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Fur Council of Canada Misinformation

A Point-By-Point Rebuttal of the Organization’s ‘Fur Is Green’ Website

Published 01/25/11
By Barry Kent MacKay, Senior Program Associate

It is important to illustrate the way in which the Fur Council of Canada (FCC) misrepresents both the results of its own industry on the environment, and the endeavors of organizations and individuals whose dedication to animal protection, conservation and the environment may bring them into conflict with the fur industry.

The reason it is important is because the FCC is often cited by elected politicians too lazy or uninterested to do their homework and inform themselves on the issues. However, the FCC is not a government agency, but rather is a private organization in no way accountable to the voting public of Canada. Its “policies” are not laws and have no legal standing, and yet are often cited in defense of the industry.

The FCC also is too often referenced as a source of information by journalists who, perhaps naively, assume that it is an accurate source of facts. As we point out in considerable detail below, the FCC and other fur industry apologists often dissemble the facts, or simply misrepresent them.

FCC is, first and foremost, a propagandist — an advocate. The best propaganda is predicated on facts, but facts do not always serve objectives of advocacy and so must be tweaked, misrepresented or ignored.

Make no mistake: Those of us who actively work in the fields of animal protection, conservation and the environment are also advocates. And to the degree that it is antithetical to our own goals of animal protection, conservation and environmentalism, we are adversarial to the fur industry, thus the FCC.

What is a “third party” to think when two groups with different agendas make contrary claims? The answer is that one must judge arguments on merit, and that can be a very difficult thing to do. We all have inherent biases and we all have certain beliefs that may or may not be valid. We cannot be expected to have the expertise required to know who is right on all matters, and it takes time and effort to investigate claims.

Meanwhile, put very simply, the goals of people seeking to prevent cruelty to animals, seeking to conserve endangered species and to protect the environment are widely shared among the general public, including potential customers for fur products. It is FCC’s job to see that customers and others are convinced that their compassionate goals are not compromised by the fur industry’s activities.

The FCC understands this. It serves a commercial end — to sell furs, yes, but it often seeks to do so by establishing common ground with those interests or values that are most common among potential buyers. One such value is glamor. Glamor is subjective. Whether one values it or not, or whether one thinks fur garments (traditionally associated with wealth and privilege) are glamorous, is not de facto of concern to any particular part of the animal protection, conservation or environmental movements.1

However, the fur industry also has determined that people are most likely to reject buying furs (or anything else, but particularly luxury items) when they associate them with things they don’t like, and that would include, for a large percentage of the potential market, abuse of animals, destruction of rare or endangered species, or damage to the environment.

The first concern, animal welfare, is something almost everyone claims to support. That includes people involved in the most egregious forms of animal abuse. Few are the hunters, trappers, circus animal trainers, animal researchers, farmers — or even people engaged in cock-fighting, dog-fighting or supporting bull-fighting — who don’t claim to care for and respect animals, and do not admit to cruelty.

While gamely making the argument that fur production is not cruel, the FCC in particular has mounted a major effort to convince the public that fur production is “green.” This process, also used by other industries selling things produced at a cost to the environment, is called “greenwashing”. We have all seen the various fossil fuel commercials filled with shimmering images of wetlands and wildlife and green forests, all seeming to imply that the industry is at the head of a major effort to protect our environment. That’s greenwashing. The FCC is fully committed to greenwashing.

On its website, the FCC states the following:

“The Fur Council of Canada is a national, non-profit federation representing people working in every sector of the Canadian fur trade. This includes fur producers, auction houses, processors, designers, craftspeople and retail furriers. Incorporated in 1964, Fur Council programs include:

“Encouraging linkages between designers and other sectors of the fashion industry.

“Sponsorship of competitions for both professional designers and students in Canadian fashion colleges.

“Promotion of the work of innovative Canadian fur designers through FCC advertising in top national and international fashion publications.

“Providing accurate information about the Canadian fur trade to consumers, educators and the public. The North American Fur & Fashion Exposition in Montreal (NAFFEM) is the largest fur and outerwear fashion fair of its type in North America, and one of the most important fur fashion marketing events in the world.”

In an apparent effort to provide “accurate information about the Canadian fur trade to consumers, educators and the public” the FCC set up a “Fur is Green” webpage at “for an informed opinion” that provides answers to six questions about the fur industry.

Here we will examine each question in considerable detail in response to what the FCC provides. Our hope is in doing so we can illustrate how greenwashing works. Of course we also hope to show the targeted “consumers, educators and the public,” to which we would add politicians and media, that the FCC seeks to take advantage of the fact that most people know little enough about animal welfare, zoology, ecology, wildlife conservation or the mechanics of fur production. We want to show that, contrary to the FCC’s assertion that fur is “green,” fur products are not a “natural and ecological product” and are not “green.”

Of course tropical wood, Northern Cod, whales, methane gas, oil, ivory, sea turtles, coral and fresh water are also natural “resources” and most are renewable, but that does not mean that their extraction and use is without ecological or environmental consequences for those who “care about nature.” 2

Anyone can dismiss what we are about to say as our own propaganda, to be given no greater weight than what the FCC has said. But we would hope that already the discerning reader will have noticed one difference between what we are saying here, and what the FCC is saying on its “Fur is Green” website.

That difference is this: Throughout this document that you are reading you will see links to the FCC, or direct and complete quotations of what that organization says. You will find little or no such information from the FCC with regard to the arguments made against the fur industry. It makes allegations, but does not provide the references that would allow readers to look at the original texts, beyond snippets in the absence of context. The last thing the FCC seems to want is for the reader to read the contrary argument and make up her or his own mind — to see what is being said.

We have no such objection. The primary concern that most people have about the fur industry is animal abuse (remembering that not everyone cares if animals are abused) and we think that the FCC understands that if people do go to websites opposed to the fur industry, they will learn just how much abuse of animals is involved in fur production.

The FCC must know that it cannot convince those people who do care about animal abuse that the fur industry is humane, thus the effort to convince people that the fur industry is green, greener than any alternative to the product it provides.

To present both the FCC’s side of the debate and our own, as opposed to just giving you our view, makes this document quite long, but we think it is important that the FCC be quoted in full in order to allow you to best judge how correct it is at what it claims to do: provide accurate information on the fur industry.

Also, as much as we can we will provide independent sources of peer-reviewed, scientific or other references to back up our contentions. This is not a scientific paper and it is impossible to follow all linkages provided by the Internet to discuss each detail — but we will do our best to provide an ability for readers who wish to do so to assess the accuracy of what we say and do their own further research.

Question 1: 'What do you mean by saying fur is green?'

Question 2: 'How can the use of animal (sic) to make a luxury product ever be ethical?'

Question 3: 'How can I be sure the Canadian fur industry practices humane standards?'

Question 4: 'Are those videos going around for real?'

Question 5: 'Are coats in Canada made from dog and cat fur?'

Question 6: 'Who are the animal activist groups and what do they really want?' and the conclusion

Footnotes

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