1 There is a caveat to this assertion. Many people actively opposed to the abuse of animals are also involved in working toward the rights of various groups of people, and may see the fur industry’s huge reliance on models who are attractive young women, often in provocative poses, as promoting inherently sexist societal values.
2 The situation is exacerbated by virtue of the prevalence of predatory species, such as foxes and mink, held in fur farms. In truly natural conditions, in the wild, these species tend to occupy large territories. In the case of the American Mink, these vary between males and females, with females having home ranges of about 8 to 20 hectares and include 1.8 to 7.5 kilometers of linear territory along shorelines, and males occupying territories that are generally linear in shape, along shore lines, and extend about 1 to 4.2 kilometers along shorelines and are up to 800 hectares in size (HBW1 2009). Thus they are very thinly distributed across the landscape, whereas in farms hundreds, even thousands, are concentrated in a small area, a totally unnatural situation that produces greater concentrations of excrement than would occur in nature, although there is great variation depending on a variety of ecological features. Red foxes are so varied in the range of habitats they occupy in the wild that it is difficult to generalize about the sizes of their home ranges, but in general it can vary from less than half a square kilometre to over 40 square kilometres; however, nowhere is it confined to the tiny cage size allocated on fur farms.
3 Space does not allow a thorough examination of the concept of animals or nature as “resources,” of value to the degree that they can be commercially utilized, but the term has been thoroughly examined by the late Canadian naturalist John A. Livingston, in much of his writing, including “Rogue Primate.”
4 Many people don’t “believe in” evolution, and in fact, don’t believe in a cause and effect universe, choosing to believe that which best suits them. Regarding evolution, they can see that heritable features can be passed on to the next generation and they can usually grasp the concept of mutations that may have either a positive or negative effect on survivability thus may be “selected for” or “selected against,” but cannot accept that in the fullness of large expanses of time this leads to speciation. As they choose to believe what they wish and unwilling (or unable) to base opinions on facts, presumably they will bring similar bias to any controversy, meaning this document will only be of value to those already convinced that fur is not green and be of no value to those already convinced that furs are green.
5 See Fur Council of Canada. “Fur Production is `Earth-Friendly”
6 As a point of possible interest, the senior author of this piece, Barry Kent MacKay, is not only a lifelong naturalist-artist who has spent much of his life closely observing wildlife in the wild in wilderness areas in Canada and around the world, but he has never, ever, seen the movie “Bambi.” “Now,” he jokes, “I guess I never can or I’ll be accused, late in life, of somehow being retroactively influenced by it, and not by my own lifelong experiences, observation, research and activities.”
7 If you ever have an opportunity to see any of several species of bird-of-paradise up close (and it is not easy; the family is mostly confined to New Guinea) you may be surprised at just how beautiful they are, with extremely oddly shaped plumes, supernaturally bright colors and incredible levels of iridescence. It is natural to assume that they are named because they look like the sort of thing we could hope to encounter in any place deserving to be called paradise. In fact, the birds were first known to science because of the skin trade. As only the feathered skins were required for fashion, and in order to expedite the removal of those skins from the dead bird, the feet were simply cut off. As a result the first “trade skins,” as they were called, that arrived in Europe were simply dried skins, lightly stuffed with cotton or dried grass and missing their feet, leading naive observers to conclude that once airborne, the birds never alit, thus must belong more in paradise (thought by many to exist somewhere up in the sky) than Earth.
8 Because the arguments used by the FCC to greenwash the fur industry are also used by other wildlife exploiters, we are used to them. They are part of a suite of tactics industries charged with influencing public opinion often employ. These tactics include repeating misinformation, as repetition tends to suggest credibility; defaming detractors; and, most effective of all, seeking to build a mountain of falsehood around a molehill of truth. The first thing an advocate should do, we think, is seek that molehill of truth — find instances where what is claimed is actually true. There are a few, very few, instances where the economic value of an animal has provided economic incentive to protect it. The Nile crocodile is an example. They grow to an enormous size and are a very efficient predator that periodically will kill people. Why would villagers want them in their midst? The value of their hides most certainly has provided economic incentive to allow them to exist where they are a hazard. There are some butterflies in New Guinea who are much in demand by collectors, and because they are valued, they are often captive bred in their home territories, so that they can be collected without depleting wild populations, and escapees will enhance those wild populations. We are sure there are a few other examples, but the sad fact is that for most species of wild plants and animals, having a high monetary value invariably leads to population declines, eventual endangerment, and even extinction.
9 The senior author first became interested in how the fur industry is hurting the ability of northern trappers, Aboriginal or otherwise, to earn a living when, decades ago, he attended a meeting held by the authorities of the Canadian office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). There was an Inuit present, who, during the meeting, bitterly complained about how Greenpeace’s campaign against use of arctic foxes had cut into the value of pelts. Knowing that Greenpeace had never mounted any such campaign, and that no other organization had featured the arctic fox in any anti-fur promotion, further investigation was warranted. It was a manager of the North Bay fur auction who first told him how the increasing production of white fox skins (not just from arctic foxes, but from intentionally bred strains of white-colored red foxes — a bigger, more luxuriant pelt than any arctic fox could produce) trappers simply could not compete, and the value of wild pelts was declining accordingly.
10 The senior author used to lecture about trapping to classrooms, but wondered how he could demonstrate the cruelty of the so-called “padded” trap. Eventually he put his own finger in it, not allowing it to snap shut, just easing it in between the “padded” jaws. At first it was bearable but as blood was blocked from returning pain set in, and as it became unbearable, the feelings were described and the trap was removed — an option not open to its animal victims. The kids could see the whiteness of the lecturer’s finger but could not feel the pain. Several wanted to try it themselves, but that simply was not allowed. The trap was set aside. The teacher, who had been hostile to the talk and made it clear that he supported trapping, sidled over to the table and was seen to ease his own finger into the trap’s jaws. He shrugged, elaborately, as if to indicate that there was no pain. But very soon that changed and he was forced to remove the trap, and from that point asked no more challenging questions. Most people, whatever their views of the fur industry, have never experienced the sort of agony that is produced by leg-hold traps, body gripping traps or snares, or by being held underwater, but we feel confident that no one who does would ever call these devices “humane.”
11 In preparing this document the senior author visited numerous websites claiming to present the “facts” about trapping, both pro and con. Here is what one of them, Wild-About-Trapping.Com, had to say about the capture of non-intended straps under a section called “Here are the REAL facts about trapping”: “There is no such thing as a ‘trash animal.’ Anti-trappers like to say that `two non-target animals are trapped for each target animal’ and that these so-called `trash animals’ are simply thrown away. Hmmmm, I wonder what they consider a `trash animal’ to be. Most of the time, a good trapper will catch only what he intends to catch. A novice trapper will have some non-target catches, he might catch a raccoon instead of a mink, or a mink instead of a muskrat, or a possum instead of a raccoon. There is a market for all of these pelts. The `trash animal’ statement is totally false and was made up by animal rights groups to spread information to an uninformed public.” The writer, Keith Dewars, “an avid outdoorsman,” does not cite any references for the words he puts into the words of “animal rights group,” but the senior author of this document would like to refer to his own experience. The first happened back in the 1960s, when, as a young artist specializing in painting birds, he was seeking dead wild birds to be preserved as museum type specimens, called study skins, that could thereafter assist him in his artistic work. He was introduced to a trapper who worked at a local asbestos factory, but also was licensed to run a trapline in Frenchman’s Bay, east of Toronto. That area is now quite built-up — trapping did not protect the environment from urban sprawl — but in those days it was, especially on the western side, reasonably “natural” and marshy. The trapper was happy to take the young man around and give him the various ducks and other birds that had been caught in the leg-hold traps set mostly for muskrats and mink. Had Dewars modified his comments and pointed out that trappers don’t seek to trap species whose skins they cannot sell, he might have maintained some degree of credibility, but his absoluteness is his undoing. Some of the specimens thus collected by the senior author of this document are still extent, but not documented. However, a decade or so later the senior author, while examining bird specimens at the Royal Ontario Museum, met a University of Toronto researcher named Gary Bortolotti, who was conducting a simple study also involving preserved museum specimens. His work was eventually published in the Journal of Wildlife Management (Vol. 48, No. 4, October, 1984). We quote the abstract: “Data on mortality of 143 golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) and 172 bald eagles (Haliaeet leucocephalus) killed by traps and poisons (intended for nonavian predators) accounted for 71% (N = 27) of known causes of mortality and 19% of museum records. Fewer bald eagles were thus killed: 33 (n = 7) and 4% respectively. The age distribution of the entire sample of golden eagles was predominately juvenile (68%), but that of trap and poison mortality (30% juveniles) was comparable to estimates for a natural population. There was a strong tendency for more female golden eagles to be trapped or poisoned than males (1 male:5.8 females). Spatial segregation is presented as a possible explanation for the observed sex difference in mortality.” And it as around this time that the senior author met Dick Randal, who had been a professional trapper in the United States. In 1976 he spoke at congressional hearings, saying, “Even though I was an experienced, professional trapper, my trap victims included non-target species such as bald eagles and golden eagles, a variety of hawks and other birds, rabbits, sage grouse, pet dogs, deer, antelope, porcupines, sheep and calves. The leg-hold trap is inherently non-selective. It is probably the most cruel device ever invented by man. My trapping records show that for each target animal I trapped, about two unwanted individuals were caught. Because of trap injuries, these non-target species had to be destroyed.” There are numerous estimates of what percentage of trapped animals are “target” species, but that figure would vary enormously. The fact is that many non-target species, whatever the percentage, are unintentionally trapped, and unless the results are preserved, there is no record of it, but to suggest it never happens is beyond absurd, and yet that is the sort of outright myth promoted by the fur industry while castigating the anti-fur movement for misrepresentations.
12 The senior author of this document was a director of CFHS when some of these codes were developed. The board also contained representatives of industries that routinely, and legally, abuse animals. The one-time chief executive officer of the CFHS and a strong proponent of the codes had been a chinchilla breeder. The codes were developed in the belief that since animals were horribly abused by the fur industry, anything that lessened the abuse would be of benefit, given that an abolition of the fur industry seemed so very unlikely (and was certainly not the desire of some of the directors). The codes were never meant to provide “humane” care but rather care that was less abusive and, most importantly to those who supported them, standards low enough that they would have a chance to be acceptable to at least some fur farmers, thus have a chance to be voluntarily adhered to. Since they were strictly voluntary, they had to be acceptable to at least some fur farmers, but they were emphatically not acceptable to the senior author if this document nor other directors who had no vested interest in animal abuse.
13 We repeat that the main use of fur in garments is not for full-length coats, half-length coats, fur stoles other garments that are made mostly from furred animal skins, but as trim. It is often on fall or winter coats sold in department stores and other shopping venues that have no fur departments. Many buyers assume that it is synthetic, and we have met people who oppose the wearing of fur without being aware that the traces of fur on their parkas or cuffs are real. It is cheap and often very low quality in terms of appearance, and may be dyed bizarre colors.
14 The dingo is sometimes considered a subspecies of the wolf, and other times a separate species, meaning there are 36 species of canid, and its ancestors arrived in Australia thousands of years ago, presumably in the company of humans, but well before modern breeds of dog had established. The dingo has common ancestry with Asian races of the gray wolf.
15 Among efforts being made to curb the “surplus” of dogs and cats in North America (and other regions) is to attempt to prevent the sale of such animals from pet stores, but rather, to encourage such stores to provide a venue for the adoption of rescued strays. The appeal of the “purebred,” no less than the appeal of “fashion fur” or vintage wines and the value placed on them derives in no small part to snob appeal, the requirement of insecure people that they have something special, something they, but not everyone, can afford, and that they, unlike the rabbles, have the good sense or knowledge or sensitivity to appreciate. The situation has become so absurd that some stores provide “breeds” such as “cockapoos” that are the offspring of two parents claimed of different breeds, and come with “papers” to “prove” it. For the amount such animals cost, many stray dogs or cats could be adopted from shelters and their lives saved. In fact, the intensive domestication of animals that leads to breeds often at the expense of the welfare of the animal, with anatomical features that evolved through millions of years changed in ways that lead to disease or other problems. One need only look at the shortening of a bulldog’s nose (leading to respiratory problems), the lengthening of a basset hound’s back (leading to spinal problems), or the enlarging of the eyes of Pekingese and other short-faced breeds (leading to ophthalmological problems) or any of a wide plethora of diseases (such as blindness in Dalmatians, hip dysplasia or intestinal torsion in several of the larger breeds) that are more likely found in “purebred” dogs than in mixed breeds. The situation is exacerbated by “puppy mills.” These are breeding facilities that seek to produce a maximum number of puppies, thus profits, without regard for the welfare of the breeding dogs, and no more regard for the puppies than required to produce a marketable product. Because, unlike fur farms, they are closer to the retail end of the business, and are illegal in some North American jurisdiction, there is even more video available showing the gruesome conditions in which it is possible to produce pups that at least look healthy enough to be attractive to buyers. But often these dogs are so inbred that they develop horrible genetic disabilities as they mature. Animal protectionists specializing in issues pertaining to companion animals fight for the enactment and enforcement of laws banning puppy mills, and to educate the public and encourage the adoption of homeless strays.
16 We put quotation marks around the term “euthanasia” and its derivatives to indicate that we are discouraged by how the meaning of the term is not well understood. Euthanasia should refer to animals (or people) killed out of compassion, to end suffering that cannot end except by death. Animals suffering terminal pain cannot have the option, open to humans where there is sufficient medical means, of palliative care — care that allows death with a minimum or no suffering. Whether or not euthanasia, for humans or animals, is ever morally justified is a matter of often heated debate far outside the scope of this document, but the fact is that with regard to animals, it is much too often used to encompass animals killed simply because they were not wanted, but are quite healthy and either not suffering, or suffering from problems that can be ended without resorting to loss of the victim’s life.