Pierre-Yves Daoust is a professor emeritus and adjunct professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of Prince Edward Island,… Read More
Pierre-Yves Daoust is a professor emeritus and adjunct professor of pathology and microbiology at the University of Prince Edward Island, who lists among his research interests "Animal welfare aspects of trapping and sealing". This article first appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of The Canadian Trapper.
While I was reading the last issue of The Canadian Trapper, I thought about writing a short article. I always like browsing through this magazine, and I just wanted to tell other readers why someone in my position enjoys this.
You see, I am not a trapper or a hunter. I do not even fish. But I am a wildlife veterinarian with a deep love for wild animals, and I have dealt with sealers, trappers, hunters, conservation officers and park wardens much of my professional life.
Having worked for a few decades at the Atlantic Veterinary College at the University of PEI, I feel very comfortable among two seemingly different groups of people: the very dedicated animal lovers (starting with our veterinary students) and the users of wildlife resources (sealers, trappers, and the like). But frankly, these two groups are not mutually exclusive.
For one thing, I am often pleased by the interest of our students to learn about sealing and trapping. Some, but not all of them, may continue to dislike the idea of these kinds of wildlife use, but with a willingness to be more informed comes a better understanding, and with it more respect. For myself, I realized a long time ago that the good sealers, trappers and hunters know far more than me about wildlife and that I stand to learn a whole lot from them.
This is why I like reading through The Canadian Trapper. I have my favourites. I always read Jim Gibb’s column about the fur market. Not that I have any personal interest in the economics of the fur trade, but he always comes up with some interesting tidbits of information and I feel that I should know at least a bit about where the market is going (which I know has been on a steep downhill for a while).
Of course, I also always read from top to bottom the report from the PEI Trappers Association. Lately, I have enjoyed reading the series of articles by Danielle Levesque, based on her oral presentations. I find it very refreshing to get the perspective of a young woman about trapping.
Celebrating the Seal Hunt
In early March 2020, I attended the “Rendez-vous Loup-marin” on the Magdalen Islands, Québec, an annual celebration of all the positive things that the seal hunt has brought to that community. That time, it was women’s turn to contribute to the industry – including cuisine, clothing, arts, marketing and more to be celebrated. It was impressive to see all that women have done for the industry over many years.
It is my work with the sealing industry and with Inuit hunters in Nunavut that has cemented my appreciation and respect for responsible users of wildlife resources.
No Hardware Store Nearby
Some years ago, I had the privilege and pleasure to be on a sealing vessel for a week with skipper Eldred Woodford from Herring Neck, Newfoundland and Labrador.
One day, when we were far offshore, an oil pump of some sort broke down. Don’t ask me for more details; I know nothing about mechanics. This meant that Eldred had to reconnect a bunch of things from the steering wheel in the wheelhouse to another steering wheel on the top deck outside.
This is when I realized, who on earth am I with my few university degrees to brag about anything, when this man not only has to know how to navigate on the open sea and how to steer among ice floes during the seal hunt to avoid getting stuck, but also has to be a mechanic and an electrician all at once. As Eldred said at the time, there is no hardware store nearby to help you out when you are roughly 60 nautical miles offshore or when you are far out in the bush, for that matter.
I hope this gives you an idea of why sealers, trappers and hunters can have allies in some unexpected places and why someone like me, in his ivory tower that is a university, always enjoys the company of people who spend so much time on the land. I respect animals, I respect the environment, and I also respect all people. This has served me well over the years.
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Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, is a unique experience for visitors with its high desert environment, vast orchards and lush vineyards. It… Read More
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, is a unique experience for visitors with its high desert environment, vast orchards and lush vineyards. It also provides a fertile backdrop for talks about Canada's abundant wild furbearers and the production of humane and sustainable fur.
The Fur Institute of Canada chose Kelowna, on the shore of Okanagan Lake, for its 2018 Annual General Meeting this past June 4-9. This was my fourth AGM, following the ones in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories; and Montreal. The local representation is always impressive, the people are always interesting, and year over year, the growth and changes in the organization are great to see.
This meeting also provided a great opportunity to take in the diverse ecosystems of the BC interior, unlike most any in the world. Kelowna catches you by surprise with its “bowl like” feel of being surrounded by hills in an arid, desert-like setting. The cab driver on the ride from the airport said it had only rained once or twice in the past month.
Having largely grown up in the Ottawa area, seeing new areas of Canada is one of the pleasures of these meetings, and other members of the FIC feel the same. Experiencing west coast hospitality in Kelowna was eye-opening and fun. Outstanding was a social evening at Kelowna’s Indigenous World Winery featuring local wines and creative and delicious dishes of seal and various locally harvested wild species.
What Is the Fur Institute of Canada?
The FIC is a not-for-profit organization established in 1983 on the recommendation of government wildlife agencies to bring together the many organizations which form the Canadian fur industry. It is the country’s leader on humane trap research and furbearer conservation, and is the official trap-testing agency for the federal and provincial/territorial governments. The FIC manages Canada’s humane trap research and testing program through InnoTech Alberta, the research centre which provides compound and field testing of traps, computer modelling and other important scientific services. All testing is done in accordance with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS).
While the climate of Kelowna may be dry, the discussions had during the FIC AGM were anything but. The conversation is directed by the FIC’s operational committees covering the key Canadian fur trade issues – trap research and development, sealing, and communications – with members from coast to coast to coast. The AGM provides the most important opportunity of the year for people representing all facets of the trade to meet and discuss the work from the previous year and plan for the future.
Trap Research and Development Committee
The AGM began with the Trap Research and Development Committee (TRDC). The FIC has been coordinating Canada’s world-leading trap R&D program since it was founded 35 years ago. During that time, $58 million has been invested in this program, with funding from the Canadian government, the International Fur Federation, provincial governments, trappers’ associations and others. This work provided the scientific basis for the AIHTS, as well as being responsible for many changes in provincial and territorial trapping regulations, greatly improving animal welfare across Canada and in many other countries.
Pierre Canac-Marquis, Trap Research Coordinator for the TRDC, presented highlights of trap research over the last year and to be continued in 2018-19, with the approval of the Canadian Wildlife Directors Committee. This research is focusing on two main studies: development and implementation of a new AIHTS testing and rating protocol applicable to leghold-trap certification that would eliminate use of live animals; and a comprehensive study on the functioning and effect of killing neck snares from a field perspective and a veterinarian pathology perspective.
To date, over 200 models of trap have been tested and certified in accordance with AIHTS standards, with virtually all testing having been conducted in Canada. The certified trap list is regularly updated, with five updates in the last year alone, the most recent being on July 1.
“TRDC work at the AGM generated fantastic interest from all participants!” Pierre said after the meeting.
Presentations were also made by veterinary pathologist and TRDC member Dr. Rudi Mueller, and by Dr. Brian Eaton, team leader of the Ecosystem Management Section of Innotech Alberta.
The Sealing Committee this year was chaired by Corenna Nuyalia, Nunavut's senior advisor for fishing, sealing and fur programs. Corenna stressed the importance of “domestic marketing that includes public outreach and education with a holistic approach that includes all stakeholders of the sealing industry in Canada to promote seal and seal products."
The Sealing Committee discussed and worked on various projects to make this happen. Keep an eye out for the many projects to come on the Committee's website, Seals & Sealing Network.
The Communications Committee this year was chaired by Jim Gibb from Ontario, a trapper, certified trapping instructor, former board member of Fur Harvesters Auction, and now a blogger with Truth About Fur. “When you host a face-to-face meeting like this, the networking and discussions that happen in the corridors and over dinner can be just as important as the official meetings themselves, if not more so," said Jim. "It has always been a powerful tool for the FIC to have key members of the industry together in the room discussing ongoing work and issues.”
The Communications Committee was busy this past year, with highlights including new membership tools on the FIC website, and collaboration with the industry to communicate the benefits and assurances of wild fur to retailers. The Committee also prepared and distributed important print materials, like our economic brochure #Canadian Fur, Dollars and Cents, and an updated version of our information booklet Furbearers of Canada, both of which are now ready for distribution to our membership. The Committee has also developed a media training program which will be used to prepare spokespeople in different regions of the country.
At this year's meeting, the Committee elected a new chair, but he’s a very familiar face in our industry. Mike O’Brien, recently retired from the Department of Natural Resources in Nova Scotia, plans to continue building on the Committee's achievements, to improve public understanding of the sustainable use of North America’s furbearers.
New Board Chair
Meanwhile outgoing Communications Committee chair Jim Gibb was elected as the new chair of the FIC's Board of Directors, succeeding Dion Dakins of Carino Processing who stays on as a Board member. Jim explained that his priority will be to develop and implement a plan for succession for the organization. By working with the committees and members, he hopes to engage with younger people to have a new generation ready to work with the FIC, strengthening the organization for the future.
“I look forward to working with all members and committees on the important work they are all doing for the betterment of sustainable use in Canada," Jim said. “The Fur Institute of Canada has many projects ongoing and I hope to tap into what is a vast knowledge base of our membership, wonderful people whether they're from urban centres or the many rural and coastal communities that continue to be directly committed to the cultural and economic benefits of this wonderful industry. We have many challenges, but together I am confident that we can accomplish great things moving forward.”
In all, the AGM was successful as the members worked to set up a great game-plan for the coming year. The FIC is the only organization in Canada that brings all facets of the fur industry together and we must utilize that to protect and improve the entire trade. We must continue to improve the trap research program, to develop the media training program and deliver it to our members, and to engage with our trapping associations and members from across the country to build a strong succession for the FIC. This will provide a strong knowledge base and a mandate for years to come.
The growing media and public interest in sustainability – especially among young people – provides an extraordinary opportunity for the… Read More
The growing media and public interest in sustainability – especially among young people – provides an extraordinary opportunity for the fur trade.
To understand why, think about the vital role that stories play in our lives. Because story-time is much more than those precious minutes we spend with young children at the end of a hectic day. Stories define what it means to be human and are central to our success as a species. “Really?” you ask. Bear with me a moment and we’ll see why – and what this means for the future of fur.
Stories Are Our Social Glue
What’s special about humans is that we work together in large groups. Ants and bees also work in large groups, of course, but only in rigidly programmed patterns of behaviour. Humans are the only animals that cooperate with strangers in ways that can evolve to meet new challenges. And stories are the social glue that allows us to do this. They tell us who we are and what we are trying to achieve.
For much of our history, these stories were expressed in myths or religions. In a more secular age, societal identity and goals are often articulated in new types of stories: Nationalism, Marxism, Liberalism – and, more recently, environmentalism and animal rights.
For much of the 20th century, Western society was driven by a story about science and technology generating prosperity and continual growth. During this period, the story of fur was about warmth, beauty and status. Think glamorous movie stars wrapped in luxurious mink.
The publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in 1962, sounded the alarm that unchecked growth could threaten our very survival as a species. Carson’s landmark book launched the modern environmental movement and signalled the emergence of a new story: Earth could no longer be seen as a treasure chest to be looted, but rather was a garden to be protected as if our lives depended on it ... because they do!
With the environmental movement came concern that wildlife populations were being depleted. But while biologists know that the destruction of natural habitat is the most serious threat to wildlife, a good story needs clearly identified good guys and bad guys. Hunters – once admired in American frontier mythology – were clearly the bad guys in this new scenario, portrayed as violent and cruel.
Protesters were the good guys, the valiant protectors of Mother Earth. Through the 1960s and '70s, Greenpeace and dozens of other new organizations emerged to protest the commercial hunting of seals, spotted cats, and other charismatic species – garnering international media attention while generating millions of dollars for a lucrative new protest industry.
The good news is that this media attention helped to rally financial and political resources to address some real conservation and animal-welfare concerns. By the early 1970s, seal hunters received training and quotas were introduced to prevent overharvesting. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in 1975, ensured that leopards and other vulnerable wildlife populations were not threatened by trade. And by the late 1970s, the world’s first science-based humane trap-research program was established, with support from the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the Canadian government, and the fur industry.
But these important achievements did not end the protests. As documented in my book Second Nature: The Animal-Rights Controversy(CBC, 1985), the campaigns against seal hunting actually intensified, especially after Greenpeace brought Brigitte Bardot to the ice in 1977. Greenpeace’s Bob Hunter observed that this juxtaposition of sex and violence made the seal hunt an irresistible media story. Protests against fur trapping also gained momentum, at the same time as fur prices and sales were hitting record levels through the 1970s and '80s.
The persistence of anti-fur campaigning after the real conservation and animal welfare issues were addressed is explained, in part, by interests. With hundreds of protest groups – and thousands of professional activists – raking in millions of dollars from well-meaning supporters, there was little incentive to say, “Mission accomplished, let’s go home.”
Equally important, however, was the emergence of a new story: animal rights. With the publication of Australian philosopher Peter Singer’s 1975 book Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals, this new story made a radical break with traditional conservation and animal welfare objectives. It questioned the right of humans to use animals at all. This new story is summarized in PETA’s mission statement: “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.”
This new animal-rights story allowed activists to completely ignore the fur trade’s achievements. Sure we now have research, government regulations, and industry codes of practice. But what does any of this matter if, as Peter Singer, Tom Regan, Bernard Rollin, and other animal rights philosophers argued, it is simply wrong to kill animals for human use?
The use of animals is morally indefensible, these philosophers argued, because we have options. So while the lion must kill to live, humans can thrive as vegetarians. Similarly, there is no justification for using fur (or wool, leather, or other animal products) because we now have synthetic materials to keep us warm. And this is where the story gets interesting. Or rather: the stories. Because another story is now emerging – environmental sustainability – and this new narrative has very different things to say about the ethics of using fur.
Landmark Document: Our Common Future
The concept of sustainable development was coined by the report of the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) – the Brundtland Commission – published in book form as Our Common Future, in 1987. This landmark document recognized that humans are part of nature and depend on natural resources for our survival; we cannot “leave nature alone”, as protesters demanded. The real environmental challenge is to meet “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
In layman’s terms this means living on the “interest” that nature provides, without depleting our environmental “capital”. So, whenever possible, we should use renewable resources (plants, animals) rather than non-renewable resources (petroleum-based synthetics). And we should use these resources sustainably, i.e., no faster than nature can replenish the supply.
Thirty years after the publication of the Brundtland Commission, sustainability is finally gaining traction. Companies of all sorts are rushing to promote their products and services as sustainable. Sustainable lifestyles are the new cool. What many have not yet understood is that sustainable use is very different from the no-use doctrine promoted by anti-hunt protesters and animal rights philosophers. While fur and other animal products are morally indefensible from an animal rights perspective, they are the way to go when looked at through the lens of sustainability.
A flagrant example of this misunderstanding is the recent claim by CEO Marco Bizzarri that Gucci would stop working with fur to demonstrate their “absolute commitment to making sustainability an intrinsic part of our business.”
The importance for the fur trade of the impending clash between these two powerful stories – sustainability and animal rights – should not be under-estimated. Most of the time, most people – and societies – drift along without questioning the fuzzy ideas that guide our actions. But when conflicting stories collide, we must stop and think. As sustainability crashes into animal rights, the fur trade will finally have an opportunity to tell its story.
“For decades we’ve accepted the notion promoted by animal rights campaigners that wearing or buying real fur is ethically and morally bankrupt. ... Yet recently a more complex and nuanced view has emerged, backed by experts in the fur industry, that suggests faux fur could, in fact, be worse for the environment than the real thing,” reported The Sun, citing the International Fur Federation, Fur Commission USA, and other sources.
The problem is that faux fur is made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Furthermore, recent research is revealing that clothing made from petrochemical synthetics leaches microfibers of plastic into the environment every time it’s washed. These microfibers do not biodegrade; they are carried into waterways, enter the food chain, and are now being found in the digestive tracts of marine life. Real fur, by contrast, is biodegradable and doesn’t cause these problems. And real fur can also be restyled and recycled, providing decades' more use than synthetic “fast fashion” apparel.
If sustainability can provoke this sort of serious reflection in a British tabloid newspaper, it can do it anywhere. And sustainability has strong support from the scientific community; animal rights does not. Not least important, young people are particularly interested in sustainability – after all, they will be here longer! All this suggests that the sustainability story is likely to become increasingly influential.
In recent years, animal activists have worked hard to portray fur as a flagrant example of the reckless exploitation of nature: “killing innocent animals for greed and vanity.”
As a more serious understanding of environmental sustainability takes hold, we now have an opportunity to rewrite the story again – and this time fur will finally be recognized as not only warm and beautiful, but also a celebration of the marriage of human creativity with the responsible and sustainable use of nature’s bounty.
The fur story is about to become much more interesting!
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The fur trade is criticized by activists for killing animals “just for their fur”, when in fact the list of… Read More
The fur trade is criticized by activists for killing animals "just for their fur", when in fact the list of by-products is long and diverse. Carcasses are made into fertilizer, bio-fuel, pet food and crab bait, while rendered fat is used in leather tanning and cosmetics. And don't forget (cue drum roll) muskrat stew!
City-dwellers find it hard to swallow that furbearers taste good, and in some cases they're right. Opossum, skunk and coyote will never make it onto a gourmet menu. But there's still plenty of fine dining to be had!
So without further ado, here’s our list of Top 5 Tasty Furbearers.
#5: Roast Bear
At number five in our countdown comes bear. We’d rank it higher because just one animal can feed a village, but laws governing the sale of wild meat mean you can't just walk into your local store and buy bear.
Eating bear has a long history in North America, and "roast bear was on the menu for more than a few state dinners during our nation's youth," writes Holly A. Heyser in The Atlantic. But beware. The saying goes, you are what you eat, and it's never truer than for "insanely variable" bear meat. "Eat a bear that had been dining on berries and manzanita and you are in for a feast. Eat a bear that had gorged on salmon and it'll taste like low tide on a hot day. Ew.”
But there's a bonus, no matter how your bear turns out. Save the fat because eggs and beans fried in bear fat – yum!
Coming in at number three is muskrat, for two reasons. First, because muskrat stew tastes great. And second, because North Americans consume so many of them. Muskrat fur is not as wildly popular today as it once was, but it’s still the most trapped furbearer, accounting for 35% of animals taken in the US and 28% in Canada.
Just remember that muskrats are named for their musk glands. Fail to remove these properly and you're in for an “unpleasant dining experience”, but clean it right and cook it right and it’s “delicious”.
#2: Succulent Seal
At number two comes succulent seal, and it might have come in first if it weren't for one sad fact: Americans are not allowed by law to enjoy this culinary delight.
What we really like about seal meat is that it’s not a “by-product” of harvesting fur, but a product in its own right. Seal meat has been an important source of protein for Canada’s Inuit since the dawn of time. It’s also important to the economies of all sealing communities, especially since the EU joined the US in banning almost all seal products.
With very little fat, seal meat is extremely healthy, and its mild, briny taste means it can be prepared in many ways – smoked, tartare, seared top loin, mixed with pork for a sausage flavour, and so much more. So it’s also growing in popularity with city-dwellers looking to combine healthy living with fine dining.
#1: Beaver Tail
And at number one in our countdown comes ... beaver! Once a favorite of Mountain Men, it's still popular today and widely available. We also like that one large animal can feed a family. And provided you take great care in removing those smelly castor glands, it can pass for brisket. Here’s a recipe for beaver stew, and one for pot roast.
But the clincher for us in naming beaver our favorite furbearer feast is the tail. It's made almost entirely of fat, and is the part Mountain Men wanted most of all to keep them warm through the long winter nights. We must be honest, though; part of its appeal is that it's notoriously easy to mess up. Do it wrong, and you'll think you're eating Styrofoam, but cook it right and it will melt in your mouth like butter!
The thought of pizza makes us hungry, but how about pasta instead? One of our favourite Canadian chefs, Eric Pateman, has been cooking up a delicious seal Bolognese, and the Globe and Mail did a Q&A with Dion Dakins, who talks about whether seals are too cute to eat. Sealing is about more than sealers, of course, which is why we wrote about the other people involved in this trade. Since we are on the topic of wild meat, there's good news in Oregon where it has now been made legal to harvest roadkill.
Let's end with a few tips for summer
Need some new sandals? These fur ones by Zizi Donohoe (pictured above) were made for 7-Eleven.
Of all conflicts between advocates of sustainable use of wildlife and advocates of animal rights, none has been more enduring… Read More
Of all conflicts between advocates of sustainable use of wildlife and advocates of animal rights, none has been more enduring than the sealing issue. For more than 50 years, sealers have been on the front line in a war to decide how we manage our wildlife – so long, in fact, that there is a danger their supporters will lose interest. To everyone who recognises the importance of keeping this traditional harvest alive, I say, renew your support for sealing. It's needed now as much as ever.
Sealing was not always the cause célèbre of the animal rights movement. Back in the 1960s, when the anti-sealing campaign began, the prime target was whaling. Despite the little-known fact that the whaling industry had already halted the excesses of its past, animal rightists (and not a few conservationists) were determined to shut it down completely. And they nearly succeeded.
This cleared the way for the anti-sealing campaign to grab the headlines – something it has been doing ever since. Half a century on, the beleaguered sealers are still fighting, with the current battleground being the EU.
What makes the sealing story so remarkable is that it has lasted this long. Most of the credit belongs to the sealers themselves – both indigenous communities of the High North, and the descendants of settlers – for their refusal to die. Thanks also must go to a handful of governments for their unflinching support.
The sealers, of course, are fighting for the future of their cultures and one of the few livelihoods available to them. Anyone who has visited the northern reaches of the world will understand why. We are struck by the natural beauty of the rugged landscape, the purity of the air, and the abundance of life in the oceans. This beauty continues to exist because people maintain traditional ways of life, and central to this is utilizing local natural resources, including seals. Fishermen and hunters tackle the seas and the ice to bring home their catch, and what they don’t consume, they sell.
This beauty continues to exist because people maintain traditional ways of life, and central to this is utilizing local natural resources, including seals.
Governments, meanwhile, have supported the sealers for a variety of reasons. They recognise their right to self-determination, they want to keep people “on the land” (not flooding into overcrowded cities), and they recognise the role played by wildlife use in ecosystem management. Because seals consume commercial fish and forage species, and sustain others such as sharks and orcas, governments are increasingly focusing their research on the impact of seals and seal harvesting on the ecosystem as a whole.
This approach reflects a need to ensure that seal populations will continue to thrive. It also ensures that we live up to a moral responsibility to understand the impacts of harvesting choices on other species. This can mean limiting seal harvesting or encouraging it, depending on particular regional circumstances.
Finding the right balance between prey and predators makes the marine ecosystem more productive and preserves its biodiversity.
Veterinarians, too, have supported sealers by denouncing the message of animal rights groups that sealing is inhumane. The most common method for harvesting seals is using a rifle, while use of the "hakapik", a traditional harvesting tool, is increasingly rare today. Veterinarians consider both to be humane because they consistently cause instant unconsciousness before death.
The sealers have also received broad support from advocates of sustainable use with no direct interest in sealing. Croc farmers, kangaroo meat harvesters, you name it; across the globe, wildlife users have thrown their support behind the sealers. Meanwhile major conservation groups such as the IUCN and WWF have acknowledged that sealing does not pose any conservation issues.
Yet despite the perseverance of the sealers themselves and the breadth of support for sealing, all is not well in paradise. The relentless attacks from groups with seemingly inexhaustible funds have tested our support to the limit and found it wanting. Proof of this is the fact that sealers are still losing ground with the recent closure of the EU market (except for that reviled exemption for products from indigenous communities). The enormous potential US market, meanwhile, is just as far off as ever. The US has banned all marine mammal products since 1972, and no one, not even the governments of sealing nations, is willing to mount a serious challenge to this ban.
So to any wildife user wavering in their support for sealing, I recite the classic poem of German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
As advocates of sustainable use, we should be enormously thankful that, against all odds, the sealers have survived the last 50 years. But we must not take their survival for granted. They are under constant threat and cannot be allowed to disappear, if for no other reason than that we may be next.
Speaking of changing times, the Fall 2017 fashion trends are leaning towards fur, very colourful fur to be exact. We were thrilled to hear that We Are Fur counted fur on 67% of the Fall 2017 catwalk shows. What's it like to wear fur-lined shoes every day? This guy tried it out and enjoyed it thoroughly. If you are looking for some new fur, then check out one of Lysa Lash's trunk shows; this Canadian designer is well known for her personalized service in fur retail.
Sadly we are coming up to the key "season" for animal rights activists: the commercial seal hunt starts soon and this is the activists' main opportunity to raise money by using photos of baby seals (that aren't even hunted). If you want some facts (real facts) about the seal hunt, the Seals and Sealing website is a good start. The film Angry Inuk continues to have an impact on how people view the seal hunt, but we still need to work hard on spreading the good word about this traditional, sustainable hunt.
The team over here at Truth About Fur had big plans to spend July loafing around at lakes, beaches, and… Read More
The team over here at Truth About Fur had big plans to spend July loafing around at lakes, beaches, and parks, and enjoying summer. We figured the media would be quiet about fur since it is summer and people are focusing more on bikinis (and not only the ones made of fur). We couldn't have been more wrong, as July was a very busy month for fur, so let's start our Fur In The News July roundup with a subject close to my heart: fashion.
Fashion Loves Fur
Fendi hosted an haute couture fur fashion show, named Haute Fourrure, which was the first of its kind in the world of fur and high fashion. Featuring a collection of sublime coats, jackets, and other garments, the show not only confirmed Fendi's status as the top designer fashion house for fur, but also the fashion industry's undying love for pelts (pardon the pun). We covered the show on our blog, you can check out some photos of the details here or read about the one million dollar coat. (I'm waiting for it to go on sale.) Karl Lagerfeld, creative director at Fendi, did a great interview about fur and the show for WWD, the New York Times did an interesting piece about fur called Fur Is Back in Fashion and Debate, and Fortune wrote about fur's comeback, although we don't think it ever went out of style.
And while you are reading Jim's blog post, you may as well click through to Terry's, too. Terry Vourantonis wrote a great piece entitled My Life in the Fur Trade, documenting his career in this wonderful industry.
Let's end this news roundup with some of our favourite videos of the month: this great video by A Trapper's Wife, this adorable baby polar bear, and our favourite website/TV channel right now: the bear cam in Alaska where you watch beautiful brown bears in action 24 hours a day (pictured above). Cancel your cable subscription, this is the only channel you'll ever need.
The European Union recently announced that products made from seals hunted by Inuit people can continue to be sold in the… Read More
The European Union recently announced that products made from seals hunted by Inuit people can continue to be sold in the EU despite the 2009 ban that prevents the importation or sale of all other seal products. It is impossible to imagine a sealing policy that would be more hypocritical and anti-democratic.
Canadian sealing is a sustainable use of a natural resource carried out by licensed, well-trained sealers under the rules and regulations of the government of Canada, which have been developed based upon both population science and humane killing techniques. In 1971 a quota management program was established for the Northwest Atlantic harp seal stock, and the population is estimated to have grown since then from 1.8 million to the 5.9 million, according to the IUCN. World-wide the population is close to 8 million, with "All known stocks ... increasing in number".
Despite the comments of the animal rights groups, the world-wide markets for seal products (food, Omega-3 fatty acids, oil, fur, leather) continue to exist. They exist but are inaccessible because the decades-old animal rights propaganda campaigns have co-opted (bought?) politicians in the EU, the USA, and other countries to deny their citizens their democratic right to choose to buy seal products.
Even in its stronghold of North America, surveys suggest the animal rights philosophy (i.e., no animal use) is adhered to by less than 3 percent of people. And because of this lack of popular support, animal rights groups can only further their agenda by using their multi-million-dollar war chests to lobby politicians to pass laws denying citizens their right of choice: anti-democratic to say the least. Like autocrats throughout history, it seems that these wealthy activist groups don't trust individual citizens to do "the right thing".
The World Trade Organisation enquiry found that the “seal ban” was against its rules, but in the interest of protecting the “morals” of EU citizens the ban would stand: thus buying into the animal rights propaganda that killing seals is immoral. An interesting decision given that many countries within the EU continue to kill seals legally in the Baltic and North seas.
Animal rights groups constantly make pious, politically correct statements that they are not against Inuit sealing. For decades, Inuit organisations (including the Inuit Circumpolar Council, or ICC, which represents Northern Aboriginal communities around the world) has rejected this “exemption” as being meaningless, based in a colonialist mentality, and little short of racism.
Thousands of rural Canadian citizens are directly and indirectly employed in the sealing industry earning a living for their families. Sealing is part of an annual mosaic of income for rural Canadians whose money is derived from a number of individual activities that in total provide a livelihood that enables them to live in their communities. The same thing applies to Canadian farmers, ranchers, trappers, hunters, and so on: the only difference is the species killed. Few rural Canadians have the luxury of a guaranteed annual salary.
Animal rights groups keep on about a “buyout” for those in the sealing industry. A one-year buyout? A two-year buyout? Or an annual buyout till all those involved have died? For whom? For sealers, plant workers, truckers, diesel suppliers, insurance agents, garment manufacturers, artists, artisans, grocery suppliers, gun and ammunition stores, vehicle sales people? For all or only some of them? Will they pay the many millions involved? No. These American-headquartered multi-million-dollar groups want the Canadian tax payer to subsidize their ridiculous views.
Resource Use Is Not Disneyland
"Baby seals"? The use of the word "baby" is simply an anthropomorphism, the Bambi syndrome, designed to influence and upset urban people who have a total disconnect with the sources of their food, clothing, medicines and other objects of daily use. The seals killed are fully weaned, are independent of their dames, and are on their own to survive or not: this is nature, not Bambi in Disneyland.
Death by gunshot or hakapik is instantaneous as found by innumerable studies by independent vets from Canada, the USA and the EU. The only negative studies have been bought and paid for by animal rights groups. The reality is that no animal-killing is pretty: it is by nature ugly. But pretty and ugly are not synonyms for right and wrong or good and bad. Sealing is simply an outdoor abattoir without the offal problems of land-based abattoirs (dumping it in landfills) because what we cannot use we leave on the ice to return to the eco-system as food for birds, marine mammals, fish and crustaceans: ecologically correct and green.
Travesty of Fiction Over Fact
The reality of the 50 years of animal rights propaganda has been the diminution of the incomes of thousands of Canadian citizens while these American-headquartered groups have collected hundreds of millions of dollars from people who think they are supporting animal care and conservation. One group alone generates contributions close to $100 million annually.
To adapt Winston Churchill's famous turn of phrase, never have so many been so misled by so few for such nefarious reasons. For decades these groups have said nothing new, yet their comments are deemed “newsworthy”. They and their celebrity friends utter ridiculous comments and no journalists challenge them. It's a circus, a travesty of fiction over fact, and proof that hypocrisy reigns supreme. It is media manipulation of the highest order.
Propaganda is an insidious thing and unless countered by a free press prepared to ask the hard questions it will continue ad infinitum. It is time for individuals, politicians and media to remember the immortal line of Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
The anti-sealing story is the second greatest propaganda campaign of the last 85 years. Democracy is about the right of citizens to choose. History has shown us that when propaganda triumphs, democracy loses.
Nobody in the Canadian sealing industry wants people to buy their products if they do not wish to. Canadian sealers only want all citizens to have their democratic right to choose for themselves to use or not use seal products.
Animal rights is not animal conservation or animal welfare. The goal of animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the US (and its extension, Humane Society International) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, to name but two, is not to end sealing but rather to end man’s use - not just killing, but any use - of all animals for any reason. Read their mission statements. Seals are the tactic not the goal.
Anti-sealing is the epitome of George Orwell’s position in Animal Farm: all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.
The animal rights anti-sealing movement may have won some battles but not the war. If it wins the war you will have to look around to see whom among you will be the next victim. The beef, pork, chicken or lamb producers? The trappers, hunters or fur farmers? The clothes manufacturer, shoemaker, auto manufacturer or furniture manufacturer? Anyone who uses animals for any purpose at all? You?
Two years ago I went to NAFFEM, a large fur trade show in Montreal. I was invited as a blogger, to… Read More
Two years ago I went to NAFFEM, a large fur trade show in Montreal. I was invited as a blogger, to check out the beautiful pieces and choose some of my favourite items for sale at the show. I am a huge supporter of the Canadian fur industry (read about my reasons here) but I’ve been less vocal about the seal hunt, primarily because I didn’t have enough information to make an informed opinion about it. Well, now I do, and I would like to share it with you because I think it is important.
1. Seals are a sustainable resource and are in abundance. We live in a world where resources have become an issue, and many of us are choosing to consume products that come from renewable resources. Seal is a great example of this – there are tons of them in Canada and they are not at all at threat of becoming endangered.
Speaking of sustainability, seals are part of the reason why fish stocks are very low (although overfishing is also a big issue) and the seal hunt not only provides jobs and resources for the hunters, but also allows the fish populations to regenerate (a bit.) All major conservation groups will agree that a responsible use of resources (like hunting seals for food and clothing) is a good thing, and is often the central principle of modern conservation.
2. Seals are local. The green topic is a big one right now, and part of the green movement focuses on buying local.
Canada has a lot of great resources, but when it comes to fashion, few are 100% Canadian. Nearly all of our fashion products are in some way sourced from overseas (whether it be raw materials or construction) but seal skin and wild fur are 100% free range, local products.
3. The seal hunt supports Canadian communities. There are two major seal hunts in Canada, one in the Arctic sea (seals hunted by Inuit people) and one on the East Coast (a commercial seal hunt.) Both provide jobs and resources for those people. The meat is eaten, the fat is used for a variety of products, and the skin is sold so that these people can support themselves.
Food, as you may know, is extremely expensive in the Arctic, and there are limited jobs in that area, or in the Maritimes. The seal hunt is a very important Canadian industry for the people who depend on it.
4. The seal hunt is not inhumane. The animal rights activists will have you believe that the seal hunt is inhumane, but this is not the case.
First of all, most seals are killed with rifles (not clubbed to death.)
Secondly, there have been numerous studies done on the seal hunt, and biologists and veterinarians have all agreed that the seal hunt is no less humane than any other hunt.
5. The media paints an unfair picture. My question, after having learnt all the above, was why does the seal hunt have such a bad reputation? There are two answers to this.
First of all, seals are cute, and people are more likely to be protective of cute animals. If we were all truly concerned about cruelty and sustainability, why aren’t we doing more to save fish? Many species of fish are far more at risk than seals, yet their not-so-cute appearance doesn’t exactly inspire people to campaign for them. (Notice how we care more that our tuna is “dolphin safe” but not so much if that particular tuna is endangered.)
Secondly, the seal hunt is much more visible than other hunts, and the access to it allows for more imagery. The seal hunt happens in certain places at very specific times, and so it is very easy for activists to turn up and take photos of blood on the ice. Those same activists aren’t invited into abattoirs, and therefore we don’t have the same images in our head of cows or sheep. The fact that seals are cute, and that we have access to photos of them being killed, means the seal hunt has been very unfairly portrayed by the media and activist groups.
Many of us are so far removed from nature, farming, and hunting, and it is so easy to forget that our food comes from the land. While I will admit I don’t like seeing photos of any dead animals, I do appreciate the process and am under no illusions about the realities of eating meat and wearing animal products.
For those of us who do choose to consume animals, the best we can do is consume sustainable resources that are treated humanely – and the seal hunt is just that.
Public morals and their protection are certainly a concern for governments, but is the EU abusing its authority in using… Read More
Public morals and their protection are certainly a concern for governments, but is the EU abusing its authority in using morality as an excuse to ban trade? The World Trade Organization thinks not, and that should worry all of us.
On May 22nd, the WTO Appellate Body released a long-awaited decision about the EU ban on importation of seal products "to protect public morals". While activist groups were quick to trumpet victory, it will take some time to understand the full impact of this complex 250-page judgment.
Nonetheless, it is clear that this ruling will have far-reaching implications for anyone involved with animal production or trading in animal-based products.
On the positive side, the ban (implemented in 2010) was condemned by the WTO’s highest authority for “arbitrary and unjustifiable discrimination” against products of other countries, and the EU was instructed to amend its legislation accordingly.
The main issue here is an exemption for Inuit hunters. The WTO noted that “virtually all” Greenlandic (i.e., EU) seal products benefitted from this indigenous exemption while the “vast majority” of Canadian seal products did not.
It therefore found that the ban was discriminatory against Canada. In reality, the exemption did little for Inuit hunters anywhere, because the ban (and related campaigning) eroded markets for all seals. (1)
The real goal of the exemption was to provide cover for activists and EU politicians, since concern for indigenous rights is almost as politically correct as animal rights among the chattering classes, in theory at least.
The WTO, to its credit, saw through the ruse and denied that such racially or culturally defined exemptions “can be reconciled with, or is related to, the policy objective of addressing EU public moral concerns regarding seal welfare”.
The EU was hoisted by its own petard. If the way in which seals are hunted is so morally repugnant that a trade ban is justified, how can these same hunting methods be acceptable when employed by Inuit people? It will be interesting to see how the EU responds.
Of much greater importance, however, is that the WTO accepted the EU’s claim that trade restrictions based on animal-welfare concerns can be justified“to protect public morals”.
Until now, the WTO has refused to tolerate any ban based on the “means of production”. And for good reason: Say goodbye to world trade if countries can ban each other’s products because they don’t agree with their worker-safety regulations, environmental-protection controls – or now, animal-welfare concerns. (2)
No wonder that animal activist groups are cheering: a brave new world of political campaigning has just opened for them!
"This is a very exciting development,” gushed Sheryl Fink, director of Canadian wildlife campaigns for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “Hopefully it will have positive repercussions for other animals that are affected by trade as well." (3) Fur trappers and cattle ranchers take note!
But whose “morality” is really being protected here?
The EU had argued that “because of the way in which seals are killed, the EU public regards seal products from commercial hunts as morally objectionable and is repelled by their availability in the EU market.”
To justify this claim, activists and EU politicians often cite an Ipsos MORI public opinion survey commissioned by Humane Society International (HSI) and IFAW. Conducted in 2011, in 11 countries, the study found that 72% of Europeans supported the import ban on seal products. (4)
The responses to another question in this study, however, are less often quoted. Europeans were asked “how much –if at all – would you say you personally know [about the seal hunt]”. The findings are astounding: 25% of Europeans admitted that they had “never heard of it”.
Another quarter (23%) said they had heard of the seal hunt, but knew “nothing at all”. And another 30% said they knew “not very much”.
In summary: 78% of Europeans say that they know little or nothing at all about the seal hunt. So much for the burning moral issue that justified putting the world trading system at risk!
But despite knowing nothing, 72% of Europeans support the import ban on seal products. That shows what 50 years (sic!) of activist campaigning can do. And it shows why anyone involved with animal production should now be very concerned.
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(1) Inuit leaders have claimed from the start that the exemption for the products from Inuit hunting would not protect their people.