A troubling new trend among progressive legislators in the US is to virtue signal by proposing to ban the sale… Read More
A troubling new trend among progressive legislators in the US is to virtue signal by proposing to ban the sale of natural fur products. Apart from the question of whether it is appropriate for government to legislate such personal choices, even a quick review of the facts suggests that progressives should be promoting natural fur, not seeking to ban it.
Unfortunately, the sponsors of recent fur-ban proposals in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and several other states have clearly not bothered to do their own research. Instead, they just parrot animal activist inaccuracies and even lies.
Take, for example, a House bill in Rhode Island, H 7483, and a House bill, H.965, and Senate companion, S.623, in Massachusetts. All three bills use the exact same language in claiming that farm-raised mink “endure tremendous suffering”, despite the fact this simply isn't true. North American farmed mink receive excellent nutrition and care, not just because it's the ethical thing to do, but also because it's the only way to produce the high-quality fur for which North America is known. Standards for pen sizes and handling farmed mink are developed by veterinarians, animal scientists, and animal-welfare authorities.
Scaremongering Over Covid
Fur-ban supporters are also guilty of scaremongering about the susceptibility of mink to Covid-19, claiming that mink farms are a threat to public health. Strict bio-security measures in place on all North American mink farms are one reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can state: "Currently, there is no evidence that mink are playing a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to people."
As for the fear that a virus strain that showed up on mink farms in Denmark will lower the efficacy of vaccines, America's top infectious disease official is not too worried. "[A]t first cut, it doesn't look like something that's going to be a really big problem for the vaccines that are currently being used to induce an immune response,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was Chief Medical Advisor under President Trump and has stayed in the role under President Biden.
Bear in mind also that when there are outbreaks of swine flu (H1N1) or avian flu in chickens, we do not ban the sale of pork and poultry – although this is exactly what animal activists call for. Instead, farmers work closely with public officials to resolve the problems, just as US mink farmers have done with Covid-19.
Ignoring Positive Contributions
Fur-ban proponents also refuse to acknowledge the many positives of producing and wearing fur.
For example, they ignore the fact that farmed mink, as carnivores, eat by-products from human food-production – the parts of cows, pigs and fish that we don’t eat, expired cheeses, broken eggs – that might otherwise end up in landfills. Manure, soiled straw bedding, and other farm wastes are composted to produce organic fertilizers, completing the agricultural nutrient cycle. And mink are raised on family-run farms, providing employment and revenue to support rural communities.
They also fail to mention that half the fur produced in the US is taken from the wild, and from abundant species only. This way they avoid the awkward truth that many of these furbearers are so numerous that they'd have to be culled even if we didn't use their fur. Overpopulated beavers flood homes and roads; raccoons spread rabies and other dangerous diseases; coyotes are the main predators of young calves and lambs, and even pet dogs and cats; and the list goes on. Regulated trapping, as practiced in the US, helps to maintain more stable and healthy wildlife populations by smoothing out boom-and-bust cycles. And if we must cull some of these animals, it is surely more ethical to use their fur than to throw it away.
Finally, it is grossly misleading for fur-ban proponents to claim that alternative materials render the use of natural fur “unjustifiable”. Fake furs – and more than 60% of all our clothing – are synthetics, mostly made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. We now know that each time these synthetics are washed, they leach micro-particles of plastic into our waterways that are now turning up in marine life, drinking water, and even breast milk. Cruelty-free indeed!
Natural fur, by contrast, is produced responsibly and sustainably. Each fur garment is cut and sewn individually by artisans maintaining heritage handcraft skills. A well-made mink coat can be worn for 30 or 40 years or more, passed from mother to daughter and granddaughter. Unlike most clothing, a natural fur coat can be taken apart and completely restyled. And after decades of use, it can be thrown into the garden compost where it will biodegrade completely. Using natural fur makes more sense than ever at a time when environmentalists are saying we should buy better-quality clothing and keep it longer.
So why do we hear so much anti-fur rhetoric? Despite its “luxury” image, the fur trade – from farmers to trappers to craftspeople -- is a small and artisanal industry that has been unfairly stigmatized and scapegoated. The fur trade is easily sacrificed by politicians bent on winning votes and raising funds, in the knowledge that it simply doesn't have the resources to compete with multi-million-dollar, media-savvy, “animal rights” lobby groups.
No one is obliged to wear natural fur – or, for that matter, wool or leather – or to eat meat or dairy. These are personal choices, and they are rarely black and white. For example, despite the growing popularity of vegetarianism, few of us actually go the whole nine yards, let alone become vegans. Instead, we may opt to become pesco- or ovo-vegetarians, meaning we still eat seafood or eggs. Others choose to buy organic beef, or free-range eggs.
As we navigate these choices, we want more information about the environmental and ethical implications of our decisions. In response, the International Fur Federation is launching FurMark this year to further enhance traceability and transparency about industry standards.
What is not appropriate is for legislators to impose such decisions from on high. Rather, it behooves them to actually meet with the people whose cultures, reputations, and livelihoods they are so blithely and unfairly attacking. Politicians who fancy themselves to be progressive may then find that they should be promoting natural fur, not seeking to arbitrarily ban it.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
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.
In response to an unexpected shortage this year of opportunities for aspiring fur designers, the Canadian fur trade has launched… Read More
In response to an unexpected shortage this year of opportunities for aspiring fur designers, the Canadian fur trade has launched a whole new competition. Ten lucky winners of the inaugural Student Fur Design Competition will enjoy an all-expenses-paid week-long workshop, learning not only techniques for working with fur, but also why fur is a responsible choice in an age when we are all being called upon to wear sustainable and ethical clothing.
The competition was launched on October 28, but the deadline for entries is not until January 15, so there's still plenty of time folks!
The workshop itself will be held at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto, under the auspices of Canadian Fur Atelier, a new name for an old hand, Farley Chatto, who is both a Ryerson professor and designer in residence at Four Seasons Furs.
Successor to Studio NAFA
The competition is not so much a new idea as a response to fill a gap created by two major developments, explains coordinator Melanie.
"In 2007, North American Fur Auctions launched Studio NAFA, a series of annual workshops for aspiring fur designers, led by none other than Farley Chatto. But when NAFA closed its doors in 2019, that meant the end of the workshops too."
Then came Covid-19, and the fur trade's premier international design competition, REMIX, had to be cancelled.
"The International Fur Federation, which organises REMIX in collaboration with Vogue Italia and Vogue Talents, just couldn't go ahead due to travel restrictions," says Melanie. "And that was when we reached out to Farley and Fur Harvesters Auction with the idea of launching a whole new event.”
Still, concessions have had to be made to the pandemic. Unlike Studio NAFA and REMIX, which were both open to designers from around the world, for this year at least the Student Fur Design Competition will be strictly a national event, open only to Canadian students and recent graduates.
"When Covid-19 is behind us, who knows what the future may hold," says Melanie. "But for now, we are happy to provide an opportunity for our fellow countrymen at least."
Also reflecting life under lockdown, the competition stage - during which winners will be selected to take part in the workshop - will be held entirely online. Using their imaginations only and no actual furs, entrants will sketch three designs incorporating furs produced in Canada: mink, fox, beaver, raccoon, seal, muskrat, coyote, fisher and sable/marten.
Winners will then use those same furs for real at the Toronto workshop, which is scheduled for August, but no date has been cast in stone.
"Covid permitting, August is the target," says Melanie. "But of course our priority will be everyone's safety, so if we need to reschedule, we'll do so, no question."
Highlighting Sustainability, Ethics
Aside from inspiring students to get creative with fur, the competition's organisers have another very clear goal.
"This is more than just a design competition," says Melanie. "Of course the workshop will cover fashion trends and innovative techniques for working with different furs, and we want participants to explore the versatility of this unique, natural material. But just as important, we want them to understand fur's environmental and ethical credentials."
Today's fashion industry is dominated by fast fashion, she explains, much of which is made of synthetic materials derived from petroleum. Petroleum is non-renewable and therefore unsustainable, its extraction and processing are polluting, and materials produced from it don't biodegrade.
"The fashion industry as a whole is now being challenged to be more environmentally responsible, and fur is one of the most environmentally friendly clothing materials around. So the workshop will look at the sustainability of fur in every area of the trade, from farming to trapping to dressing to manufacturing."
"We'll talk about the 52,000 tons of food waste Canada's fur farms divert from landfills each year, how the manure is used as fertilizer, and mink oil makes biodiesel. We'll talk about the role played by trappers in wildlife management and the protection of endangered species. We'll talk about the importance of trapping in keeping remote communities viable. And we'll put all this in the context of a fashion industry dominated by synthetics, and of the importance, now more than ever before, of shopping sustainably. Why buy a coat for a season when you can buy one to last a lifetime?"
The workshop will also examine the ethics of using animals for human benefit, with an emphasis on the importance of animal welfare.
"It is vital that fur designers of tomorrow know the realities of the modern fur trade so they are equipped to defend what they do," explains Melanie. "They need to know why fur is an ethical choice, and why the narrative pushed by animal rights groups is so misleading.
"Today's youth are a socially and environmentally aware generation, and our workshop will give future fur designers a solid platform from which to demonstrate why natural fur is the responsible choice."
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
With the slogan #Reconnect – Time to Slow Down, a new campaign by the International Fur Federation urges designers, independent… Read More
With the slogan #Reconnect - Time to Slow Down, a new campaign by the International Fur Federation urges designers, independent brands, fashion groups as well as consumers to change their consumption habits to help the planet. Sustainable sourcing, producing less, reducing waste, reducing pollution, buying fewer but higher quality garments, and wearing them for longer. This reflects growing criticism of the environmental harm caused by our “fast fashion” culture, while also highlighting fur’s solid credentials as a sustainable natural resource.
So what does it take to create a campaign like this? Truth About Fur talked with the man responsible for pulling it all together, IFF's fashion director Jean-Pierre Rouphael.
Truth About Fur: The principal video for this campaign contains a powerful indictment of the fast fashion scene: "Just spend your money, shelf it, wear it, post it, chuck it, REPEAT." As an alternative, you urge us to "Reconnect" with nature, and give it a helping hand by buying fewer garments and wearing them for longer. It's "Time to Slow Down." Support for this sentiment has been growing in recent years, and many in the trade believe fur should be part of this movement. Is it time to put it centre stage?
Jean-Pierre Rouphael: Yes, the conversation has been brewing for a while and keeps aligning closer to the fur industry's values, so the world is definitely ready for this. At IFF, we've been developing this message for the past three years, and this campaign is a continuation. In 2018, we began presenting fur as "natural" and '"kind to the planet", and promoted this heavily via Vogue magazine in eight markets. This has helped influence the media conversation about natural fur versus fake fur, and more broadly has given the fur industry a voice in the sustainable fashion conversation. Our latest campaign builds on this same message, while staying consistent and focused.
TAF: A consistent message makes sense for the fur trade, given that our sustainability credentials are so strong. But while you were developing this campaign, the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Has that changed fashion conversations at all?
Rouphael: It has definitely further prioritised the sustainability agenda and put it at the forefront of those conversations. The pandemic has shown in practice the positives that happen once we slow down - cleaner air, cleaner waters, a nature reboot. People have found a new appreciation for nature, and the industry is taking notice.
The pandemic has also changed the way fashion conversations are taking place. Before Covid, key fashion conferences were typically expensive affairs, for paying guests only. But the pandemic has pushed them to open up, so now anyone can log in remotely from home via Zoom, and be part of what were formerly closed conversations. The pandemic has also given us more free time to listen in, making it easier for us to put our hand on the industry's pulse.
Pulse of the Industry
TAF: And what have you learned? What is the "pulse" of the industry?
Rouphael: We are delighted to see that the fashion industry today is calling for the exact same things the fur industry has been advocating for many years. Quality, long-lasting, handmade, investment pieces made from sustainable materials and not depleting nature's resources. Overall, a promotion of slower fashion.
And this provided the base for our current campaign. We believe that natural fur is exactly the kind of material the fashion industry is calling for right now. For every quality the fashion industry wants to promote, a fur garment checks all the boxes.
Our task was to transform this concept into a campaign that is visual, educational, aspirational, and easily absorbable by end consumers.
"It Takes an Army"
TAF: Your behind-the-scenes photos show that a lot of people were involved in bringing this campaign to life.
Rouphael: All IFF campaigns are big collaborative projects. They start in-house, but once we've defined what we want to say, we invite outside parties to join. And when they say it takes an army, it's true! Almost 50 people were involved in different capacities in this campaign.
After the director and I agreed the visual direction to take and signed the storyboard, we set about choosing the best team, and the list was long! We needed a producer, a director of photography, lighting, retouching, hair and makeup, a casting director, a stylist, a behind-the-scenes photographer and videographer, a location manager, an editor, a copywriter, someone for voiceovers, a catering manager, and assistants all round.
Plus, of course, we needed a cast of models, and it was important to us that they represent a broad mix of ethnicities, as well as different shapes and sizes.
TAF: Didn't Covid-19 have an impact here too? The IFF is based in London. Wasn't there a lockdown?
Rouphael: It's not generally known that we actually shot the campaign in Dubai! The Covid rules were more relaxed there, and the budget was more affordable. Even so, we were all tested Covid-free prior to and post the 14-hour shoot, and had a government medic assigned to us throughout.
Still, Dubai did present some challenges. For one, we shot part of the campaign outdoors, and when the temperature tops 40°C it's not ideal for modelling fur! But the models and the team were ultra-professional, and you really can't tell from the videos and photos how difficult it was.
We also had to find a location with massive panoramic windows with green backdrops so we could shoot indoors but make it look like we were outdoors. And then there was the challenge of getting the fashion into Dubai as Covid was delaying shipments. For this reason, the stylist and I limited the number of brands we used and chose ones which were geographically closer. Still, we ended up with nine brilliant brands, and about 15 looks.
And after the actual shoot, we then had the post-production tasks of editing the videos, selecting the final photographs, and deciding the mood for retouching.
Last but not least, our website developer created a page to host all the new content, and compiled a media kit to deliver to all IFF members around the world.
TAF: Once a shoot is a wrap, how do you launch a campaign and then measure its success?
Rouphael: The main objective of all our recent campaigns has been to position fur as part of responsible natural fashion, with an emphasis on its sustainability. At the same time, of course, we want to keep fur's image current and fashionable.
Every year, and depending on our budget, we work out a media plan pre-release and identify global print, digital and social media outlets we want to collaborate with, and accordingly make our bookings ready to launch. After the campaign wraps, we get all the analytics from the media with how many people clicked on the ads, how many people came to our website after seeing an ad, how many people we have reached in general, and so on. And then we report these numbers back to IFF's members.
This year, unfortunately, we don't have a budget to promote the campaign through external media (whether print or online), but we'll still be posting and boosting the campaign via our own social media. It's not the optimum way to reach the widest audience possible, but IFF has 55 member associations, and each of those has its own members, so it's amazing how far a campaign can reach when everyone is ready to share.
How You Can Help ...
Whether you're a member of the trade or just a fur fan with a blog or social media account, you can help spread IFF's message by sharing this campaign.
The simplest way is just to link to IFF's landing page for this campaign, where all the materials are on show and you can understand the story. To share specific materials or to combine them with your own content, they're all available for downloading from a dedicated public Dropbox link. We all have the power to influence the fashion conversation, so please, get sharing!
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.
The American fur trade played an important role in the country’s history, and continues to provide employment for thousands of… Read More
The American fur trade played an important role in the country's history, and continues to provide employment for thousands of citizens today. In celebration of America's Independence Day this July 4, let’s meet just a few representatives of the modern fur trade!
Read on to hear from furbearer biologist Bryant White, who considers trapping a vital tool in the managing of wildlife. Next up is Bob Zimbal, whose mink farm in Wisconsin has been operating for sixty years. Then we're off to the Big Apple to talk with fur designer Maria Reich, who calls small businesses like hers "the heart of New York." And rounding out our series of July 4 interviews is another New Yorker, garment manufacturer Nick Pologeorgis, whose family history has been the American dream!
Bryant White – “Trapping Is Essential to Wildlife Management”
Bryant White is the Furbearer Research Program Manager with the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), currently based at the Arizona Game and Fish Department headquarters in Phoenix. Much of his work involves research related to Best Management Practices for the conservation of furbearing animals.
How is trapping regulated to ensure that it is done humanely
“Everything is based on research,” says Bryant. “Trapping seasons are opened only when the young of the year are autonomous and have set out to establish territories of their own. When necessary, harvest quotas protect vulnerable species. Types of trapping devices and how they may be used are also regulated, to ensure animal welfare as well as the safety of pets and the public."
And what does he think the public needs to know about
“I think we have to help the non-trapping public to
understand that trapping would be important even if no one wanted fur,” he
“Regulated trapping is now an essential element of responsible wildlife management in the USA. Many people don’t know that modern traps are used to capture animals, unharmed, to apply radio collars for research -- or to reintroduce species (wolves and river otters) into regions where they were previously eradicated."
We need to do a better job informing people of the important contributions that trappers make to our conservation efforts!
“Trapping is also essential to protect some thirty endangered species of plants and animals. Whooping cranes, for example, would almost certainly be completely extinct in the USA within two years if we didn’t aggressively trap predators like coyotes and foxes in their nesting areas. Endangered sea turtles are also protected by trapping raccoons and foxes that seek to dig up their eggs. Wolves must be managed to protect livestock, while beavers can cause millions of dollars of damage to forest habitat, water supplies, agricultural land, roads and other property by flooding. Skunks and raccoons in cities carry lethal diseases (rabies) and dangerous parasites, such as roundworm, which can migrate out of the intestines and can affect many organs and tissues, including the brain. They can be lethal."
Bryant believes that harvesting meat and fur from the wild is just as ethical as buying leather shoes, a steak dinner, or a can of chicken soup.
“What is important is that we hunt and trap in a responsible and sustainable fashion. Some people question the ethics of trapping animals for fur, but the fur trade actually helps us to protect furbearing species by giving them economic value. It’s all very good to say we care about wildlife, but when the tough decisions get made, economic value does matter. When someone comes to cut down the forest to build a new shopping mall, we can say, whoa, this forest does help the economy, it provides local income and resources from hunters and fishers and trappers – let’s leave it alone."
“Not least important, it’s hunters, fishers and trappers who
pay for the state agencies that monitor, manage and protect wildlife
populations and their habitat. They pay with their hunting, fishing and
trapping licenses. Without these revenues there would be no funding for the
wildlife agencies that manage most of the wildlife in this country!
“From our perspective, as biologists and wildlife agencies, trappers are managing wildlife and doing essential conservation work. We need these people and we should respect what they do. We have done opinion research and 80% of Americans say that it's OK to trap to protect habitat, it’s OK to trap to protect endangered species, it’s OK to manage wildlife to control disease or protect property. We need to do a better job informing people of the important contributions that trappers make to our conservation efforts!”
Raising mink is a lifestyle as much as a job, says Bob Zimbal, at his family farm in Wisconsin.
“When we come out in the morning, we look forward to feeding the animals and taking care of their needs,” he says.
“Sixty years ago my grandfather and my father started Zimbal Mink. Mink had not been domesticated for so very long, so there was a learning process how to care for the animals and feed them. As I child, I always helped on the farm, and my father taught me to pay attention to the animals and look at their health and each individual mink’s needs.
“The great thing about raising mink is that we can feed them proteins not used for human consumption, the parts of food animals that people don’t eat. So we’re recycling what would otherwise be wasted. All our mink feed is processed on-site, in our own feed kitchen, so it’s as fresh as possible.
“We work with nutritionists, because throughout the year, the minks' needs are always changing. When a mink is reproducing, its requirements are different than when it’s growing or furring. So our food is sent weekly to a laboratory to have it analyzed to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of the mink."
“We have a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility. We can open
the roofs and sides and the air will flow through the building, to keep it
cooler in the summer. But also we can close it up in bad weather in the winter
to protect the animals from the environment.
“This facility is designed to make the mink comfortable, but also make it efficient for the people that are caring for the animals. So the way the bedding is put into the pens, the way they are kept clean – things like that are designed with what’s comfortable for the animal, but also what is efficient for the employees."
There’s a lot more involved in producing beautiful mink than most people understand!
“This is the heart of the fur fashion business in the US,” says Maria. “There are more than 1,500 people working in fur and affiliated businesses in New York City.”
“Our company was started by my late husband’s grandfather,
Charlie Reich, who arrived here from Poland in 1938. He fought in World War II,
and then returned to start Reich Furs. His great-granddaughter, Samantha Ortiz,
is now president of the company.
“I am a single working mom, and small businesses like ours are the heart of New York. We are a design-driven company and we directly employ 20 people, but we also work with – and provide work for – many other New York Garment District companies: designers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers.
Every scrap is used for something and never goes to waste. We are constantly finding new ways to use and re-use fur!
“We are a fully integrated company. We do everything here,
from developing new designs, to producing apparel and accessories, which we
offer directly to consumers.
“When it comes to fur fashion, there are plenty of
misconceptions. It is more than just a luxury product, it is also a highly
regulated and sustainable industry.
“Many of our clients come in with their great grandmother's fur coat, wanting it restyled and modernized. There are not many materials you can do this with. We also up-cycle a lot of our furs. Every scrap is used for something and never goes to waste. We are constantly finding new ways to use and re-use fur!"
Nick’s father, Stanley, started Pologeorgis Furs in 1960, after arriving in New York from Crete. He apprenticed in a fur workshop without pay and became a master fur craftsman. He was one of the first furriers to forge relationships with top international designers, collaborating with Pierre Balmain from 1970.
Nick joined the business when he finished his degree in finance at Boston University, in 1984. His sister, Joan Pologeorgis, who graduated from New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology, serves as vice-president in charge of production and is co-owner. It has been a family-owned and operated business for over 60 years.
“We love fur; we love making beautiful clothing with one of nature’s most luxurious materials,” says Nick.
The Pologeorgis story is the American dream. My dad built our company from nothing, through hard work and dedication.
Pologeorgis has made furs for a long list of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Aretha Franklin, and Rihanna. “We made a beautiful white mink for Serena Williams,” he recalls.
“The business never stops changing. Fur is now used for accessories
and for home furnishings, making it much more accessible to more people. Fur is
even used to make felt for hats, and for rugs.
“Lifestyle is very important now too. There will always be the beautiful, classic garments, but you also want to have fun, not-so-precious pieces. The biggest trend is the mixing of fur with ready-to-wear fabric. How it all goes together is important.
“The Pologeorgis story is the American dream. My dad built our company from nothing, through hard work and dedication. Hard working, industrious immigrants continue to form the backbone of the fur market today. The fur trade supports thousands of families in New York and across America.”
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HAPPY CANADA DAY 2020! On the first day of July each year, we celebrate the uniting of three British colonies – the… Read More
HAPPY CANADA DAY 2020! On the first day of July each year, we celebrate the uniting of three British colonies – the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick – into one federation, the Dominion of Canada, on July 1, 1867. It’s also a fine time to reflect on the unique role played by the fur trade in shaping our country.
Historians recall the role played by Europeans searching for fur in opening up our vast lands. But we should also remember that fur trading had been practiced here for hundreds, if not thousands of years before Europeans arrived.
When French navigator and explorer Jacques Cartier first visited the island of Montreal in 1535, he found Montagnais hunters from what is now northern Quebec already trading fur for food produced by Iroquoian farmers in the St-Lawrence valley.
Fur trading between First Nations and Europeans began when French fishermen came to exploit the vast stocks of codfish off Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St-Lawrence. When Cartier landed on the coast of northern New Brunswick, in 1534, he met Indigenous people who clearly had experience with Europeans, holding up fur pelts on sticks and eager to trade.
In the five centuries that followed, Canada’s fur trade came to reflect the country’s cultural mosaic at its best: First Nations, French, English, Scots, Jews, Greeks and many others have worked together to build this remarkable heritage industry with its dynamic tradition of competition and cooperation.
(Click here for an expanded version of this interview.)
Like so many in the industry, Dan Kahnert’s relationship with fur is a family affair.
“My great-grandfather learned the fur trade in Germany and came to Canada in the late 1800s. His son, my grandfather, moved to Toronto where he would travel around taking orders, and then cut and sew coats in his home. It was my father, Allan, who opened our first showroom on Avenue Road in 1957, where Kahnert’s is still located.
“I would help out at the store on weekends, and decided by the end of high school that I wanted to join the family business. That’s what I did in 1984, after completing my degree in economics and business at the University of Western Ontario. I arrived home with all my college furniture and everything on April 30 and began working full-time in the store the next day; it was storage season and there was no time for a break!
“We worked hard, six days a week, but I enjoyed the challenges of running a business, being our own bosses, analysing problems and implementing a plan. My older brothers, Bernie and John, were already working at the store with my father, and John and I still run the business together today. It really helped that dad was very open to letting us try new ideas, like when I brought in computers in the 1990s.”
What does Dan like best about being a retail furrier?
“In addition to working with my brother and running our own business, what I enjoy most is the opportunity to meet lots of new people. While not every customer is easy, as everyone working in retail knows, generally we meet lots of very nice people. When we say, ‘It’s been a pleasure doing business with you,’ it’s not just a cliché, it really is how we feel.”
We are on the front line with consumers, and we are proud to do our part to promote fur on behalf of all the people who make up this uniquely Canadian heritage industry!
“Unfortunately, we have difficulty getting across our messages about the real environmental advantages of wearing fur. Fur is a sustainably produced, long-lasting, recyclable and biodegradable natural material. Animal activists have created very damaging confusion about the real environmental issues. It makes no sense telling people to use petroleum-based synthetics instead of long-lasting natural and biodegradable materials. The saddest thing is that most consumers we speak with do appreciate the warmth, comfort and beauty of natural fur, but they feel intimidated.
“We have adapted, of course: we will sell our customer a shearling coat – because, ironically, shearling is not seen as fur. Or a fur-lined coat. We have also added cashmere and other cloth coats, with or without fur trim. Not because there’s anything wrong with fur, but because fur has been tangled up in a very complex societal discussion about using animals, which includes everything from medical research to circuses to eating meat. Fur, unfortunately, has become a scapegoat, because we are really a very small-scale industry; we don’t have the financial or professional clout that large corporations can muster to tell their story when they are attacked.”
And the future?
“I don’t think fur will ever really go out of style, because it is so in tune with growing environmental concerns. We have to keep working on telling that story, but ultimately it is up to the consumer to make an educated decision on the benefits of buying fur products ” says Dan.
“But, bottom line, as a retailer your success depends on satisfying your customer. We are located in a wonderful residential neighbourhood and therefore do not rely on tourist sales that might occur in downtown Toronto. We rely on community word of mouth with support from our online business. We have one of the city’s best collections of high-quality coats, and we work hard to take good care of every customer. We are on the front line with consumers, and we are proud to do our part to promote fur on behalf of all the people who make up this uniquely Canadian heritage industry!”
If you’ve never heard of Farley Chatto, then you’re probably not in tune with fashion, and couture in particular. But if you love couture and Canadian design, Farley is probably a household name. Not only is he an internationally recognized designer, he is also a stylist for celebrities. He consults with Hollywood A-list hit TV shows and movies, including Suits, Christmas Chronicles, American Gods and more. As a Toronto resident, he is proud of his Canadian roots.
Farley’s love for fur began in his childhood. In winter, his father would pick him up from school wearing a muskrat-lined Royal Canadian Mounted Police hat. He remembers touching it and loving how soft it was, and thus began his love affair with fur. As he grew up in the 1980s, the fur was a staple as a must-have luxury item on TV shows.
“In the 1980s, Dynasty was a top-rated show depicting the lives of the rich and powerful, where fur and excessive fashion were a big part of the show’s popularity,” he recalls. “Then, one day, I asked my mother if I could have a sheared beaver bomber jacket for winter. Sadly I didn’t get the coat, yet I was hooked on the tactility of fur!”
People forget that this country exists because of fur. Fur is the fabric that bundled our nation together.
Farley continues to be proud that fur is as Canadian as apple pie is to Americans. Because fur is a staple in the fashion industry, he was anxious to incorporate it into his designs when he entered the field.
“Being a Canadian designer can be challenging,” he says. “I’ve been on the scene for 32 years, and the beginning wasn’t easy. I applied and was accepted to three fashion schools here and in the US, yet I decided to remain true to my roots and stay here. People forget that this country exists because of fur. Fur is the fabric that bundled our nation together.”
When asked on advice for young designers with interest in fur, Farley’s motto is: “If you have an opportunity, take it! Sign up for courses, join workshops, learn with First Nations people, put yourself out there.”
Wherever Farley travels, whether to teach or research, he touts the sustainability of fur fashion to others. As he says, it’s #furtastic.
Shawna Ujaralaaq Dias – Traditional Fur-Trimmed Parkas with a Modern Twist
As a child, Shawna lived for several years in a tiny settlement in Wager Bay, above the Arctic Circle on the extreme northwest coast of Hudson’s Bay.
“My grandfather had run the Hudson’s Bay post that was built there in 1925; there were only 15 people when my parents were living there, all family,” she says. “They would take the dog team to visit with other families nearby.
“It was a great life. My father hunted and trapped – foxes and wolves — and we were always outdoors, active and healthy – not like the kids who sit in front of computer screens these days!
“We kids would help to clean and scrape skins, and I began sewing by the time I was seven. I was using a sewing machine soon after that.”
The family moved about 300 kilometres south to Rankin Inlet, a small town (population 2,800, in 2016), so Shawna could attend school, but returned to their camp in Wager Bay each summer to hunt, fish and reconnect with the land.
“I didn’t even speak English until we moved to Rankin,” says Shawna. “We spoke Inuktitut, and I was lucky to learn all the traditional ways. These are the traditions I celebrate in my sewing.”
Now married with three grown children (18, 21 and 24) and a government job, Shawna never stopped sewing, and about ten years ago started her own business.
There is so much skill and creativity in the communities, and now with the Internet we have access to the world!
“People would see my fur-trimmed parkas and ask if I could make them one. Now I show new parkas on my Facebook page, and they are usually sold within 48 hours. Even though we live in a remote community, the Internet puts us into contact with customers across Canada and even in the US or beyond!”
Shawna now has more than 6,000 Facebook followers, and in 2017 she began selling dressed fur pelts, in addition to parkas.
“A lot of the ladies in small northern communities are sewers, but they often have difficulty finding fur pelts to work with. They really appreciate being able to get dressed furs from me up here.
“I like to promote the work of other ladies too,” said Shawna. “There is so much skill and creativity in the communities, and now with the Internet we have access to the world!”
So: with a government job and a growing sewing business, does Shawna still have time to connect with the land?
“For sure, we still go out to our hunting camp most weekends, and every summer. My husband only came north about 20 years ago, but he learned many hunting and trapping skills from my dad, and he loves the life here. My boys also hunt caribou and seals. We have a good life, and I am happy to be able to share some of the beauty of our Inuit culture with my sewing.”
CANADA'S FUR MANUFACTURERS
Christina Nacos – Re-inventing Fur for the Next Generation
Some people are born into the fur industry, some people choose it. For Christina Nacos, it was both.
Her father, Tom Nacos, is a legend of the Canadian fur industry. After learning the trade in his native village of Siatista, in the mountains of northern Greece, he emigrated to Montreal in the 1950s and proceeded to build one of North America’s most important fur manufacturing and retailing empires.
Christina crossed the ocean in the opposite direction, living in England for several years, where she worked in advertising. She returned to Canada in 1998 to work with Natural Furs, one of her father’s companies, and as one of the younger people leading a major company in the industry – and one of the very few women – she quickly began exploring ways to adapt fur for young people like herself.
“I think that each generation learns from their predecessors, but then has to make the industry their own, adapting fur for their time. That’s how fur has always evolved,” she says.
Under Christina’s leadership, Natural Furs was one of the first companies to participate actively in FurWorks Canada, an innovative project coordinated by the Fur Council of Canada to modernize fur fashion, mixing fur with other materials for a sportier look that reflected more modern, active lifestyles. Natural Furs was also a strong supporter of the Fur Council’s “Beautifully Canadian” collective branding initiative.
Christina is a strong believer in the important role of industry associations, especially in a sector made up of hundreds of small family businesses; she has served as vice-president of the Fur Council for many years.
As society thinks more deeply about the challenge of shifting to a more sustainable economy, fur will make more sense than ever.
Christina’s latest project to bring fur fashion into the 21st century is a major push to promote recycled – or “upcycled” – fur, to make fur more accessible and avoid waste. Branded as FURB Upcycled, the collection is attracting younger women who may never have worn fur before.
“We noticed that many young people were attracted by the nostalgia of remodelling furs they had inherited from their parents or grandparents. It’s a way to reconnect with the past, and it’s totally in synch with current efforts to prevent waste and use sustainable materials. Often we’re using the fur inside the garment, to maximize its warmth and functionality. We’re mixing upcycled fur with other materials, and exploring a more laid back, Scandinavian aesthetic.
“My sister-in-law, Sarah Nacos, has now joined me in the company. She’s 28, and brings the sensibility of an even younger generation of women to our designs,” she says.
“Each generation brings something new to fur. Young women today love the echo of the past in an upcycled piece, and they appreciate the durability of fur, which prevents waste – all important sustainability virtues.
“As society thinks more deeply about the challenge of shifting to a more sustainable economy, fur will make more sense than ever,” she says.
So Christina Nacos is continuing a family tradition in the best possible way: by totally rethinking how fur can be adapted for the next generation.
CANADA'S FIRST NATIONS
Robert Grandjambe – Deeply Connected to the Land
Robert Grandjambe Jr. is a Woodland Cree from Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories, whose roots go back to Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, where generations of his family trapped to survive. For many southerners, and city dwellers in particular, his deep connection to the land may seem like a dream lifestyle, and sometimes even hard to understand, so it helps that he is committed to explaining it to anyone who will listen.
Trapping is a perfect example. “I think people need to better understand the importance of what trappers do, because I don’t think they get it,” he says. “We must educate people to understand that everything the trapper does contributes to a natural and sustainable way of life and the environment, and is crucial for the culture and health of our communities.”
Robert started learning trapping from his father when he was six years old, and now he’s determined to pass on everything he’s learned. Out of trapping season, when he’s not working as a contractor, he does presentations in schools about culture, craft-making, hunting and gathering, and of course trapping. Also receiving a solid grounding in what it means to live on the land is his toddler daughter.
“As a father you want to leave a legacy,” he says. “I want to give her all my knowledge and experience from the trapline, and from there she can choose her own path. So I will continue to bring her into this world, so she can understand and know it well.”
Among the lessons that Robert passes on is the importance of supporting your community at large, and for him this means providing food – as much as he can, be it moose, ducks, bison, bear, geese, or any of the other wild bounty the land provides. He views food as “the thing that brings us all together at the same table and sustains us, no matter who we are or where we come from.”
We always ask ourselves, how can we do it better when it comes to animal treatment?
As for trapping, one important aspect that is close to Robert’s heart – as it is for most trappers – is animal welfare. In part this might be because his great-great-grandfather trapped in the early 1900s alongside Frank Conibear, one of the founders of the humane trapping movement, who in turn learned much about respecting animals by working alongside Indigenous people.
Robert is adamant that concern over animal welfare is not a recent development forced on trappers by the animal rights movement. “We always ask ourselves, how can we do it better when it comes to animal treatment?” he says. “The standards have improved dramatically over the years and we still strive to keep improving. As trappers, we always focus on only taking what we need, and making sure we respect the animals and the environment.”
As for the future of wild fur, Robert has a positive outlook, despite the many challenges facing trappers. He may not have all the answers yet, but he’s confident the pieces are all there to make it happen.
“I truly believe trappers and wild fur will always have a place in this world,” he says. “We needed it once just to survive, but today it is about much more than that: It’s about social and cultural values, family values, our health and well-being, and protecting nature, ecosystems and the environment.”
D’Arcy Moses – First Nations Heritage Inspires Modern Fur Designs
(Click here for an expanded version of this interview.)
If you are looking for a designer who incarnates the Canadian fur trade’s rich cultural mosaic, D’Arcy Moses is an obvious choice. Adopted at birth and raised by a non-native farming family in Camrose, Alberta, D’Arcy set out to connect with his aboriginal roots after he left home. While his background sometimes left him feeling uncomfortable (“like an apple, red on the outside, white inside”), in Vancouver he met Leonard George, chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who assured him he could have the best of both worlds. “He told me, ‘You have the First Nations culture and you have the non-aboriginal culture. You can utilize that, because you can mix between cultures at ease.’”
D’Arcy’s chance to apply his unusual heritage to designing clothing came at the Toronto Fashion Incubator, and in 1991 his work was featured at the Toronto Festival of Fashion. Then he was invited to Montreal by the Fur Council of Canada, and began working with one of the country’s most important luxury apparel manufacturers, Natural Furs.
The unique, aboriginally inspired collections D’Arcy developed went to high-end retailers in North America, Europe and Asia, and a retrospective collection of his work was recently added by the Government of the Northwest Territories to its permanent collection of Indigenous arts and crafts.
Progressives who want to ban fur need to look at the whole ecosystem, the broader impact of industries, not just the individual animal.
Then in 1996 his life took another unusual turn. After CBC aired a documentary about him, he received a call from the Pehdzeh Ki First Nation, in Wrigley, NWT. Moses is a common family name there, and they had been looking for him. So D’Arcy left the glamour and hectic pace of international fashion to settle in the home he had never known. His business experience landed him a government job, but sewing and designing were never far from his mind.
Twelve years later he had saved the funds needed for his current project: a workshop in Enterprise, NWT, a community even smaller and more remote than Wrigley. “I needed somewhere I wouldn’t be distracted from my design work,” he says.
And the work has been abundant and diverse. In January, D’Arcy participated in a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and he will return to Banff to lead a workshop for Indigenous design students from around the world. “We will be using traditional techniques to re-purpose fur, leather and other natural materials,” he says.
“Many people in my community still hunt and trap, and their attachment to the land is very strong. But natural materials like fur are also important at a time when people are increasingly concerned about protecting our natural environment. So-called ‘fast fashion’ is killing the Earth.
“Progressives who want to ban fur need to look at the whole ecosystem, the broader impact of industries, not just the individual animal. When we look at the whole picture, from sourcing to use and maintenance, through to disposal, it is clear that we should be using responsibly and sustainably sourced natural materials – wool, leather, fur. The First Nations understood that we are part of nature and that we have an obligation to use resources with respect. I hope that my designs, marrying traditional and modern themes, can help people remember these important lessons,” says D’Arcy.
Tom McLellan – Mink Farming Maintains Proud Rural Heritage
Tom McLellan, a third-generation mink farmer from Ontario, feels tremendous pride when he speaks of his family’s history and their contribution to the early agricultural economy in Canada. “It is comforting to know that my family has been a part of what helped shape Canada into the nation that it is today,” he says.
“My father and his father before him loved working with animals and, being a part of Canada’s agricultural development just made the work even more satisfying. Now my sons are learning about fur and our connection to the birth of our great nation. It’s a wonderful feeling,” he says.
We are always studying the science behind mink farming to improve the health of our animals and make them comfortable and happy.
The early days of the fur trade focused on trapping, and the beaver pelt was the motor of the economy. By the end of the 19th century, Canadians were pioneering fur farming as the way to produce uniform, high-quality pelts without overexploiting wild populations. Over time, farmed mink became the most popular fur for consumers who appreciated the warmth and luxury.
“Improving the quality of the fur and keeping our animals healthy is what keeps us going on a daily basis,” says Tom. “We are always studying the science behind mink farming to improve the health of our animals and make them comfortable and happy.”
Canadian mink farmers are proud to produce some of the finest furs in the world, and also of their commitment to animal welfare. They follow codes of practice developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council, and their farms are certified by independent auditors. This Canadian heritage industry is proud of its past and, equally important, is well positioned to continue supporting rural communities.
What makes someone get up early each morning and put in long days on the farm?
“We are proud of the care we provide for our animals,” says Joe Williams who, with his two brothers, runs two mink farms in the lower mainland of British Columbia.
“It’s a family tradition, and fur is part of Canada’s heritage,” says Joe.
“Canadians pioneered the farm raising of furbearing animals, foxes on Prince Edward Island and mink in Ontario, and we are proud to be part of that heritage.
“My father started his first farm in 1990, and I would help him on weekends and after school,” he recalls.
“For sure it’s lots of hard work, but it’s rewarding. I like working for myself and being outdoors and caring for the animals. There’s a satisfaction in following the full cycle with the animals, from breeding season, to whelping and ensuring the pups are healthy, right through to the final product.
“I am also lucky to be working with my brothers,” says Joe.
What would he like people to know about mink farming?
“I would like people to understand how hard we work to keep our mink healthy and content. Every day we are adjusting their care and nutrition, depending on the time of year and their growth cycle. The proportion of proteins and fats and other elements are adjusted depending on whether the mink are being prepared for mating or whelping or growth. We are learning all the time.
“And then we are maintaining pens and barns and equipment; mixing feed; planning genetics for the next mating season, working to improve our herd.
“There’s a lot more that goes into this than most people understand. And, honestly, if you don’t care about the health and welfare of the mink, you really can’t do a good job; it will show in the quality of the fur you produce.”
Fur makes more sense than ever in our eco-conscious times!
And what would Joe say to a consumer considering the purchase of fur apparel or accessories?
“I would like consumers to know that fur is produced responsibly and sustainably. Mink are carnivores; they are fed left-overs from our food production system, the parts of chickens, pigs, fish and other animals we don’t eat and would otherwise end up in landfills.
“We basically recycle those ‘wastes’ by feeding mink to produce a warm, beautiful and long-lasting natural clothing material,” says Joe.
“At a time when we are all looking for ways to ensure that our lifestyle choices are helping to protect nature for future generations, I would like consumers to know they can wear fur with pride. Fur is an important part of our Canadian and North American heritage. And fur makes more sense than ever in our eco-conscious times!”
"The love of Canada and our national heritage is nowhere better reflected than in the fur trade," says Katie. "For me to be a part of this incredible industry is beyond humbling. Spending time out in the wilderness and being at one with Mother Nature and learning from my father is where my pride begins.
"I know that we are using the most humane methods possible, and respecting the delicate balance of nature to ensure viable populations for years to come. So I take pride in carrying on my family traditions, while playing the role as a steward of the land. There is no better way to spend one's time than with family, doing what you love."
Katie then takes this a step further, turning raw pelts into stunning fur garments.
"For me to be able to take this passion and turn it into a creative, fashionable yet functional wild fur product to be enjoyed for generations to come, is also a gift I hold dear," she says. "Nature and the fur trade itself have been major influences in my daily life that allow me to translate them into usable pieces of art and heritage. Being able to express myself through my creations has allowed me to grow as an individual."
Standing side by side with some of the most respected people in our industry that I call family and friends, is what lets me know I am where I belong.
"However, true pride shines brightest within the fur community if you ask me. The camaraderie between trappers and their families is unrivalled. The way we share our knowledge with one another, as well as the willingness to help educate newcomers, strengthens our friendships and grows our community as a whole. Trappers and their families are a closely knit community no matter where you go. There are always friendly smiles and stories to be heard."
Completing the picture, as it were, of a lady who lives and breathes fur, is Katie's involvement in advocacy.
"Finally, knowing that I have the backing from my local trappers council, as well as the Ontario trappers, is where my creativity, passion and strength come together. Helping fight for the rights of trappers, all the while educating the public about why the fur trade is so important to Canadians. Standing side by side with some of the most respected people in our industry that I call family and friends, is what lets me know I am where I belong.
"So be it on the trapline, in the studio, or at a board meeting, I know that what I do and love makes a difference. By being a part of this vast community and historical trade, with so much more to be shared and done in the near future, I cannot wait to see where we as a whole will take it.
"This is how we grow as a community, and these are just a few of the many reasons why I am proud to be a trapper."
Robin Horwath – Trappers Are "Great Stewards of the Land"
Hailing from Blind River, Ontario, Robin Horwath started helping his father on the trapline at the age of 12. In so doing, he became the next torchbearer of a family tradition that dates back to both his grandfathers.
"As we go through life, it is not always clear at the time what or who influenced us along the way," he says. "When my Grandpa Temple died at the age of 99, I saw a photo of him in an album for the first time. It was taken in 1928, and shows skunks and muskrats hanging on a shed, all skinned, boarded and ready to sell. Today, that photo is on my desk at work.
"When I was still nine or ten, I remember both him and my Grandpa Horwath telling me that they both had trapped skunks and muskrats. At the start of the Great Depression, they were paid $3 a muskrat and $5 a skunk. When I saw the picture of Grandpa Temple, it brought back all the stories they had told me as a child.
"My father was a great influence also, as he taught me to hunt, trap and fish as I grew up, and learn our family's traditions and values.
"So I am proud to have carried on my family's way of life. I have followed in the footsteps of my grandfathers and father, joined by my brother and my son. And hopefully my two young grandsons will want to do the same in the future."
Aside from the personal pride Robin has in continuing his family's heritage, he's also committed to serving others in the trade. Today he is both general manager for the Ontario Fur Managers Federation and a board member of the Fur Institute of Canada. So what path did he follow to reach this point?
"After studying in Iron Bridge under trapping instructor Walter Tonelli, I got my first trapping license in 1981 to help my father on his registered trapline, and I've held one ever since. In 1995 I became a director for the Blind River Trappers Council, and in 1996 I studied to be a trapping instructor in Thunder Bay as part of a program run by the Ontario Fur Managers Federation and the Ministry of Natural Resources. And by 2010, I was the OFMF's general manager!"
If you are a trapper, don’t be afraid to introduce someone new to what and why we trap. And if you are not a trapper, take the opportunity to ask if you can tag along.
So what motivates him to give so much of his time in the service of others?
"I am very proud to be a part of Canada’s fur trade," he explains, "and I have had great opportunities in my life to be able to help promote, educate and train people in its traditions and heritage. It is amazing when you think that the Hudson's Bay Company received its royal charter in 1670 - so 2020 is the HBC’s 350th anniversary, making it one of the longest-running corporations in the world. Trapping is what drove the exploration and development of this great land we call Canada.
"I never thought when I started trapping that I would end up representing trappers provincially and nationally on behalf of the OFMF and the Fur Institute. It's a great privilege."
So what advice does he have for others looking to get involved in promoting the fur trade?
"I dream of the day when trappers once again are recognized and valued by the general public as great stewards of the land. Trapping is a vital tool for managing furbearers to achieve healthy sustainable populations, to protect infrastructure, and control the spread of disease, which is important not just for the animals but also for humans.
"So if you are a trapper, don’t be afraid to introduce someone new to what and why we trap. And if you are not a trapper, take the opportunity to ask if you can tag along to see what it is all about for yourself, so you can make your own informed opinion on why trapping needs to continue."
The fact that several high-profile clothing companies recently stopped using fur in the name of “sustainability” — not to speak… Read More
The fact that several high-profile clothing companies recently stopped using fur in the name of "sustainability" -- not to speak of political bans on the sale of fur products in California -- highlights the public confusion about the challenge of managing our wildlife resources at acceptable ecological and societal levels. The disconnect created by misinformed activist campaigns poses a huge and persistent challenge to professional wildlife biologists everywhere.
Few areas of wildlife management in North America are as challenging as furbearer management and the traps that are so critical to this management. No subject is more contentious or misunderstood than the need to manage our wild furbearers.
While we work from an extensive platform of experience and
constantly evolving science, we know that we are but players in an emotional
theatre on the large stage of public discourse. We very much need not only
science and devotion, but also public understanding and support to conduct our
The management of furbearers is an integral and critical thread in the finely woven and complicated tapestry of environmental management in North America. Trapping is critical to these efforts.
While, at times, a ban on the harvest of certain wildlife
populations is appropriate, recently, more often than not, we have fallen
victim to our successes and are forced to manage surpluses. There is no better
role model of successful and sustainable wildlife management in North America
than that of our furbearer resource.
All wildlife populations are naturally cyclic – they rise and fall over time, triggered by a variety of factors. The downside of that cycle isn’t pretty or humane – think mange, rabies, starvation, habitat destruction and increased prey populations.
Wildlife biologists in North America work diligently to
manage all wildlife populations at ecological and socially acceptable levels.
Wild furbearers are no exception. The public have little tolerance when these
populations reach unacceptable levels. Think rabies transmitted by
overpopulated raccoons. Or property flooded by hyper-active beavers.
The real question, then, at the heart of this challenge is not whether some furbearer populations must be managed, but whether excess animals are used for public benefit or left to rot in the wild. Pest control activity or natural mortality will dispose of them if they are not used for public benefit. But pest control will be at the tax-payers' expense, while disease, starvation and predation, though natural, cannot be considered humane.
This is a zero sum game!
From Watershed Managers to Aquaculturists
The groups that rely on the stable and manageable levels of furbearers are extensive and economically impressive. Watershed managers, farmers, orchardists, park managers and the forestry industry are just a few that rely on population controls. Aquaculturists, for example, are predictably unforgiving of otter populations that consume their profits.
Certainly, no group has a more compelling need for control than biologists dealing with surplus populations that threaten their work. Plover restoration, for example, is a cogent example where numbers of predators like foxes and raccoons need to be carefully controlled at complemental levels. Even in predator research, high populations of furbearers like foxes and bobcats can become problems. Public health officials also look to biologists and traps when dealing with public health issues like rabies.
Increasingly, pet owners have become involved in this debate as well. There are towns and cities in the United States today where small dogs and cats can’t be left unattended outdoors lest they fall prey to hungry coyotes.
It is disheartening that we have been ineffective in making the wider public aware not only of our challenges, but also of the great opportunities for public benefit that wise and careful furbearer management provides. It is particularly disheartening when merchandising and fashion executives, unaware of the opportunities these resource programs offer, ditch wild fur in favor of petroleum-based synthetics (aka: plastics).
Claiming recognition for environmental vision by rejecting wild fur would be comic if it weren’t so tragic and illogical.
It’s even tougher to watch that lack of awareness exploited by animal rights activists. The exploitation of corporate ignorance is maddening and enormously disappointing to professional biologists. The history of wildlife management is littered with the unintended consequences of emotionally driven management initiatives.
One must wonder, is single species’ advocacy one of ignorance or arrogance? Is it possible to be so fanatical in pursuit of one species, one suite of species, or a critical device (traps), that advocates are blinded to the ecological niche that these animals have in the complex ecosystem?
Claiming recognition for environmental vision by banning
wild fur would be comic if it weren’t so tragic and illogical.
In Search of a Common Language
The United States and Canadian governments, in recognition of the importance of this issue, have appropriated millions of dollars to establish humane standards for these critical programs. Numerous states and the Canadian provinces and territories have invested similarly. The evolving improvement to international humane standards in foothold traps is evidence of the success of this effort. This joint Federal/State research effort, enhanced with the on-going information sharing between the US and Canada, is often cited as one of the largest wildlife research efforts ever undertaken in North America.
Perhaps someday all of us who love animals (all of us in these debates certainly do) may find a common language in this discourse and reach a level of rapprochement that will allow for mutual respect – not only for one another, but also for our wildlife resources.
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Many trappers and others in the trade were caught by surprise when luxury outerwear maker Canada Goose announced on April… Read More
Many trappers and others in the trade were caught by surprise when luxury outerwear maker Canada Goose announced on April 22 – Earth Day – that the hood ruffs on its iconic parkas would be made with “reclaimed fur”, beginning in 2022. Some were concerned that the company was giving in to activist pressure and that the sourcing shift was the first step towards dropping fur completely - which the company has denied. To find out what was really behind this decision by Canada Goose, we sat down (virtually!) with Gavin Thompson, Vice-President for Corporate Citizenship.
TruthAboutFur: Thank you for taking the time to answer some of the questions people in the fur trade are asking about your recent announcement. To begin, could you tell us what Canada Goose means by “reclaimed fur”?
Gavin Thompson: “Reclaimed fur” is what people in the trade have long called recycled or vintage fur. A number of creative young designers have sourced fur this way and, of course, furriers often remodel coats for their customers. The concept is the same: reusing fur that’s already in the system. Over the many years we have worked with the industry we have come to understand that there are considerable quantities of unused fur in the supply chain. We think we have an opportunity now to use that fur. This is very much in line with current efforts to reduce waste in all areas of the apparel industry.
TaF: Why has Canada Goose decided to announce this shift now?
Thompson: On April 22, which as you know is Earth Day, we presented our new corporate Sustainable Impact Strategy. Among our objectives, Canada Goose has committed to working to become carbon-neutral by 2025. As we developed this strategy we examined every aspect of our production and distribution chain. In the case of fur, we know that wild fur is produced sustainably and we are proud of our involvement with the North American fur industry. Fur has always been very much part of our product and corporate identity, and that won’t change. Now, with reclaimed fur we believe we can make our use of this sustainably-produced, natural material even more sustainable.
TaF: Where will you source this reclaimed fur?
Thompson: We believe there are a number of potential sources, and we hope to work closely with the fur industry as we roll this out. First, we are planning a consumer buy-back program. Some people live in warmer climates and may not need a fur ruff for protection from the elements; we will offer to buy these back. A second source is our warranty program. When there’s a problem with a Canada Goose coat, we repair or replace it; if the fur on coats we’ve taken back is in good condition, we will reuse it. The third and potentially most important source – and this is where we hope to work closely with the industry – is to identify unused furs in other parts of the supply chain, for example in the workshops or storage vaults of North American fur manufacturers and retailers. We will be exploring all these sources.
TaF: Do you think you may look beyond coyote to other longhair furs, like beaver or raccoon?
Thompson: I think it’s too early to say yet whether we might use other fur types; we’ll be exploring all options. But what’s certain is that any fur we use must have the quality, performance, look, and feel that consumers expect from Canada Goose. Performance has been the guiding principle for our outerwear products from the beginning.
If we were responding to activist groups, we would stop using fur completely. Down too, for that matter. We’re not doing that.
TaF: We know that Canada Goose has been subjected to intense pressure campaigns by animal activists. Some people wonder whether activist pressure is what’s really driving this shift to reclaimed fur. Is it?
Thompson: Absolutely not. If we were responding to activist groups, we would stop using fur completely. Down too, for that matter. We’re not doing that. Our commitment to using high quality, natural materials is what Canada Goose is all about. The motivation here is to further enhance sustainability. The fact that fur is long-lasting and can be restyled is an important aspect of its sustainability.
TaF: So Canada Goose is not abandoning the fur trade?
Thompson: Absolutely not! If anything, we hope to work more closely with more sectors of the fur industry. We will need to work with the industry as we develop new supply chains for reclaimed fur. Our commitment to using fur is unwavering.
TaF: Has Canada Goose ever been tempted to use synthetics for hood ruffs?
Thompson: Again, function is our first criterion when selecting which materials we use, and we have found fur to be superior to any synthetic materials for parka ruffs in our collections.
TaF: You often mention function and performance. These concepts have deep roots in the company’s history, don’t they?
Thompson: For sure. The company was created by Sam Tick, who arrived in Canada in the 1950s. He launched Metro Sportswear Ltd., in Toronto, in 1957, specializing in protection from the elements: woolen vests, raincoats and snowmobile suits.
David Reiss, Sam’s son-in-law, joined the company in the 1970s and launched a new era with the invention of a volume-based down filling machine. It was David who established the Snow Goose label, which later became Canada Goose. His "Expedition Parka" was developed for scientists at Antarctica’s McMurdo Station and became standard issue.
In 1982, Laurie Skreslet became the first Canadian to summit Mt. Everest, wearing a custom parka designed and manufactured by Metro Sportswear.
In 1997, Dani Reiss, David’s son and Sam’s grandson, joined the company. It was Dani, who became President and CEO in 2001, who guided Canada Goose to become the global phenomenon we see today, while resisting pressures to manufacture off-shore and renewing his family’s pledge to remain “Made in Canada.” We are now one of the country’s largest apparel makers with eight manufacturing facilities across Canada: three in Winnipeg, three in the Greater Toronto Area, and two in Quebec - Montreal and Boisbriand.
Giving Back to the North
TaF: And the company has maintained strong relations with the North, hasn’t it?
Thompson: Our company was inspired by the North and its people, and we try to give something back. In 2009, for example, we established the Canada Goose Resource Centres in the Canadian Arctic. These centres provide free fabrics, buttons, zippers and other materials for Inuit sewers who hand-make jackets and clothing for their families and communities. We also launched Project Atigi in 2019 to showcase Inuit designers internationally. In fact, our new reclaimed fur program was inspired by seeing how Inuit designers reuse fur.
TaF: So how do you see the future for fur?
Thompson: We think there’s a long and bright future for fur, because it is such a good example of the sustainability values that more and more people are seeking to support with their lifestyle and purchasing choices.
TaF: Do you have any advice about what the fur trade could be doing better?
Thompson: The fur trade has so many talented people with wonderful stories, I think we should talk more about them. We should also promote the practicality and incomparable performance values of natural materials like fur. And we should explain the sustainability of fur, because – once we cut through the noise that animal activists have created – that’s what many people are now really looking for.
TaF: Any final thoughts?
Thompson: The North American fur trade has a wonderful story to tell, and we look forward to working with the industry as we embark on this new chapter!
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Cree trapper Robert Grandjambe Jr. shares his views about Covid-19. If you are in the fur trade and want to… Read More
Cree trapper Robert Grandjambe Jr. shares his views about Covid-19. If you are in the fur trade and want to tell us how the pandemic is affecting you, please email us at [email protected].
Like everyone, I first learned of the new coronavirus through the news. And like everyone, I didn’t think it was too serious at the time. It seemed like it would be pretty easily contained and was just passing news. When a few of our contracts were cancelled due to the virus, now being called Covid-19, my girlfriend and I made a decision to return to the bush. At that point, the growing concern still didn’t seem to me to be something to worry too much about, but rather was another opportunity to spend time on the Land.
Since we have been out here, events continued to be cancelled, and the gravity of the situation has begun to set in. There is limited cell service at my cabin, and so while we are getting the odd update, we are not connected to the common news reel. I am now realizing that most of the entire world has watched and listened as the situation unfolded into a global pandemic, and the threat to civilization it has become.
The Covid-19 outbreak seems like a symptom of a world that is not in harmony with the Land. ... Climate change, pollution, and other environmental signs shout out that our systems are in trouble.
I think the world is awakening to the crisis now, but in many ways it has been with us for a long while. The Covid-19 outbreak seems like a symptom of a world that is not in harmony with the Land, and it is a tragedy to hear of all the lives lost. Climate change, pollution, and other environmental signs shout out that our systems are in trouble.
Clearly, we need a reset of our priorities, and there are some signs we may be ready for the wake-up. Just a month ago, big business was looking at the Teck Frontier mine as the big new opportunity. The last-minute cancellation rang the bell for the reorganization of the collective priorities of society. Now, we are hearing of the price of oil plummeting, and feeling the effects of the fragility of an economy that is not diversified, sustainable, or renewable. Governments, big business, and industry are not in reciprocal relationships with people or with the Land.
Despite all of this, as a man living
with the Land, I maintain a sense of prosperity. I am confident that regardless
of what happens with Covid-19, because of my skills and knowledge, I will
always survive and thrive. I remain optimistic that the worst of the disease
will be contained, and the pandemic can be the awakening that humanity needs -
hopefully without being too damaging for our families and communities.
Fact is, I am one of the ones left who is able to maintain my ancestral relationship with this Land, that is now called Wood Buffalo National Park. As Indigenous peoples, this was our home. This was where our ancestors walked, harvested, ate, shared, struggled, loved, and died. We were here long before it was ever a park. Our ancestors lived out here in large numbers, and their absence now is not their fault, nor is it the fault of any other Nation with traditional ties to this area. We have had to deal with a long and deliberate system of oppression. It is this same system of severing ties with the Land that has our world in so much crisis today.
Personally, I feel the importance of living in harmony with the Land every day we are here. I always have felt this way. It is incredibly important to maintain a relationship with the Land. There is no place I would rather be. It feels extra comforting to be here during a crisis like this. We are taken care of by the bounty of the Land - hunting, trapping, fresh water, and air. I feel enormous comfort in knowing that the Land and our ancestors will care for our health - physically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
Better Model of Governance?
It has not been easy. I have to work hard and consciously to maintain the connection for myself. For example, I have fought for five years to have a harvesting cabin at nearby Pine Lake, only 100 kilometers from the cabin where I am now. Today, I am still fighting rules and regulations that fail to respect the inherent rights of Indigenous systems that are deeply connected with Lands, and with the sacredness of our old relationships. This oppression comes directly from a Western system that has caused division – between Peoples and Nations, and also between each of us and our Lands. In this time of crisis, maybe we will begin to see the consequences of these Western systems of governance and control, and we can move forward to a better model. One that is healthier for us all – both here in the park, and indeed, across all the Lands in Canada.
The Land always has the final say, and we are being reminded of that.
Indigenous peoples have to come together, to be strong, and to share these strengths for our existence moving forward. We need to be creative and find ways to share our knowledge. Indigenous peoples know the value of the Land and have always shared it willingly. We are resilient, and continue to be through colonization and all the imposed concepts of ownership that attempt to destroy our connection with our Lands. This is where I feel my strength - through resilience - and I will continue to develop ways to share, despite what happens in the world around me.
Today, we are at Moose Island in the boreal forest, and we are content. We are also sending love and healing to everyone going through this uncertain time in their own ways. I want to encourage you, if you can, to take the opportunity to get on the Land, wherever you are. It is important to take care of our own hearts and spirits at this time - and I truly believe our connections with Nature are a big part of the solution moving forward. The Land always has the final say, and we are being reminded of that.
North America is the world leader in science-based research to develop the most humane trapping systems possible. To understand more… Read More
North America is the world leader in science-based research to develop the most humane trapping systems possible. To understand more about this important work we interviewed Pierre Canac-Marquis, a retired Government of Quebec wildlife biologist who serves as Coordinator for the Canadian Trap Research Program, under the auspices of the Fur Institute of Canada.
TruthAboutFur: Hello Pierre. Can you tell our readers about the Canadian Trap Research Program?
Pierre Canac-Marquis: The Canadian Trap Research Program is the only program of its kind in the world. The science-based standards we have developed are the world reference for evaluating trapping systems from an animal-welfare perspective. The most important part of our mandate now is to test and certify traps for compliance with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards.
TaF: Who runs this program?
Canac-Marquis: The trap research program is funded and directed by Environment Canada and the provincial and territorial wildlife services. The Fur Institute of Canada has been mandated by government to run the program.
TaF: How did the program begin? I think there’s quite a history here.
Canac-Marquis: This work actually began more than 40 years ago with the Federal-Provincial Committee on Humane Trapping, that ran from 1974 to 1981. The project was driven by animal-welfare advocates, including the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and visionaries like Neal Jotham. The report of the committee, in 1981, led to the creation of the Fur Institute of Canada, with a mandate from government to develop scientific criteria for testing and certifying animal traps from an animal-welfare perspective.
TaF: And while many of our readers are interested in the fur trade, I understand that this research goes far beyond trapping for fur.
Canac-Marquis: Absolutely, because trapping is used around the world for all sorts of purposes. Biologists live-trap and radio-collar furbearers for research, or for reintroduction into areas where they were formerly extirpated. And furbearer populations must often be managed to protect natural habitat, property, endangered species, or public health and safety. As examples, beaver populations must be controlled to prevent the flooding of roads, fields and homes. Over-populated raccoons or foxes spread rabies and other diseases. Coyotes are the main predators of young and calves of endangered caribou populations. Our work is to develop or certify trapping systems to assure that capture of these animals is done as humanely as possible, whatever the reason.
TaF: How does your work relate to the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS)?
Canac-Marquis: Firstly, the work of the Canadian trap-research program provided the science-based methodologies that underpin the AIHTS. Secondly, since 1996, much of our work has been to test and certify traps for compliance with the AIHTS. In all, since 1985, more than 450 quick-killing traps have been evaluated, with 189 being certified. As well, some 180 restraining (live-holding) traps have been tested, with 65 being certified. As these stats show, the research and testing program has permitted us to reject many trap designs that might have looked good on paper or in prototype, but did not sufficiently protect animal welfare. No one had ever done this before.
TaF: How is this research and testing conducted?
Canac-Marquis: Most of our trap-testing technology has been developed at the laboratories of Innotech Alberta, a provincial government research agency in Vegreville. One of the most exciting achievements has been the development of computer technology to minimise the need for animals in our testing. Computer simulation models now allow us to evaluate and either reject or certify effective quick-killing traps. Similarly, we can now evaluate mechanical properties to know whether restraining traps have the capacity to hold animals without injuries. It is also important that all our work is done with the close involvement of veterinarians and veterinary pathologists.
TaF: And how has this research been translated into practice in the field?
Canac-Marquis: Thanks to this research we’ve seen important changes in trapping systems that have dramatically improved animal welfare. The program has provided a strong incentive for innovation in trap technology, trapping regulations, and trapper training. We are proud to be able to say that all traps used in Canada have now been, or will shortly be, tested and certified as conforming with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. AIHTS standards are also cited by the Canadian Animal Care Council guidelines for researchers capturing wild vertebrates.
TaF: What do you see as the most important achievement of the Canadian Trap Research Program?
Canac-Marquis: I think that our most important achievement is that, after so many years of talking and debating about humane trapping, we have established objective, science-based criteria to ensure that animal welfare is respected to the fullest extent of our technological ability - whatever the reason trapping is practiced. The Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards is the first - and still the only - convention to establish international animal-welfare standards for animals captured by means of trapping systems. We can be very proud of that.
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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.
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