Question 6: 'Who are the animal activist groups and what do they really want?'
If this question is literally one that has been asked of the FCC (it would make more sense to ask the “animal activist groups” in question) it seems hopelessly absurd, and we suspect it has been made up in order to allow the FCC to proselytize, having ended any further attempt to suggest that fur is “green.”
The first sentence of the FCC’s response reads, “The most prominent of these organizations, PETA and HSUS, would like you to believe that they are ‘charitable’ organizations, raising funds to protect animals.”
Actually, it is not “you” that decides what is or is not a charity in the United States, or Canada, but the government, following the strictest of regulations. If the FCC or anyone else has proof that a registered charity is misusing funds and is not legally engaged in charitable work, they have only to report it to the Internal Revenue Service, in the United States, or Revenue Canada, in Canada.
The response continues, “They really function more like well-oiled propaganda and fundraising machines investing millions in media campaigns, paying handsome salaries to their executives and spending very little on animal shelters.”
In the answer to Question 5 the FCC talks about how many animals are killed by shelters, and yet in answering Question 6 seems to see shelters as the only way to help animals.
In fact dogs and cats are not the only animals who are abused and shelters are not the solution to animal abuse, any more than hospitals are the answer to car accidents. The FCC does not say how shelters could conceivably prevent the continued endangerment of wildlife species (we are now seeing more animal and plant species exterminated than at any time since the loss of the dinosaurs some 60 million years ago, and the first caused by a single species, our own). Nor does it say how animal shelters address dolphin slaughter, the east coast Canadian or Namibian seal hunts, the plights of circus animals forced to live in confined quarters and perform silly stunts, the fate of countless animals forced to endure caustic substances that have already been tested year after year because of fear of lawsuits if they do not, the abuse of carriage horses, the 30 percent of waterfowl wounded but not killed by duck hunters, the suffering of animals imprisoned in woefully inadequate zoo cages, the suffering of livestock who, in Canada, can be shipped for days without food or water, or adequate safety from injury and in all climates, or on and on — the list of ways that animals are abused, usually for profit and often in huge numbers, seems endless, but the animal abusers know that progress is made.
One of the most powerful tools, perhaps the most powerful, is education. There are lots of exceptions, to be sure, but generally speaking, people are not cruel, and don’t want to be the cause of animal abuse, so organizations dedicated to helping animals seek to educate the public. Calling such educative programmes “propaganda” is puerile, and serves no useful purpose. It is also an ironic charge, considering the source, as we have sought to show with this document.
The reply to Question 6 continues: “They often use extremist (and sometimes terrorist-like) tactics to get media attention and influence public opinion.”
Who is meant by “they” and what is meant by “terrorist-like”? Not only is terrorism illegal in both the United States and Canada, but in the aftermath of 9/11 the term has been greatly expanded to include many actions that do not cause terror. “They” looks as though it applies to the last two organizations named, but since what these “terror-like” activities are is not explained, we can only say that we know of nothing either organization does that is similar to what terrorists do (such as suicide bombing, destroying aircraft, flying aircraft into buildings, or anything else). In fact, we don’t know what activities would be “like” such terrorism. Is the FCC saying that HSUS dresses people up as pretend suicide bombers, that PETA flies planes almost into buildings but pulls up at the last moment? We know this is all extremely silly and suggest such a thing degrades any claim to be credible that the FCC might make.
In fact the FCC is seeking to confuse legitimate, legal and widely supported efforts to protect animals with the illegal efforts of a small number of individuals who themselves decry the mainstream organizations and are in no way related to them. This “guilt by association” is a sleazy tactic, rather like saying because some terrorists pray to Allah, all who pray to Allah engage in terrorist-like activities, or because murderers often shoot their victims, all people who own guns and fire them engage in criminal-like activity, or because some Republicans once approved of segregation or the Ku Klux Klan, all Republicans engage in racist-like activity. It is the kind of intellectually impoverished argument that appeals to the basest, most ideologically driven but illogical thought processes and is quite demeaning to its proponent while being insulting to discerning readers.
Nevertheless, the FCC’s response to Question 6 continues: “They seek to abolish ALL use of animals, even for food or vital medical research. They oppose using leather, honey or seeing-eye dogs. They believe that keeping pets is a form of `slavery.’ ”
Again it is not stipulated who “they” are, but if you examine the growing body of animal-rights literature and commentary on the subject as it is being taught in universities you find the only commonality is opposition to abuse, to cruelty. The responses to cruelty vary greatly and no one individual or spokesperson speaks for all.
As well there is, within academia and legal circles, much debate over the morality of various uses of animals. Consider “vital medical research.” Whether one accepts the premise of using animals for “vital medical research” is morally defensible, or not, the fact is that there is a huge amount of very cruel research done on animals that has no chance of providing medical assistance to humans, nor is it so designed. If your choice is to help animals, and they are being abused for reasons that are not “necessary” even for a cause most people would support, such as advancement in medical assistance to people, it is surely valid to question or challenge any research that does not move toward that objective. Again the FCC debases itself by oversimplification of complex issues that appeal to one-dimensional thinking, but does nothing to help the reader understand either what the objection to the fur industry is, or whether the industry is “green.”
The response continues: “They see fur as an easy target because it is perceived as being relatively expensive and glamorous — and therefore can be caricatured as `frivolous’ luxury for a small group of rich people.”
But in its response to Question 2, the FCC itself says, “While fur apparel is relatively expensive (because of the work involved in producing it) …” Is the FCC now saying that fur is only “perceived” as being expensive? As for being “perceived” as “glamorous,” we simply direct the reader to the FCC’s own website or any advertisement promoting sales of fur coats to decide for yourself whether or not the fur industry is the one emphasizing “glamour.” In fact, as we have continually pointed out in this document and as organizations and individuals dedicated to helping reduce or end the abuse of furbearing animals also consistently have indicated, much fur is cheap, and is used cheaply for trim and other uses that can surely only be considered “frivolous” by any definition of the word, whether or not one thinks a “glamorous” fur coat is worth many times more than what is needed to keep one warm and fashionable is “frivolous.”
The response to the final question on the FCC’s “Why fur is green” section of its website continues, “In reality the fur industry is made up of very small family run businesses, artisans, trappers and farmers who are not media-savvy like PETA or the HSUS, and don’t have the financial means to compete with the multimillion-dollar budgets of the lucrative new `protest industry.’ ”
According to the Fur Institute of Canada, the fur trade generates $800 million annually to the Canadian economy, while the international value of world trade “activity” in furs is $15 billion. According to British Fur Trade, the retail value of full fur and fur trim in the United States rings in at $1.2 billion.
These are staggering sums. The vast majority of animal protection organizations have very small budgets, but even the largest organizations do not generate anything like the amount of cash fur produces, and must spread it over a wide range of campaigns. The organizations specifically dedicated to reducing or preventing suffering from the fur trade tend to be relatively small. The larger organizations are dedicated to a wide range of issues, so even if they have enviable budgets — and FCC provides no figures or documentation to back up its contention — the fact is that only a portion of their budgets can be dedicated to any one campaign or related suite of campaigns.
We do agree that many animal-protection, environmental and conservation organizations are media-savvy, and are staffed with the brightest and best and most dedicated people willing to work for far less than can be earned in the private sector. But the majority of compassionate people who are opposed to animal abuse are no more media-savvy than anyone else; they depend on those who advocate on behalf of animals no less than does the fur industry depend on groups such as the FCC, itself, to present their position. If the FCC and similar organizations cannot defend themselves, it is, we believe, because there is no way to deny the abuse of animals inherent to the production of furs. That, to bring us full circle, is why the FCC sought, with the website here discussed in detail, to make the argument that fur is green. We have sought to show why it is not.
The final part of the answer to the last question asked on the “Fur is Green” section of FCC’s website is not a reply at all, but a question: “While it is totally legitimate to have differing personal views on the use of animals, whether in our diets or for the clothes we wear, is it really fair to single out one industry and attack the livelihoods of thousands of people, who, like everybody else, have families to raise and bills to pay? Is it really fair to attack the fur industry in a society where 97 percent of the population eats meat and uses animal products everyday (sic)?”
If 97 percent of the public eats meat and we are trying to stop people from eating meat or keeping pets or whatever the FCC claims or implies, than clearly we can draw support from only 3 percent of the population, begging the question: What is the concern? In the David vs. Goliath analogy the fur institute, with its vast resources and government support, is Goliath. That said we have long ago learned that if we oppose some, but not all, institutionalized or other animal cruelty, we are deemed as being hypocrites (“How dare you oppose cock-fighting while eating a cheese sandwich!”) while if we oppose all cruel practice we are deemed extremist (“How dare you say I’m cruel for simply eating a cheese sandwich!”). What we do, of course, is advocate on behalf of animals, and can only do so because of the support of people who, like us, are opposed to animal abuse.
At any rate the same plaint is heard from every animal-abuse or environmentally destructive industry there is. From strip miners to wildlife poachers, everyone has what is to them a perfectly solid and justifiable reason for damaging the environment or hurting animals. The chicken farmer whose hens are so crowded that their beaks have to be cut so that they cannot peck each other, and whose toes grow into wire bottoms of cages, does not want his or her abuse of animals brought to public attention, either. He, or she, also has a family to raise and bills to pay.
There would be no social progress if anything that generated money or was culturally sanctioned was untouchable, not to be challenged no matter how much suffering it caused, no matter how much damage it does to the environment. Christians would still be fed raw to lions, criminals would still be crucified for misdemeanors, eccentrics would still be tried and executed for witchcraft, slaves would still be kept, women would still not be allowed to vote. And if there were any whales, rhinos, tigers, giant pandas or egrets left, they would still be killed for profit.
No one understands better than us just how complicit we all are to varying degrees in our impact on the environment, and on wild and domestic animals. It is our business, our concern and our passion to understand. But that does not negate trying to do better, trying to reduce our negative impact on others. The “very small family run businesses, artisans, trappers and farmers” have options that simply do not exist for the animals that fall victim to their respective trades. Nature is not cruel, but is indifferent; suffering occurs in nature, but not deliberate abuse. That is very much a human option, a human choice.
The fur industry is legal. People can make choices, and if they want to support any legal animal-abuse industry and are not concerned about what it does to animals, the environment, or anything else, they can do so.
But they also do have the right, the fundamental right, to know the facts. The terminology of the animal protectionist is filled with words or phrases most folks do not encounter: the ankus, stereotaxic frame, stockwhip, hakapic, electric goad, farrowing crate, hot branding iron, squeeze cage, captive bolt, chick maceration, hot knife debeaker, veal crate, pit of despair, LD-5 — the list goes on and on and represents a sad litany of cruel and unusual punishment of innocent animals. We deal with animal abuse every day. There is a statistically significant minority of the population who have various psychotic disorders that lead to sadism, and it is reasonable to assume that some of these individuals will gravitate toward occupations that allow them to legally abuse animals. But obviously the qualities of compassion and empathy that motivate those who work on behalf of others — animals or people — are highly variable.
Fur is not green. It comes at a cost to the environment. And while no one can doubt that some animals are killed instantly before their skins are removed to make coats and other products, the fur industry is not humane and is not green. That is the concern that motivates ever-growing numbers of us to oppose the fur industry out of compassion for those who cannot defend themselves, who were born a species other than our own, but who experience fear and pain, like us. We choose to try our best to reduce our responsibility for the pain, fear and deaths of animals, and encourage others to do the same.