It’s been five long years since a team from the Fur Institute of Canada last descended on Parliament Hill, thanks… Read More
It's been five long years since a team from the Fur Institute of Canada last descended on Parliament Hill, thanks in part to travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic. So, the revival of Fur Day on the Hill this April 18 is a cause for celebration! It's also to be hoped that Fur Day becomes an annual event that Members of Parliament, Senators and other senior government officials can mark in their diaries with confidence.
Our delegation this year was impressive, not just in numbers but also in the breadth and depth of knowledge we represented. Leading our group was current FIC Chairman Jason White, supported by Board members Mike O’Brien, Emmanuel Dalpé-Charron, Corey Grover, Nathan Kogiak, Francois Rossouw, Scott Sears, Robin Horwath, Rob Bollert and Brian Dicks.
The FIC has always had a strong and important relationship with government, going back to our establishment by Wildlife Ministers in 1983. For the last forty years, we have engaged closely with federal, provincial and territorial governments, particularly in fulfilling our mandate to test and certify trap compliance with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards.
But good relationships must be nurtured, and after a five-year absence from Parliament Hill, our reappearance was long overdue. Of course, we wanted to connect with old friends we hadn't seen in a while, but more importantly, we needed to meet a new cadre of MPs and Senators, and identify new champions for Canada’s sustainable, humane fur trade.
Many of these Parliamentarians, and especially those from rural and remote areas, represent communities where trapping plays a vital role in the local economy. So it was important for us to touch base with representatives from across the country, from the West, East and Arctic coasts and many points in between. It was also refreshing to be reminded that Canada’s fur trade is not a partisan issue, with strong support to be found in all the major political parties.
There is always room for improvement in the way federal government regulates businesses, and this was the thrust of our unified message on Fur Day.
Under the current arrangement, a long list of departments and agencies are involved in regulating different aspects of the fur trade. These include Environment and Climate Change Canada, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Global Affairs Canada, Industry Science and Economic Development Canada, Fisheries & Oceans Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Export Development Canada, and the seven federal Regional Development Agencies.
All these departments and agencies play their own role in determining what form the fur trade takes, and the result is often misalignment and confusion. For example, if a fur business wants to know what federal support exists for them, and how to access it, they can get lost in a bureaucratic maze.
Given that the fur sector was, until quite recently, worth more than $1 billion to the Canadian economy, it is unsurprising that we enjoy strong support among politicians at all levels of government. But what is surprising is that there is no one department within the federal government dedicated to providing a home base for the entire fur trade, and acting as our Champion.
Such a department would advocate for the fur trade at internal government talks, and just as importantly, point folks in the trade towards the right decision-makers and appropriate pots of funding to support new initiatives for fur.
After a long day with many meetings, we held a reception for Parliamentarians and friends of fur from Ottawa and the surrounding area. But this wasn't just a chance to wind down and relax.
Rather, it was an important opportunity to let Parliamentarians meet others from the fur trade, while also giving them a chance to appreciate the unique feel and beauty of natural fur.
To this end, our reception featured a display of fur garments, home décor, and pelts. Most of the garments and décor were provided courtesy of Rob Cahill of Cahill's Furs in Peterborough, from his Further Upcycled line. And FIC Board member Robin Horwath, who was also formerly General Manager of the Ontario Fur Managers Federation, showed dressed pelts of the various furbearers harvested across his province.
Fur Day on the Hill has just taken place for the first time in five years, and that's far too long. It was always intended to be an essential part of the FIC's lobbying efforts on Parliament Hill, on behalf of the entire fur sector.
For this reason, it is my hope that Fur Day becomes an annual event, as we strive to bring the full power of the federal government behind the fur sector, where it belongs.
The proposed fur ban in Rhode Island has been defeated. The bill, HB7361/SB246, which, if passed, would have banned the… Read More
The proposed fur ban in Rhode Island has been defeated. The bill, HB7361/SB246, which, if passed, would have banned the retail sale of fur, was defeated last week when the Rhode Island legislature convened.
Even in light of the industry being outspent by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Society and other groups, as well as a digital campaign and the overwhelming support the bill received in the house, it was not enough to get the bill passed.
Dino Quaglietta of Northeast Furs, a local retailer in Warwick, has been engaged in fighting the ban since it was first proposed. Upon learning of the ban’s defeat, Quaglietta said, “It’s great that we won, for sure! It was a hard-fought battle. Good news for Rhode Island, but outside of the industry, who knows about this?
“The industry needs to band together and get on the offensive. We need a spokesperson to get the word out to the public, not just talk to ourselves. We must convey all the positives of fur and show the public that animal welfare includes all animals and point to the hypocrisy of this movement; that putting on a fur coat is no different than putting on a pair of shoes.
“The industry has had so much negative press, we must do damage control to get to the minds of our customers. This is a quintessential freedom of choice issue. This bill will come up again next year when we’ll have to fight it again. At least we got through this year.”
The International Fur Federation-Americas, who spearheaded the fight, will continue to be engaged in Rhode Island with the unwavering support of Quaglietta and Northeast Furs.
Similar bills have been defeated in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York – in both the House and the Senate.
Fur is under attack like never before. Hardly a week goes by without news of some brand dropping fur, or… Read More
Fur is under attack like never before. Hardly a week goes by without news of some brand dropping fur, or a jurisdiction proposing to ban its production or sale. This tsunami of negativity fuels a self-reinforcing cycle: As major retailers (Saks, Neimans, Holt Renfrew) stop selling fur, successful brands (Canada Goose, Moose Knuckles, Mackage) have less incentive to stand up to relentless activist pressure – and, with less business at stake, it becomes harder for politicians to resist activist pressure for production or sales bans. Worse, the barrage of negative news can create the false but potentially self-fulfilling impression that “society” has decided it is no longer ethically acceptable to wear fur.
This cycle of negativity cannot be broken with the fur trade always on the defensive. Our rational and reasonable responses to fur ban proposals or fur-free brands – if we get a chance to respond at all – are buried deep in media reports where few people see them.
Two proactive fur trade initiatives are the International Fur Federation’s sustainability and FurMark campaigns. Both programs include important communications and consumer-reassurance tools. But, alone, they are not enough to push back the tsunami now engulfing our industry.
What is desperately needed is a bold strategy to move the North American fur industry off the back foot and into attack mode. We must aggressively reclaim control of our own story, to support designers, retailers, and politicians – and to give consumers the “social license” to buy and wear fur.
A Strategic Approach
For much of the 20th century, movie stars and other celebrities provided an extraordinary media profile for the romance and glamour of fur. But while Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Rihanna and other celebs continue this tradition, many others now choose to avoid the controversy that activists have created around fur. We can’t expect celebs, or brands, or anyone but ourselves to fight our battles.
A major challenge for the fur industry, of course, is that we lack the human and financial resources required to mount the large-scale advertising and PR campaigns that bigger industries use to manage such problems. Instead, we should take a leaf from the activist handbook: We must start using the news media to carry our messages, by providing “stories” that journalists cannot resist.
PETA president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk once said: “We’re media sluts. We didn’t invent the game, we just learned to play it.” PETA understands that the media are content-devourers. Journalists need stories, lots of stories, the more sensational the better, and activists learned to provide them.
It’s time for the fur trade to generate more newsworthy stories of our own. And because the fate of the fur industry does not interest most people, the trick is to show how anti-fur campaigns actually threaten the interests and welfare of Joe (and Josie) Public.
The good news is that a strong “Fur Fights Back” campaign can become a media story in itself. This approach was road-tested when we launched Furisgreen.com, a decade ago. We “seeded” the campaign with some billboards in major cities and a few paid ads in national papers, and the phone began ringing. Our claim that “fur is green” was so unexpected, that it was “news”. (Note: “Fur is Green” is now a registered trademark in Canada and the US, belonging to the Fur Council of Canada.)
The thing to understand is that it’s not the media’s job to broadcast our messages, no matter how intelligent or worthwhile they may be. Their job is reporting “news”. If we package our messages into a “campaign” that provides a new perspective on a controversial and timely issue, the media will report on it – especially if we include an emotional element. And remember: despite how discouraging media coverage of our issues can be, most journalists are not animal activists. Activists have just done a better job playing the media game.
So what kind of fur stories might be exciting enough to be considered “newsworthy” by journalists? Here are a few ideas to start the ball rolling:
1. Anti-fur campaigns undermine wildlife management programs that protect property, livestock, and human health. Wildlife biologists and trappers should warn the public that over-populated raccoons (and other species) can spread rabies and other dangerous diseases. Increasingly abundant coyotes prey on livestock, pets – and now sometimes even attack humans. Over-populated beavers can flood homes, roads, and natural habitat. Raccoons, foxes, and other predators kill ground-nesting birds, sea turtle eggs and young, and other endangered species. The truth is that wildlife populations will still have to be managed, even if we don’t use their fur. (Does a child have to die from a rabid raccoon bite before the important role of trappers is recognized?) If activists succeed in destroying consumer markets, then tax-payers will end up footing the bill for managing wildlife. Without the market incentive provided by companies like Canada Goose, for example, governments will have to reinstate bounties to manage coyote populations – as they did not so many years ago. So coyotes will still be killed, but they will be left to rot in the woods and the fur will be wasted. Is this really a more ethical treatment of wildlife?
2. Campaigns against mink farming are an attack on rural communities, the people who feed and clothe us. Mink farmers should encourage mainstream agriculture – including vets and scientists – to denounce the current attack on mink farming as the thin edge of an orchestrated activist campaign to undermine family farms and animal agriculture. The same activist groups that have long targeted the fur trade are now openly campaigning against eating meat and wearing leather and wool. While calling for full veganism, they also push for “reforms” that raise costs for farmers, to make animal agriculture less viable – but it is consumers who will pay the higher prices for meat, eggs, dairy, and other animal products. Mink farming is a small sector but plays a key role in the agricultural cycle: recycling wastes from other sectors (the parts of pigs, chickens, and fish that we don’t eat), while composted mink farm wastes provide valuable organic fertilizers to restore the fertility of the soil, completing the agricultural nutrient cycle.
3. Anti-fur activists use Mafia “protection racket” tactics of harassment and intimidation to force brands and retailers to drop fur: “Do as we say or we will destroy your business!” This should be a concern to anyone who believes in democracy. Canada Goose and other brands are not dropping fur because consumers don’t want to buy and wear these products; our cities are full of young people wearing fur-trimmed parkas each winter. These companies stop using fur because store security and brand reputation costs become too high. Is this the kind of society we want, where aggressive minorities impose their beliefs with intimidation? Surely we all have a right to make our own decisions about the appropriate use of animals. This is not a “fur issue”; it is an issue that should concern all citizens, journalists, and politicians, whatever their feelings about fur!
4. Anti-fur campaigns threaten our health and undermine efforts to develop “greener” economies. The apparel industry is the second-biggest contributor to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. As the fashion industry confronts the tremendous waste caused by throwaway “fast fashion”, environmentalists say we should be buying less but better-quality clothing, and keeping it longer. Seen in this perspective, using fur makes more sense today than ever! Fur is, in fact, an excellent example of the responsible and sustainable use of renewable, natural resources, as promoted by the World Conservation Strategy. Where are activist campaigns leading us? Sixty percent of our clothing is already made from non-renewable, non-biodegradable petrochemicals; we now know these clothes shed vast quantities of micro-particles of plastic into our air and waterways – plastics that are now being found in marine life, and even in foetuses and breast milk. Cruelty-free indeed!
5. Anti-fur campaigns are insulting and unfair to people who live closest to nature: thousands of farm families, First Nations and other trappers, skilled fur artisans maintaining unique heritage craft skills, and many others. Activist campaigns are not a victimless crime! They attack the livelihoods, cultures, and reputations of real people – people who work hard and do not have the time (or inclination) to perform media stunts for publicity! These are decent people with families – not the monsters they would have to be if the things activists say about the fur trade were true. The sensationalist lies that activists shamelessly spread about the people of the fur trade would not be tolerated if any other race, religion, or lifestyle were so viciously targeted. Simply put: animal extremists have degenerated into politically-correct hate groups, with the people of the fur trade as their number one scapegoat. But intolerance and bullying are never cool; it’s time that anti-fur activists were called to account for their hate-mongering.
Reclaiming Our Story
Each of these “stories”, and others, should be delivered by the most credible and well-trained spokespeople we can find in the industry: First Nations and other trappers, farm families, skilled craftspeople. Women should be well represented, and young people who know how to get our stories out on Instagram and TikTok!
We should also remember that emotion trumps logic in the media. Activists have exploited this well, but fur people have emotions too. Activist campaigns are unfair and insulting to real people. They put people’s livelihoods and cultures at risk. And when they prevent trappers from responsibly managing wildlife, they put public health and safety at risk as well!
Not least important, anti-fur campaigning works against current efforts to improve sustainability in the apparel industry. And activist bullying tactics threaten democracy and our right to make our own ethical choices. These are not just fur issues, these are issues that should concern everyone who believes in a free and open society.
As this brief summary shows, the current attack on the fur industry is an attack on a range of important societal values and interests. But no one else will tell these stories if we don’t. It’s time for a coordinated fur industry communications strategy.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
Animal rightists have been badgering the UK government to ban the fur retail trade for years, and with their country… Read More
Animal rightists have been badgering the UK government to ban the fur retail trade for years, and with their country now out of the EU and no longer bound by its laws, the government is seriously considering giving them what they want. Such a precedent would give a major boost to animal rights activists lobbying for similar restrictions in other European countries, and even the US and Canada. So while the UK may not be a major consumer market, it is imperative that anyone who supports the responsible use of animals should now take action to ensure that a UK fur-sales ban doesn't happen.
Of course, it's easy to feel jaded when it comes to the UK, and even write it off as a lost cause. After all, despite a long and noble history of championing responsible animal welfare, this tiny island is now a breeding ground for virulent animal rightists, right up there with California. Plus, few British people wear fur anyway, so does it really matter?
The answer is yes, it matters. Courtesy of its language, its history, the Beatles, and a host of other factors, the UK's influence on global trends is unquestionably profound. If the British decide to ban fur retail sales, animal rights campaigners will surely hold it up as a model for other countries – and their legions of Anglophiles – to follow.
The danger is especially evident when we consider who now has the ear of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. On May 29, he married Carrie Symonds. Who is Ms. Symonds? Well, for one thing she believes that "Anyone that wants to buy fur really is sick." She was also PETA UK's 2020 Person of the Year. And she's sleeping with the PM...
Now for the "good" news. Rather than just diving in head first with a ban, the government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is testing the water thoroughly first. This it is doing by inviting everyone – including foreigners – to partake in a "call for evidence", with a deadline of June 28. The process is easy too: just click on DEFRA's online questionnaire and let your voice be heard. And as an added bonus, it will send you a link to download a PDF of your responses once you're done.
(Note: Don't be confused by the questionnaire's reference to Great Britain, rather than the UK. GB refers to England, Scotland and Wales, as the other UK member, Northern Ireland, remains in the EU Customs Union and will be unaffected by a ban.)
The questionnaire is also refreshingly different from previous polls on the fur trade. Rather than asking how we feel about fur, with multiple choices ranging from "Strongly approve" to "Strongly disapprove", almost all the 39 questions are looking for solid information. And there's something for everyone, so ignore the ones that don't apply, and let rip on the others.
Something for Everyone
Question 11, for example, is for ranting, if you so choose. "What is your attitude towards the import and/or sale and/or export of fur or fur products in GB?" it asks. TAF, however, opted for restraint, given our status as a voice for the trade. "It's a legal, regulated activity that should be allowed to continue," we wrote. "The government should always be vigilant about sources of fur to ensure only fur that is harvested humanely exists in the marketplace. However, it would be overreach on the part of government to ban all trade in fur, as this would be forcing the views of one sector of society on everyone. The UK is supposed to be a democracy in which everyone's views are respected. Banning fur would be a move in the wrong direction."
Then there are a few "fun" questions to test your knowledge, like Question 12. "Other than for clothing and apparel, what uses of fur should we be aware of?" TAF came up with the obvious furnishings like pillows, rugs, etc., and the always-overlooked use of fur in fishing flies. Are there others DEFRA should know about? Are the markets for mink eyelashes and calligraphy brushes too small to mention?
Of course you might also find a couple of questions rather stupid, like Question 27: "What do you consider to be the total value (in £ sterling) of imports to and exports from GB in relation to (i) raw furskins; (ii) tanned or dressed furskins; (iii) articles of apparel and clothing; (iv) artificial fur?" We suggest a politely worded response like, "Look them up yourself. The UK government – which you represent – publishes these stats. It is irrelevant what anyone 'considers' them to be."
Perfect for North Americans
And then there are some great questions, including Question 38, which is just perfect for North Americans. Asks DEFRA, "We are interested in finding out more about other countries’ existing or planned restrictions on fur. Please provide any information and/or evidence that you are aware of."
Of course, TAF went to town describing the divisive, arbitrary, and counter-productive nature of fur retail bans in the US, especially in California. If you don't already know our myriad objections, here is just a sampling:
So whether you think it will make a difference or not, please do take the time to fill out this questionnaire. Because, as sure as the sun rises each day, animal rights groups will be giving it their full attention.
And as your parting shot, here's an idea for your answer to the final question, number 39. DEFRA asks: "Please provide any other relevant evidence you would like to include to inform decisions on the GB fur trade." TAF took the high road, and referred the UK government to our website. But we were sorely tempted to write, "We are concerned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson may be swayed by the fact his wife is rabidly anti-fur. Can DEFRA assure us that Mrs. Johnson will not unduly influence government policy going forward?"
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
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.
It’s the Holiday Season, a time of good cheer, so let’s pretend for a moment that Covid-19 hasn’t made the… Read More
It’s the Holiday Season, a time of good cheer, so let’s
pretend for a moment that Covid-19 hasn’t made the last year thoroughly miserable
for everyone, including the fur trade. After all, every cloud has a silver
lining, right? What follows may seem like a stretch, but not everything about
2020 was bad.
Silver Lining 1: Closed Season on Retail Bans
Let’s start with something that didn’t happen in 2020: if there were any new campaigns launched to ban fur retail in the US, Truth About Fur didn’t hear about them. This bore out a prediction we made last March that, with the pandemic building, no one would have time to argue about animal rights.
Before the pandemic, animal rights groups were on a roll in California. They started small, in trendy West Hollywood, where a retail ban went into effect in 2013. Then Berkeley fell in 2017, San Francisco’s ban began last January, and a Los Angeles ban starts in 2021. In 2023, California’s statewide ban is scheduled to begin. (The sad irony, of course, is that the politicians who supported these bans pride themselves as being "progressives" -- in which case, as Truth About Fur's Alan Herscovici explained, they should be promoting fur, not trying to ban it!)
The fur trade mounted challenges to all these campaigns -- and legal challenges forced San Francisco to acknowledge that furs can still be purchased by mail order in that city -- but putting out fires left and right is expensive and time-consuming. Then Covid-19 came and stole the show, ably supported by such explosive events as the Black Lives Matter riots and the US election. Any interest in talking up fur sales bans evaporated, and they remain irrelevant to this day.
It won’t last, of course. Once Covid is under control and there’s a slow news day (remember those?), animal rights extremists and attention-hungry politicians will be teaming up again. But until then, the fur trade can take a breather and regroup. It’s not much of a silver lining, but a breather was definitely needed!
Silver Lining 2: Denmark’s Loss May Be Your Gain
It’s never nice to benefit from another’s misfortune, but it happens in business all the time. Now the world’s largest exporter of mink has been struck down, and other producers -- especially in North America -- stand to gain.
In November, the Danish government ordered the culling of the country’s entire mink herd – believed to be about 14 million animals according to insiders, not 17 million as widely reported – after a mutation of the coronavirus was found that, some feared, might reduce the efficacy of a human vaccine. The government has admitted it had no legal authority to order the cull, and the threat posed by the mutation has been questioned (not least because it hasn’t been seen since September). But the cull went ahead anyway, and the Danish government has forbidden further breeding in that country until 2022.
It’s still unclear whether Denmark’s mink industry is really finished, but Kopenhagen Fur, the world’s largest auction house whose main supplier is the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association, seems to think so. “It is a de facto permanent closure and liquidation of the fur industry,” said chairman Tage Pedersen, who predicted 6,000 lost jobs -- including more than 1,100 farm families. The auction house has said it will clear reserve stocks while implementing "a controlled shutdown over a period of 2-3 years."
So what’s the silver lining here? Well, if the Danish industry is truly over, as Pedersen suggests, the next few years should see a significant drop in supply and, consequently, rising prices. In particular, North America's mink farmers should benefit since their fur pelts are widely considered to be the world’s finest, though its chief rival, Denmark, produced far more. Other fur types, like fox, may see a rebound too as garment makers look for alternatives.
In fact, Saga Furs, in Finland, may have shown a glimpse of the future on Dec. 15 when it concluded its first international auction – online, of course -- since the Danish cull. Summarizing the results for Truth About Fur, a representative said that almost all (90%) of the one million mink on offer were sold “at overall prices up by 50% since last auction, with North American mink sold at a premium. China, with support from Italy and Turkey, were the main buyers, with multiple bids per lot. Blue foxes were also up, by 17%, and shadow foxes up 10%.”
The mink-farming sector now has an unexpected opportunity to reset its output. Until 2013, when prices were peaking, many observers feared rapidly escalating over-production. Both prices and production have fallen since then, but with Denmark out of the picture, we could see a leaner, meaner, and more profitable industry with world production more closely aligned with actual demand. Of course, farmers in other countries might just ramp up production to fill the shortfall. But with prices still barely covering production costs (if that), and the current uncertainty in retail markets, it is unlikely that mink production will return to recently-seen levels any time soon.
Personally, I find it hard to believe Denmark’s mink industry will roll over and die so easily. But its production will, at the very least, take a major hit in the short- to mid-term. And therein, sad as it may be, lies a silver lining for most everyone else.
Silver Lining 3: The Rush to Replace NAFA Is On
Last but not least in our doggedly joyous roundup of 2020, there’s the North American auction scene. After the biggest player bowed out, a period of great uncertainty ensued as others jockeyed to take up the slack. They haven’t quite sorted themselves out yet, but the good news is that a number of strong options have already emerged.
Until late last year, North American Fur Auctions was, by far, the continent’s largest fur auction house. Based in Toronto with facilities in Wisconsin and elsewhere, NAFA was North America's leading marketer of both farmed and wild fur. This dominance was assured in 2018 with the collapse of its Seattle-based competitor, American Legend Cooperative.
And then it all came unglued. On Oct. 31, 2019, NAFA was granted creditor protection, leaving many fur farmers wondering how to sell their furs – or, for that matter, what would happen to furs already consigned to -- or sold by -- the auction house.
The auction scene is still in flux, with news that New York-based American Mink Exchange will be selling in collaboration with Fur Harvesters Auction in North Bay, while Saga Furs is also poised to play a stronger role in North America. Meanwhile, Fur Harvesters Auction -- a cooperative venture of First Nations and other trappers -- is gearing up to greatly expand its wild fur offerings, while Illinois-based Groenewold Fur & Wool Co. has stepped up its presence in Canada. Other projects are also rumoured to be in the works.
In the meantime, the silver lining of NAFA’s demise is that there seems to be no shortage of parties ready to take its place. Imagine if no one had wanted the job! But if there are two words that describe the people of the fur trade, they are "tenacity" and "adaptability". Let's see how they play out in 2021!
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
The Israeli Government recently announced that permits for the importation, fabrication or sale of fur will no longer be issued,… Read More
The Israeli Government recently announced that permits for the importation, fabrication or sale of fur will no longer be issued, except for religious, scientific, or educational purposes. In short, the fur business will be effectively banned by regulation, by-passing the normal legislative process that was tried -- and failed -- a decade ago. This short-circuiting of due process is justified because banning fur is a moral issue, claims Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel. "Utilizing the skin and fur of wildlife for the fashion industry is immoral,” she insists. But she's so wrong.
What does it mean to say that using fur – or any other animal product -- is “immoral”? Some of the best research into public attitudes about using animals was done by the Canadian Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing. Based on opinion polling in six Western democracies (the UK, France, Germany, Norway, Canada, and the US), the Commission determined that four criteria must be met for animal use to be considered morally acceptable. Let’s see how the modern fur trade measures up to these four criteria:
For animal use to be considered morally acceptable, it must not threaten the survival of the species. So it’s important to know that all the fur used today comes from abundant populations, and never from endangered species.
Eighty percent of fur is produced on farms, so there's no threat to wildlife there.
The remaining 20% -- the wild fur trade -- is strictly regulated in North America by states and provinces, and internationally under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES. These laws and regulations ensure we are using only part of the surplus that nature produces each year, because beavers, muskrats, martens, raccoons, and other furbearers produce more young than their habitat can support to adulthood.
The second criterion for moral acceptability is that the animals we use should suffer as little stress or pain as possible. The modern fur trade takes this responsibility very seriously.
In Canada, mink and fox farmers follow codes of practice developed under the auspices of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), with veterinarians, animal scientists, and animal-welfare authorities. Other countries have similar production codes, and farmers have every reason to follow them, because the only way to produce high-quality fur is to provide optimal nutrition, housing, and care.
A third moral criterion revealed by the Royal Commission is that animals should not be killed for “frivolous purposes”. This argument is at the core of much anti-fur campaigning, and is echoed by Gamliel in her assertion that it is immoral to kill animals “for fashion”.
Gamliel conveniently ignores the fact that animal-rights activists now openly oppose any use of animals, even for food. But to address the point at hand, humans have to wear something, and there is nothing frivolous about our need for long-lasting, eco-responsible clothing.
The fake furs and other synthetics promoted by animal activists are usually made from petroleum, a polluting, greenhouse gas-producing, non-renewable and non-biodegradable material. We now also know that these synthetics (which represent 80% of our clothing) leach nano-particles of plastic into our waterways each time they are washed, plastics that are now being found in the digestive tracts of marine life and even our drinking water. Cruelty-free indeed!
Fur, by contrast, is a long-lasting, renewable, recyclable, and ultimately biodegradable natural clothing material. So wearing fur is not so frivolous after all, especially at a time when we are trying to develop more sustainable lifestyles.
4. Complete Use
The fourth criterion for moral acceptability is that when an animal is killed to benefit humans, there should be no waste. This is why most people - animal-rightists excepted - consider it morally acceptable to use leather, because it’s the envelope that dinner came in. We ate the meat, so why not wear the skin?
All too often, however, people fail to understand that fur also respects this "no waste" principle.
In fact, farmed mink and fox help to reduce waste in our food production system, by consuming the parts of cows, chickens, pigs, and fish that humans don't eat. Furthermore, the manure, soiled straw bedding, and carcasses of farmed mink and fox are composted to produce organic fertilizer, returning nutrients to the soil and completing the agricultural cycle.
If Minister Gamliel were to honestly apply the criteria above, she would have to acknowledge that the modern, well-regulated fur trade is as morally responsible as other commonly accepted uses of animals in our society, for food, clothing and other purposes.
And there are other serious problems with her "immorality" argument.
In North America (and other regions) where wild furbearers actually abound, populations have to be managed whether we use the fur or not. Overpopulated beavers flood farmland, roads, and homes; raccoons and foxes become more susceptible to rabies and other dangerous diseases; coyotes prey on livestock and are now taking pets in urban areas; and the list goes on. But if some of these animals must be culled to protect property and health, is it "immoral" to use their furs? Quite the opposite, in fact. The immoral deed would be to throw those furs away.
Meanwhile, Gamliel faces some moral dilemmas on her own doorstep, because her proposed ban would exempt furs used for “religious purposes”. Obviously her intent here is to neutralize opposition from ultra-orthodox coalition partners, whose haredi men wear large fur hats, or shtreimels, on the Sabbath and other Holy Days. But these hats don't reflect any true religious practice; actually, they are rooted in 17th-century Eastern European fashion. Gamliel's exemption is driven solely by political expediency. So much for moral imperatives!
Then there's the inconvenient fact that the sacred Torah – the very heart of Judaism – is written on parchment, which is an animal pelt with the hair scraped off. Similarly, the prayers scrolled inside the mezuzot that grace every door of a Jewish house are also written on animal hides.
But what of the Jewish doctrine of bal tashchit – “do not destroy”, which is often cited by animal activists in Israel? In fact, bal tashchit is derived from a commandment in the Torah to not destroy fruit trees outside the walls of a city under siege. It is a recognition that people will need food, no matter who wins, and is one of the world’s first written environmental protection laws. It promotes responsible use and sustainability. But it certainly does not command us to abstain from using animals to meet human needs.
The Politics of Morality
In light of all the above, it is clear that Gamliel's proposal to ban fur has nothing to do with morality. Rather, it is just politically expedient virtue-signalling to curry favour with Israel's strong animal-rights lobby, while the financial cost is born by farmers and trappers half a world away.
Apart from streimmels, there is little fur trading in Israel, which is why international animal-rights groups have identified it as an easy target, a thin edge of the wedge. But if one country should understand the dangers of embracing calls for scapegoating and ostracizing the fur trade, it is Israel, which itself is targeted by the militant Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) on university campuses around the world – often the same people who campaign against the fur trade!
No one is obliged to wear fur – or leather or wool, or to eat meat or dairy. Everyone is entitled to draw their own line concerning the appropriate use of animals, so long as sustainability and animal welfare concerns are respected. What cannot be justified in a modern democracy are political bans aimed at imposing one group's views on everyone else.
When a ban on fur trading was last proposed in Israel, ten years ago, I testified before a Knesset committee hearing on behalf of the International Fur Federation. I reminded the committee members that animal-rights activists also campaign against kosher slaughter in many European countries, in concert with anti-semitic hate groups. I also reminded them that Jews -- including my own family -- have played a prominent role in the international fur trade, and that anti-fur campaigns have sometimes included anti-semitic innuendos.
The turning point in the committee meeting, however, came when the chairman read from a letter received that morning from then Canadian Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan. Van Loan reminded the committee that Canada has always been a loyal friend and ally of Israel, and that the regulated fur trade supports the livelihoods and cultures of thousands of First Nations and other Canadians, especially in rural and remote regions. The governments of Denmark, Greece, the US, and the EU also expressed concern at a proposal that would scapegoat a responsibly regulated and sustainable industry. Suddenly, there was a political cost to banning fur. The proposal was quietly dropped.
This time around, Gamliel hopes to side-step the legislative process and ban fur trading with a simple regulatory change, a much quicker procedure. It is important that people who support the fur trade and consumer freedom again call on their own governments to intervene, to put some balance into this discussion. (See, below)
Let me conclude with a last word about shtreimels. While there’s no theological basis to the tradition of donning these splendid sable-trimmed hats, haredi men often say that the beauty and craftsmanship of a shtreimel show respect both for the Sabbath and for the animals that were used to make it. Fur apparel is, in fact, a marriage of the beauty of nature with human creativity. Wearing fur should remind all of us of our dependence on nature, and of our responsibility to protect it. If we wear fur with this consciousness, it becomes a moral act. The Israeli Minister’s cynical proposal to ban fur most certainly is not.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
It is unclear how quickly the regulatory change proposed to ban most fur trading in Israel can be implemented, but it is likely that only international diplomatic pressure can stop it. Ask your government to express concern about this arbitrary and anti-ecological ban. The following links may help.
The following essay appeared recently in the Toronto Star (Canada’s largest circulation newspaper), as the pro-fur side of a debate… Read More
The following essay appeared recently in the Toronto Star (Canada’s largest circulation newspaper), as the pro-fur side of a debate on whether banning the sale of fur apparel and accessoriesis justifiable.
If we look at facts, those of us who care about the environment, ethical lifestyles, and social justice should promote natural fur, not seek to ban it. Let's review some of the reasons why wearing fur makes sense for anyone wishing to embrace a sustainable and responsible way of living.
Fur today is produced responsibly and sustainably. Only abundant furs are used, never endangered species. This is assured by provincial/state, federal and international regulations.
In the wild, most species produce more offspring than their habitat can support to maturity. Animals that don’t make it feed others, and we too can use part of this natural surplus. This is an excellent example of “the sustainable use of renewable natural resources”, a cornerstone of the World Conservation Strategy.
There is little waste. Many fur animals – especially beavers and muskrats -- provide food for trappers and their families. Others are returned to the woods to feed birds, mice, and other animals. And because fur is “prime” in late Fall/Winter when the young of the year are already autonomous, activist claims that coyotes or other animals leave behind “starving pups” are nonsense.
Many furbearers would be culled even if we didn’t use fur. Overpopulated beavers flood property. Coyotes are top predators of lambs, calves and, increasingly, pets. Raccoons and foxes spread rabies and other diseases ... the list goes on. But if we must cull some of these animals to maintain a balance, surely it is more ethical to use the fur than to throw it away?
Trappers take animal-welfare responsibilities very seriously: Canada is the world leader in humane trapping research, and traps are certified to conform with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. Trapping is also strictly regulated in the US, under state “Best Practices” provisions.
Fur farmers – producing more than half the fur in North America -- follow codes of practice to ensure their animals receive excellent nutrition and care. Farms are certified to confirm that codes are followed, and farmers may be charged for animal cruelty if they are not. In any case, providing proper care is the only way to produce high-quality fur.
Farmed mink recycle left-overs from our own food production
– parts of cows, chickens and fish that we don’t eat and might otherwise clog
landfills. Manure, straw bedding, and other farm wastes are composted to
produce high-quality organic fertilizer, completing the agricultural nutrient
In contrast to mass-produced “fast fashion”, each fur garment or accessory is crafted individually by artisans, maintaining skills passed from father to son or daughter. Furs are preserved (“dressed”) using alum salts, lanolin, and other benign chemicals; the activist claim that “a World Bank report cited fur dressing as polluting” is simply not true. Furthermore, furs come in a wide range of natural colours, minimizing the need for dyes.
Fur is long-lasting, recyclable, and after decades of service can be thrown into the garden compost. Compare that with fake fur and other synthetics: generally made from petrochemicals, they are not biodegradable and leach micro-particles of plastic into our waterways when washed -- plastics that are now being found in marine life. Cruelty-free indeed!
Fur, however, is the activists’ designated scapegoat. Perhaps because fur is often associated with glamour and wealth? But most fur producers are not wealthy or glamorous. The ugly lies parroted by anti-fur activists are all the more odious because they attack the integrity and livelihoods of hard-working farm families; of First Nations and other trappers who are among the last people maintaining our North American land-based heritage; and of artisans producing warm and durable clothing with responsibly produced natural materials.
There is little public discussion of how insulting and
hurtful activist lies are for the people involved. Living far from media
centres, their voices are rarely heard. TruthAboutFur.com was created to help
bridge that gap.
No one is obliged to wear fur, but each of us should have
the right to make this decision for ourselves. Especially because animal
activists now oppose any use of animals. The same misleading and insulting
arguments and tactics used against fur are now being mustered against wearing
leather, silk and wool; against eating meat or dairy products. Shall all these
products be banned as well?
Each of us can decide where we draw the line, these are
personal choices. But if you believe it’s ethical to use animal products that
are produced responsibly and sustainably, you can wear fur with pride.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
City’s Fur Ban an “Unconstitutional Attack on Consumer Rights” The International Fur Federation (IFF) has launched litigation to prevent San… Read More
City’s Fur Ban an “Unconstitutional Attack on Consumer Rights”
The International Fur Federation (IFF) has launched litigation to prevent San Francisco from implementing a city ordinance banning the sale of fur. The ordinance, passed in 2018, gave existing department stores until Jan. 1, 2020, to sell off their remaining fur stock and prohibits the sale of newly manufactured fur coats, hats, gloves, fur-trimmed parkas, and other products.
The lawsuit, filed on January 13, argues San Francisco has “no legitimate local interest to ban fur sales” and that the ordinance is an “unconstitutional restriction on interstate and foreign commerce”.
“In an attempt to legislate morality, Supervisor Katy Tang,
sponsor of the ban, stated that businesses ‘need to get with the times.’ Yet
the current times do not allow for ignoring the Constitution’s prohibition on
restraining interstate commerce,” said Mike Brown, the IFF’s CEO for North
“Proponents of San Francisco’s fur ban, including the
radical animal rights group PETA, also want the sale of leather, wool, and
other animal products to be banned,” said Brown.
Contrary to San Francisco city council claims, fur products remain popular with consumers in that city and nationwide. Fur sales in San Francisco alone are estimated to be $40 million annually. Globally, the fur industry is a $23 billion business. A 2019 Gallup poll also confirmed that a majority of Americans believe that it is morally acceptable to wear fur.
While fur producers worldwide are complying with the humane standards under the IFF’s new FurMark program, San Francisco’s fur ban is so extreme that it blocks even humanely certified products. FurMark is a certification program to provide consumers with assurance about animal welfare and sustainability standards in place for the production of fur products in North America and Europe.
The San Francisco fur ban is completely arbitrary and creates a troubling precedent for other responsibly produced animal products. “If this law is allowed to stand, there’s nothing stopping San Francisco from banning wool, leather, meat, or other products that a small group of activists don’t approve of,” said Mark Oaten, CEO of the IFF.
“Californians should have no fewer rights than residents of other states. They should be free to buy legally produced goods unless there is a public safety or health issue - which does not exist here,” said Oaten.
Counter-Productive in Fight Against Pollution
Along with harming local businesses, San Francisco’s fur ban
will have unintended consequences that damage California’s efforts to fight
pollution, because the “fake fur” alternatives to natural fur are made with
petroleum. Research is showing that these synthetics shed microfibers into the
waterways when they are cleaned. Plastic microfibers are now even being found
in marine life. A single garment can shed 100,000 microfibers in the wash.
“Plastic microfibers are a leading cause of ocean pollution, in San Francisco Bay and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The National Science Foundation recently announced that microplastics may be 1 million times more prevalent than previously estimated,” said Oaten.
The IFF lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal challenges to California’s attempt to legislate “morality”. The state of Louisiana and a coalition of members of the alligator/crocodile supply chain have sued California over its ban on alligator and crocodile products, which was slated to take effect Jan. 1. As a result, a temporary stay was imposed on the implementation of this ban.
The fur industry’s legal challenge zeroes in on the constitutionality of state and municipal fur bans in California under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. Additionally, legal experts believe US states cannot arbitrarily ban products from foreign countries from being sold under free-trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. The IFF lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Los Angeles and the California state legislature also passed fur bans in 2019, but they do not take effect for several years.
“California’s fur bans are an arbitrary assault on consumer choice and retail businesses," said Brown. "These laws ban a responsibly and legally produced natural product from the marketplace simply because certain special interests don’t like the product. This is a startling precedent, to impose the morality of specific groups onto all citizens. There is no legitimate issue of public health and safety behind fur bans - simply a belief by some lawmakers that they don’t like fur, and therefore no one should be allowed to buy it."
The value of on-line polls about fur is debatable, but Truth About Fur will keep playing along. The time required… Read More
The value of on-line polls about fur is debatable, but Truth About Fur will keep playing along. The time required to vote is minimal, we've yet to hear of any poll being used for malicious purposes (like phishing), and while fur polls are certainly not life-changing, they may be beneficial.
In case you're unfamiliar with how most of these polls work, a typical one starts life as follows. The owners of Website X decide to launch a poll to generate more traffic for their site. Their motive for doing this can vary; maybe they want to make more money from advertising, or increase their ranking in Google searches. Remember, though, that the last thing on their minds is what you think. They don't care. All that matters is that you vote, and that you get all your friends to vote too.
So they pick a divisive subject like, "Do you agree with wearing fur or not?" with the potential to generate lots of knee-jerk votes. They then kick back and wait to see who finds their poll, hoping it will be both pros and antis.
If PETA et al. find it first, they spread the word, and votes opposed to fur come flooding in. The fur trade then gets wind, and starts voting to try to get their side of the story across. Pretty soon, a full-scale voting war is under way, and the owners of Website X congratulate themselves for a job well done. They then launch a new poll on whether marijuana should be legalised, or Taylor Swift's hair looks better short or long.
There are variants on this theme, of course, like posting positive or negative reviews on a business's Facebook page to affect its star rating. Such was the experience of a Vancouver restaurant in 2017 when it added seal meat to its menu. It was immediately bombarded with one-star (lowest possible) reviews from around the world by animal rights activists, and its rating plummeted. Friends of sealing then countered with positive reviews, even though, like the animal rights activists, most had probably never visited the restaurant. It was a farce, but what else could one do? (The only other defence for a business targeted by activists is to disable its review function, at least temporarily.)
So why does anyone vote in such polls, post fake reviews, or whatever? Should we even bother? Well, here are some possibilities - though as I said at the start, they're all up for debate.
• There's always a chance, however slim, that policymakers, the media, "influencers", or even Joe Public will be swayed by the results. Obviously a poll on a major website like CNN, for example, is more likely to have a far-reaching impact than one on a website no one's ever heard of. But then maybe it's an issue of local importance that's being polled, so if you live in Smallville, take a poll on Smallville.com seriously.
• The quality of the question is also a factor. If it's just "Do you like fur, yes or no?", you may take it or leave it. But if it's more specific, like "How do you feel about a proposed fur retail ban in [name city here]?", it may be seen by some as a measure of public sentiment, especially if voting is restricted to city residents, for example by only allowing voting by subscribers to the local on-line paper.
• A "win" for fur serves to remind everyone, including opponents, that the fur trade is alive and kicking. Conversely, a "loss" could be cited as "proof" that society has turned against fur -- a "fact" that animal rights groups will be quick to repeat in their next letters to editors or lawmakers.
• On a more positive side, polls provide an opportunity for supporters of fur who don't normally engage in PR or lobbying to "get involved". Just clicking on Yes or No may not seem like much, but it could be argued that it's as legitimate an "action" as voting in government elections. Your lone voice may seem inconsequential, but 10,000 lone voices can be very consequential.
So with that said, here's a real-life example for you to cut your voting teeth on, if you haven't already done so. A Paris-based website called The Rift is currently running a poll, in both English and French, asking "For or against animal fur?" or "Pour ou contre la fourrure animale?". This website specializes in presenting two sides of controversial issues, and also distributes a paper version to universities in the Paris region. To make things more exciting, and hopefully educational, readers are asked to express their opinion on fur twice, before and after reading the short (400 words) opposing arguments from a PETA spokeswoman and Truth About Fur's very own Alan Herscovici. It takes just two minutes to make your voice heard. Or make that four minutes and vote in the French poll too. (Hint for those who don't speak French: "Oui, je suis pour la fourrure animale" means you like fur!) As of this writing, fur fans are far in the lead in the English vote, but fighting it out neck-and-neck in French, so your vote here matters!
The PETA spokeswoman's essay will make frustrating reading for anyone with real knowledge of the fur trade. For example, she repeats the completely false activist claim that a World Bank report found fur dressing to be one of the most polluting industries. As documented by Truth About Fur, it is easily verifiable that it was, in fact, leather tanning that was cited as a pollution risk in that report. (Fur dressing is a completely different process that uses alum salts and other benign chemicals.) She also repeats the nonsensical claim that female coyotes struggle to return to their "starving pups", although trapping occurs in the fall and winter when fur is prime - in other words, at a time when the young of the year are already independent. Knowledgeable people may want to correct these (and other) urban legends by posting comments in the Readers' Debate.
It has taken a while for fur folks to learn to play this game, probably in large part because animal-rights supporters tend to be younger, and spend more time on-line. Trappers and farmers are often outdoors, far from computers! They are also people who tend to prefer quietly doing their work, not engaging in debates. Sometimes, however, you have to make an effort to speak out for what you believe.
So, yes, the on-line world of opinion polling certainly seems like a farce sometimes, but hundreds and often thousands of votes are cast in fur polls, so some people clearly take them seriously. You've nothing to lose by taking part, and may actually benefit - even if we're not sure exactly how. One thing is certain: if people with real knowledge of the fur trade do not participate in these discussions, we can't expect the public to understand our side of the story!
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
When New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who represents the Garment District, announced a proposal back in March to… Read More
When New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who
represents the Garment District, announced a proposal back in March to ban
future sales of fur in the city, many viewed it as another case of politicians
blindly following a trend. After all, the animal rights industry has made a
national business out of vilifying the animal consumption world - regardless of
what’s fact or fiction.
But what animal rights activists and political sponsors assumed would be an easy steam-roll over “rich white women” and “redneck trappers and farmers” who support fur usage, has proven shakier than imagined. Perhaps the large majority of Americans who recognize the regulated usage of animal by-products as both sustainable and practical, wasn’t quite anticipated.
We sure do live in interesting times in American culture! If I sound punchier than usual, it's with good reason.
When the public just won’t pay attention to self-righteous anti-fur diatribes, it's become a national trend to politically force legal bans upon the masses of your fellow citizenry instead.
It doesn’t take a business strategist to see what’s going on. Clearly, in the eyes of the animal rights industry, the “east coast” was in need of a dust-up with some good ol’ frivolous (and completely egregious) hunting and garment restrictions. Hopes were quickly imposed to ensure New York City becomes the next “fur-free” urban mecca.
The only difference from the antics playing out on the west coast: the Big Apple isn’t going down without swingin’… hard!
According to trade group FurNYC, the city still has the largest retail fur market in the country, stating the 150 remaining fur businesses in New York create 1,100 jobs and produce $400 million in revenue per year.
And it's not just backwoods fur trappers supporting the industry. As the NYC fur ban really started to heat up this May, folks from all walks of American life came out to fight the proposal.
African-American and Jewish faith leaders added to the
protests in opposition, stating that the ban discriminates against their
cultural heritage. Outspoken immigrants weighed in regarding the potential loss
of skills and careers. Celebrities jumped into the mix to criticize government
who thinks it can tell its people how to dress. Anyone who recognized fur as a
sustainable material made sure to join the vocal movement against the ban.
"People feel complete when they put on something that they worked hard for, they have sacrificed for," said the Rev. Phil Craig, who was among 75 clergy and other advocates who turned out at one protest against the ban.
Apparently, the pushback from a ban on fur in NYC was more
than the city’s politicians expected.
“Maybe I should have thought more about this before I introduced it because I didn’t realize the amount of pushback there would be,” Johnson told reporters at City Hall. “I was actually moved by some of the furriers and their testimony,” he said.
Animal rights proponents, on the other hand, still desperately contend the usage of fur is trending downward. (All the more reason to force a ban I guess, right? These folks clearly aren’t famous for their rationale.)
On the contrary, a national locavore movement seems to be fueling a revival in sustainable materials, like fur, which is probably why industry leaders like PETA and the Humane Society of the US are scrambling to support restrictions on fur usage and regulated hunting of fur across the country.
In the case of wild fur especially, the regulated seasonal trapping and usage of fur pelts from abundant wild species such as raccoons, skunks, and beaver is nationally considered wise use of resources that are otherwise destined for the landfill when they’re struck by vehicles, lose habitat due to urbanization, succumb to disease, or cause conflict for landowners and municipalities.
Environmental and wildlife management aspects aside, an underlying theme heard from citizens in the NYC fur ban debates is clear - freedom of choice.
The “my closet, my choice” meme seems to be resonating with a growing sector of the American population that has grown tired of hollow protests and frivolous government bans.
It appears as though the “freedom of choice crowd” carries the bigger stick - at least for the moment.
While some people are certainly foaming at the mouth to drive another nail in the coffin of rural culture, many more are lighting their torches and wielding their pitchforks against fur-supporters based on hearsay rather than tangible information.
“All-knowing” celebrities like fashion designer Tim Gunn have been outspoken supporters of the fur ban. Gunn told reporters that “Foxes, rabbits, chinchillas and even dogs and cats are anally electrocuted, gassed, bludgeoned and often skinned alive.”
Even Speaker Johnson, in explaining to reporters why he proposed the ban, said he “really just did it because I felt like it was the right thing to do in my heart.”
Apparently Johnson and Gunn, and also PETA representative Dan Matthews who echoed similar statements, did not do their homework before pushing for a city-wide ban. They also haven't been paying attention to the news lately.
In March, two Chinese workers came forward stating they’d been paid by animal rights activists to skin a dog alive on video. That video, which has been circulated around the internet, is the only crutch the animal rights industry has been able to rely upon for the out-of-left-field (and inherently false) statement that licensed trappers and fur farmers “skin animals alive for their fur”.
Of course, licensed fur trappers and fur farmers know full
well skinning animals alive isn’t part of the pelting process - but who asked
them, right? Not the mainstream media, not the government officials imposing
these bans from city to city, and certainly not the anti-hunting/anti-fur
While some may argue that fur pelts aren’t “needed” in the modern age, some could also argue that the detractions against regulated fur usage are also in dire need of some evolutionary creativity.
There’s nothing wrong with disagreements in opinion, the usage of animal byproducts, or even wildlife management fundamentals. A disagreement however, is far from shoving cult-like laws and legal bans down the throats of the American people.
No Such Thing As Bad Publicity
For the animal rights industry, I suspect the battles over
fur bans from coast to coast (and coat to coat) present themselves as a win/win
Even if the NYC fur ban caves to the pressure of citizens’ right to choose, the animal rights organizations spearheading the ban still walk away with profitable notoriety as a byproduct of their latest PR stunt.
Which is why, despite the lunacy of strong-arming a ban on the usage of a natural resource, the organizations, celebrities, and politicians involved in perpetuating the NYC fur ban will continue the circus act from city to city, state to state, country to country, and, inevitably, closet to closet.
Let's be real, if anyone supporting a ban on fur garments actually cared about animal welfare, they’d do their due diligence by researching all aspects of the debate, rather than selfishly hiding behind a protest sign or online petition. But alas, ignorance breeds ignorance; and a false sense of “moral superiority” just breeds more lackluster grandstanding - an obvious hot commodity surrounding the topic.
Perhaps it's time the (already heavily regulated) hunting, trapping, and fur-garment communities take a page out of the animal rights industry playbook and soak up a slice of the publicity pie themselves.
At the end of the day, groups like PETA don’t care if they
win or lose another media-fueled public cage match - I’m talking about them
aren’t I? And that’s what ultimately sells - whether the facts lean in favor of
their views or not.
Supporters of the regulated usage of natural fur materials would be hard-pressed to find a better microphone than the one they’ve been forced to fight against in New York City - and it's time for those invested parties to take full advantage of this circus while it's still in town!
Suffice to say, the animal activism industry has a PR problem: the men and women protesting the NYC ban on fur aren’t your run-of-the-mill rural fur trappers and mink farmers the American public has been conditioned to demonize. Collectively, the folks most outraged over the proposed fur ban represent a cross-section of modern America - all creeds, all races, all classes, all political affiliations.
Sometimes, a government-backed “ban” on a particular material or chemical makes sense to protect the health of its citizens (or the natural resources we all cherish and have been tasked with conserving). The NYC fur ban, clearly, is not one of those instances.
A ban on clothing choice? Especially from a material that is regulated, and has proven no modern negative impact on our environment (while the alternative product has proven to cause environmental harm) - well now, we all know that’s just silly.
At the end of the day, whether NYC moves forward with its ban on fur or not, one thing has been made painfully clear: the animal rights industry can’t claim the “moral majority” any longer.