unconstitutional Attack on Consumer Rights”
The International Fur Federation (IFF) has launched litigation to prevent San Francisco from implementing a city ordinance banning the sale of fur. The ordinance, passed in 2018, gave existing department stores until Jan. 1, 2020, to sell off their remaining fur stock and prohibits the sale of newly manufactured fur coats, hats, gloves, fur-trimmed parkas, and other products.
The lawsuit, filed on January 13, argues San Francisco has “no legitimate local interest to ban fur sales” and that the ordinance is an “unconstitutional restriction on interstate and foreign commerce”.
“In an attempt to legislate morality, Supervisor Katy Tang,
sponsor of the ban, stated that businesses ‘need to get with the times.’ Yet
the current times do not allow for ignoring the Constitution’s prohibition on
restraining interstate commerce,” said Mike Brown, the IFF’s CEO for North
“Proponents of San Francisco’s fur ban, including the
radical animal rights group PETA, also want the sale of leather, wool, and
other animal products to be banned,” said Brown.
Contrary to San Francisco city council claims, fur products remain popular with consumers in that city and nationwide. Fur sales in San Francisco alone are estimated to be $40 million annually. Globally, the fur industry is a $23 billion business. A 2019 Gallup poll also confirmed that a majority of Americans believe that it is morally acceptable to wear fur.
While fur producers worldwide are complying with the humane standards under the IFF’s new FurMark program, San Francisco’s fur ban is so extreme that it blocks even humanely certified products. FurMark is a certification program to provide consumers with assurance about animal welfare and sustainability standards in place for the production of fur products in North America and Europe.
The San Francisco fur ban is completely arbitrary and creates a troubling precedent for other responsibly produced animal products. “If this law is allowed to stand, there’s nothing stopping San Francisco from banning wool, leather, meat, or other products that a small group of activists don’t approve of,” said Mark Oaten, CEO of the IFF.
“Californians should have no fewer rights than residents of other states. They should be free to buy legally produced goods unless there is a public safety or health issue - which does not exist here,” said Oaten.
Counter-Productive in Fight Against Pollution
Along with harming local businesses, San Francisco’s fur ban
will have unintended consequences that damage California’s efforts to fight
pollution, because the “fake fur” alternatives to natural fur are made with
petroleum. Research is showing that these synthetics shed microfibers into the
waterways when they are cleaned. Plastic microfibers are now even being found
in marine life. A single garment can shed 100,000 microfibers in the wash.
“Plastic microfibers are a leading cause of ocean pollution, in San Francisco Bay and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The National Science Foundation recently announced that microplastics may be 1 million times more prevalent than previously estimated,” said Oaten.
The IFF lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal challenges to California’s attempt to legislate “morality”. The state of Louisiana and a coalition of members of the alligator/crocodile supply chain have sued California over its ban on alligator and crocodile products, which was slated to take effect Jan. 1. As a result, a temporary stay was imposed on the implementation of this ban.
The fur industry’s legal challenge zeroes in on the constitutionality of state and municipal fur bans in California under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. Additionally, legal experts believe US states cannot arbitrarily ban products from foreign countries from being sold under free-trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. The IFF lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Los Angeles and the California state legislature also passed fur bans in 2019, but they do not take effect for several years.
“California’s fur bans are an arbitrary assault on consumer choice and retail businesses," said Brown. "These laws ban a responsibly and legally produced natural product from the marketplace simply because certain special interests don’t like the product. This is a startling precedent, to impose the morality of specific groups onto all citizens. There is no legitimate issue of public health and safety behind fur bans - simply a belief by some lawmakers that they don’t like fur, and therefore no one should be allowed to buy it."
Last week in Cleveland, animal-rights activist Meredith Lowell, 35, stabbed another woman three times, allegedly for no other reason than… Read More
Last week in Cleveland, animal-rights activist Meredith Lowell, 35, stabbed another woman three times, allegedly for no other reason than that she was wearing fur boots. Mercifully the victim survived, while Lowell has been charged with attempted murder.
It's impossible to say at this point how Lowell justified this act of extreme aggression, but before I get accused of making excuses for her, let's get one thing straight: there can be no excuses. Unless, of course, she's found to be insane. The buck stops with her, and she must now face the consequences of her actions.
That said, we all know that advocates for causes can commit extreme acts that they wouldn't even consider if there weren't others egging them on.
At one time, attacking abortion doctors was a trend in the US, and presumably each new attacker felt more emboldened knowing that others had gone before them. In the 1990s, when fear of secondhand smoke was bordering on hysterical, a Japanese youth shoved an old man under a train for smoking on a station platform, killing him. I'm sure there are many similar stories.
Obviously the kind of people who commit these acts feel very strongly, at least in the heat of the moment, that their aggression is justified. And perhaps they even developed their convictions independently of any outside influence. More often than not, though, they are inspired to act by the propaganda of lobby groups that fuels their nascent beliefs.
Which raises the question: is society doing enough to silence groups that incite others to violence? Yes and no. There is already a slew of legislation to combat hate crimes based on race, religion and sexual orientation. But other inciters of violence are slipping under the radar, including extreme animal rights groups. Nothing is being done to mute their often hateful rhetoric - rhetoric that may have turned Meredith Lowell into a would-be killer.
The Internet is now awash with animal rights propaganda depicting animal users as evil incarnate. "Meat is murder!" they cry. But this picture above, from the 2003 PETA campaign "Your mommy kills animals!" says it all.
Aimed specifically at teenagers, what effect did PETA think this comic-book campaign would have? Could Meredith Lowell, who was then about 19, have seen it? If not, there were, and still are, plenty of other materials she probably saw.
The message, of course, is brutally clear. It tells children that if their mommy wears fur, she is a bloodthirsty psycho who derives pleasure from killing animals in the most gruesome manner possible. It then asks children to confront their mommies with their blood-curdling acts of barbarism.
For lucky parents, of course, this might turn into an important teaching moment - an opportunity to inform their children that groups like PETA are full of it and mommy knows best. Or it could go very badly.
It's certainly not hard to imagine that Meredith Lowell was exposed to this kind of vicious propaganda, and that this provided her feeble mind with justification for stabbing a woman three times for wearing fur.
Yes, it is Meredith Lowell who stands charged with attempted murder, and she alone must now face the music. But perhaps part of the blame also rests with the animal rights movement for making her think she did the right thing.
We are living in troubling times, my friends. Politicians want to tax farmers and ranchers for emissions and slap sin… Read More
We are living in troubling times, my friends. Politicians want to tax farmers and ranchers for emissions and slap sin taxes on meat to encourage plant-based diets. Celebrities are spinning faux science into meatless propaganda in the name of compassion to animals and the planet.
From a beef producer’s perspective, I sometimes wonder what
my future looks like in this business. From a consumer’s perspective, I wonder
if meat will always be available to me, or if the opposing side will ultimately
Just the other day, I received a hateful email from someone
who expressed great joy that my viewpoints about ruminant animals benefitting
the planet were archaic. With glee, she compared me to a dinosaur and said she
was hopeful that people like me would one day cease to exist.
This person was, of course, threatening my life and wishing for me to be wiped off the face of the earth because of her love and compassion for a beef cow. It’s highly ironic the hateful things one person can say to another in the name of saving the life of an animal.
But it doesn’t stop with just hateful words from trolls.
For example, California became the first state to ban fur. In October, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 44 into law, banning the sale of new clothing and accessories made of fur.
According to an article in the New York Times, “For the purpose of the law, fur is defined as ‘animal skin or part thereof with hair, fleece or fur fibers attached thereto.’ For the purposes of shoppers, that means mink, sable, chinchilla, lynx, fox, rabbit, beaver, coyote and other luxury furs.
“Exceptions have been made for cowhide, deerskin, sheepskin
and goatskin. Which means that shearling is totally fine. Exceptions have also
been made for religious observances (shtreimels, the fur hats often worn by
Hasidic Jews, can continue to be sold) and other traditional or cultural
“Keith Kaplan, of the Fur Information Council of America, issued the following statement after the California news broke: ‘This issue is about much more than animal welfare in the fur industry. It is about the end of animal use of any kind. Fur today, leather tomorrow, your wool blankets and silk sheets – and meat after that'."
In New York City, a ban on foie gras is currently being
considered. If passed, more than 1,000 New York City dining establishments that
serve foie gras will be impacted, in addition to the duck and geese farmers
operating in the state of New York.
According to an article published in Eater, “For years, fur and foie gras have been among the most contentious issues in the animal welfare debate. Foie gras is far from the only cuisine subjected to bans – horse meat, shark fins, beluga caviar and unpasteurized milk are some of the foods barred in numerous states due to concerns over ethics, animal endangerment, or public health.
“But foie gras producers say they have been unfairly
targeted. They argue that the foie gras sector is ‘low-hanging fruit’ because
the industry is small, it is linked to the elite, and misinformation has skewed
public perception of duck farms.”
These are just two examples of how activists are hoping to
curtail and eliminate the use of animals in our everyday lives. More than just
taking meat, dairy and eggs off the dinner table, this would mean no more
by-products. Cattle, pigs and sheep provide hundreds of beneficial products
that enrich our lives, ranging from makeup to crayons to soaps and even
This is dangerous territory and a slippery slope, indeed. First they come for the horses, then the egg-laying chickens, then the gestating pigs, then the fur, then the foie gras ... what’s next? Veal? Pets? Leather? Pigs' life-saving heart valves? Meat altogether?
I may not eat foie gras, and I may not wear fur. But I do own animals – both livestock and pets – and these laws aim to erode the very foundation and principles upon which ownership of animals is based. Be leery of politicians who aim to take away your rights in the name of compassion to animals. I know I am!
Differences of opinion, and the debates they spawn in search of amicable solutions, are crucial to the functioning and evolution… Read More
Differences of opinion, and the debates they spawn in search of amicable solutions, are crucial to the functioning and evolution of democratic society. But even the healthiest of democracies can't please all of the people all of the time, so we aspire to keep the majority as happy as possible while defending the rights of minorities to follow different paths. This approach breaks down, however, when a minority refuses to accept the will of the majority. Such is the quandary Western society faces today in dealing with animal rightists.
Though far fewer of us now work directly with animals than in the past, almost all of us still eat and wear animal products, and benefit from medicines and medical procedures tested on animals, to name just three of the most important ways in which animals benefit humans. But animal rightists want all of these banned, while some even oppose non-lethal uses, like pets and seeing-eye dogs. Can a path of peaceful coexistence be found? Or will we be forever locking horns?
Two essential freedoms are at play here, freedom of speech and freedom of choice, with the latter being a manifestation of the former. Freedom of speech enables us to express our views, while freedom of choice enables us to act on them. The problem is that while the animal rights movement embraces its own right to freedom of speech, it rejects the right of others to freedom of choice.
In fact, animal rightists push their freedom of speech to the legal limit and beyond, denouncing animal users as "murderers" and "torturers". In so doing, they regularly make statements that any court would find slanderous or libelous if animal users had the time and money to file suit.
What they refuse to accept is the freedom of choice of others, a vital freedom in any functioning democracy that is easy to understand and should be easy to apply. In short, we are free to do whatever we want, provided it is legal. It doesn't mean we have to like the things some people do, just as they don't have to like the things we do.
Thus, for decades now, animal users have been saying to animal rightists: "If you choose not to eat meat, fine. If you choose not to wear leather or fur, fine. If you choose not to save your life' with medicines tested on animals, fine. But please respect our freedom to choose for ourselves."
But this simple and democratic way to avoid conflict is soundly rejected.
"Meat Is Murder"
So why is the animal rights movement so opposed to freedom of choice? In general terms, it's because the movement's moral code differs from that of most people. That's why it is often likened to a religion, since religions tend to have moral codes that are somewhat unique. It has also been likened to an intolerant religion, whose mission it is to convert non-believers.
More specifically, it's because the animal rights philosophy teaches that the intentional killing of an animal by a human is murder. Murder is a universal taboo (except for the obvious difference that most people think it refers only to humans killing humans), so we can all appreciate to some degree why animal rightists refuse to compromise on this one. Morally speaking, numbers are not the issue, since murdering one human (or animal) is no more defensible than murdering 1,000. And there are no half measures. You can't partially kill an animal, and even if you kill it humanely, it's still dead.
Activists for most other causes can be pragmatic, and are open to improvements wherever they can be found. For example, environmental activists don't demand that we quit driving, just that we drive less or switch to electric cars. They ask us to use less plastic, not stop using it altogether. And they don't ask us to sit in darkness, just to use more energy-efficient light bulbs.
But animal rights activists don't have this luxury. If Americans were to reduce the number of chickens they "murder" each year from 9 billion to just one, that would still be one too many.
Given that animal rightists see no room to negotiate with animal users, and outright reject their freedom of choice, they have opted instead to focus on creating conflict. For example, animal rights groups pioneered an anti-social tactic (now dubbed "naming and shaming") based on a simple formula: find someone doing something you don't like, take photos or video, then publicly shame the person into changing their ways.
This tactic is not intrinsically bad. Sometimes a situation may seem so desperate that naming and shaming can feel like the only course of action left. Witness the huge outpouring of support for Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager (born 2003) now blaming every adult on Earth for a climate crisis that her generation will pay for. You may not agree with her, but if you're worried about leaving the fate of the planet in the hands of politicians and big business, you understand why she's doing it.
But shaming people to bow to your will, or forcing them to do so by legal means, should only be encouraged as a last resort. Why? Because it creates ill will, even hatred, and irreparable divisions.
To cite one of countless examples, California lawmakers have just passed bans on all commercial and recreational trapping and the manufacturing and selling of fur products. It is no secret that they were driven to do so by the animal rights lobby, who shamelessly fed lawmakers every lie and half-truth they could dream up to win their case. But when the dust settles, things will not just return to normal, with everyone getting along in a spirit of civic harmony. Quite the opposite. While the victorious animal rights lobby steamrolls on to its next target, trappers, furriers, freedom-of-choice advocates, and a host of other sympathisers, will forever remember how livelihoods and traditions were destroyed to satisfy the demands of a few. The animal rights movement may have "saved" a few animals, but it has surely gained thousands of new enemies in the process.
Rise of Veganism
So what's to be done? Can animal rightists be persuaded to become "team players", working together with animal users in pursuit of a more harmonious society?
Right now, the answer is probably no. In North America at least, there are more supporters of animal rights now than ever before, though presumably few of the new converts signed up for a life on the road, donning balaclavas by night to steal farm animals or ransack research labs.
Most probably came to animal rights after adopting a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons, typically some vague notion of health benefits or saving the planet. They then learned along the way that the philosophy behind animal rights and veganism is essentially the same. Now that veganism is better understood, all new converts have probably at least questioned the morality of killing animals, while so-called "militant vegans" are synonymous with animal rights activists.
Whatever the case, organisations of any type - be they a business, a religion, or a knitting circle - are less open to change when the numbers are up.
But here's the rub. Although vegans are now a common sight in major cities and on college campuses, it seems highly unlikely they will ever constitute more than a small percentage of the overall population. It's not easy to gather reliable data on eating habits, but according to a recent assessment of multiple surveys, self-identifying vegans now account for between 1% and 2% of the US population. In other words, if they hope to convert us all to their way of life, they're facing an impossible task.
Animal rightists-cum-vegans thus face a choice. Will they settle for sowing conflict and division until the end of time? Or will they find a way to co-exist peacefully with others?
If I had the opportunity for a one-on-one with Ingrid Newkirk, founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and grande dame of the animal rights movement, I would begin by stating the following truths. (i) Most people will never agree with PETA's views on animal use, so you are fighting a lost cause. (ii) PETA is all about being negative, insulting people at every turn and never saying anything nice. All stick and no carrot. (iii) While PETA is undeniably a master at grabbing headlines, most people are sick to death of reading them.
Given this negative scorecard, I would then suggest that the animal rights movement change tack. Here are some specific actions it could take today to help it become a useful participant in the democratic process.
• Above all, show integrity. Following are some examples of how.
• Don't tell lies, don't fabricate evidence, and if someone sends you alleged evidence of animal cruelty, ensure it is real before publishing it.
• If you find you have inadvertently published false
information, don't pretend you don't know. Remove it immediately, and maybe
even issue a public apology.
• If you obtain evidence of animal cruelty, don't sit on it waiting
for the best time to use it for fundraising. Share it with authorities at once
so they can investigate.
• When publishing video of animal cruelty, make unedited footage available as well, with audio, to allay suspicions that it has been edited to create a false impression, or even worse, has been staged.
• Don't engage in, or condone, illegal activities like releasing animals from farms or vandalism.
• Don't expose children to shocking images. The next time you hold a street demo, ditch the photos of animal cruelty and hand out samples of vegan cooking instead.
• If you must target stores, do so at a distance, and never harass
customers, scrawl graffiti, scream abuse, superglue locks, or take your demo
inside the store. In case you haven't realised it yet, everyone hates you when
you take your demos indoors.
• Don't bombard people on social media with hateful messages,
and never, ever send death threats.
• Put animal rights on the back burner, and pursue improvements in animal welfare instead. They may not be entirely on message for your group, but they're achievable, and if you're up front about your intentions, you'll have broad support. But don't be dishonest and push for higher animal welfare standards as a ruse to drive animal users out of business.
And if you're up for making these much-needed changes, try thinking outside the box to come up with campaigns that respect freedom of choice, and may even turn enemies into friends. Call me a hippy, but how about hosting vegan food-tasting events, and extending friendly invites to your local ranchers and hunters? Or go the whole hog and invite them to set up their BBQs too, then have a contest. Or organise vegan fashion shows but invite designers using real leather and fur too, then let the audience choose which they prefer.
Democracy is about building bridges, but all you're currently doing is burning them. Are you ready to change?
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