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The Fur Trade Today - 06/11/04

Published 06/11/04

A study released in May 2004 concludes that marine mammals and fishing fleets rarely prey heavily on the same fish populations. Fishers in North America routinely claim that seals and sea lions eat so many cod and salmon that they reduce the fishers’ take, but Kristin Kaschner, a marine biologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver reported that about 80 per cent of the world’s fish catch comes from regions where there is very little overlap with marine mammals, and 99 per cent of marine mammal feeding takes place where very little fishing occurs. “Marine mammals are not likely to have a large impact on large fisheries,” concludes Kaschner.

Source: New Scientist, 05/12/04

The negative publicity around this spring’s harp seal hunt in Eastern Canada is hurting the sealskin market, even though hunters in Nunavut kill only ring seals.

“There’s really not much of a market (for seal skin), and we can’t produce them and we certainly can’t produce them competitively.” Said Larry Simpson, Nunavut’s senior advisor for fisheries and sealing. “Fur still has a real stigma. You can say if you hang in there for 30 years, it’ll start unwinding, but the (fur marketing show) in Montreal, it’s really directed towards the U.S. market, and you can’t send seals there,” Simpson said.

Source: Nunatsiaq News (Nunavut, Canada), 05/07/04

The National Trappers Association is working with insurance brokers to offering a liability insurance that covers trappers if they trap a companion dog. National Trappers Association says that “If a trapper finds that a local dog has gotten into his trap and has been injured and the owner of the dog files a suite to collect vet bills, this policy would cover anything over $500.00 up to $300,000.00 per claim.”

[Trappers claim that companion animals are rarely caught, injured, or killed in traps, but it obviously this happens often enough for the NTA to see a need for liability insurance. –JM]

Source: American Trapper, March/April 2004

The Australian Government will immediately move to ban trade in cat and dog fur, said the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison. Senator Ellison said the Howard Government had decided in April to introduce the ban after careful consideration and consultation with key groups in the community.

“I have received more than 9000 representations from a broad section of the community supporting a ban — the largest volume of correspondence I have received on a single issue in almost four years as Minister,” he said. “This concern has led directly to the Government working closely with key groups to ensure the ban is as effective and comprehensive as possible.”

The Prime Minister has written to Premiers and Chief Ministers asking them to take parallel action by also banning the domestic sale and production of goods using cat and dog fur using State or Territory legislation.

Source: Media release, Senator Christopher Ellison, 05/21/04

The European Union (EU) has been cleared to finally enact a ban on trade in cat and dog fur. Internationally recognized British barrister Philippe Sands has issued a legal opinion that there is a European Community (EC) treaty basis under which the EU can enact a ban. Humane Society International is now calling on the European Commission to follow Australia’s recent ban with one of its own.

Since the U.S. and Australia have banned dog and cat fur, most of the Asian trade appears to have shifted to the EU to make up for lost revenues.

Source: HSUS Press Release, 05/27/04

In 2002 only 5% to 10% of U.S. fur farms turned a profit, but 2003 ended up being a profitable year for many, the first such year in a long time. The average price per mink skin at auction was as much as $10 higher than the previous year. Though the year ended in the black, rising costs such as fuel, electricity and feed have cut into these profits. Despite the favorable year, there is little chance that American fur farmers will increase the size of their operations since most fur farm owners are close to or at retirement age and few in the next generation aspire to follow in their footsteps. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were about 300 fur factory farms in operation last year which killed 2.5 million minks. This is in stark contrast to the 2,800 fur farms that killed 5.7 million minks in 1969 when records began being kept.

Fur farming in Canada may increase slightly because of the better economic conditions they enjoy. Since the U.S. dollar is the main currency in fur farming, Canadian factory farmers see a 28% premium in their checks.

The number of minks killed in Scandinavian countries is expected to remain stable. Denmark kills about 12.2 million minks, amounting to more than one-third of the world total this year estimated at about 32.4 million. Poland is increasing its mink killing industry, having slaughtered 1.2 million mink last year. This number is expected rise in 2003.

As the Chinese fur farming industry becomes more sophisticated, North American fur farmers worry that China’s low production costs will drive down the price of mink skins significantly. It is estimated that North American fur farmers spend twice as much to bring a mink skin to market than the Chinese.

The Danish Fur Breeders Association is withdrawing from the Saga Furs Cooperative and establishing its own design center in the city of Vedbaek, much like the Saga design center that has been successful in luring young designers to the world of fur.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/24/04

U.S. Justice Department agents subpoenaed dozens of fur buyers at a recent Seattle auction. A grand jury investigation of possible violations of anti-trust laws and possible price controlling collusion is underway. Buyers and brokers from between forty and eighty firms were snagged by the agents and all had dealings with American Legend, North American Fur Auctions, Fur Harvesters Auction, The Copenhagen Fur Center and Finnish Fur Sales. Some of these fur industry officials angrily accused American Legend officials or members of being responsible for the federal investigation. It is suspected that American Legend may have called for the investigation because marketing reports placed blame for low skin prices on international brokers, saying that they were conspiring among themselves to keep prices down.

This is not the first time the fur trade has been in trouble with the feds. Thirty years ago an investigation of mink farming organizations resulted in indictments by a grand jury. The indictments charged the ranching groups with a price-fixing conspiracy. The investigation came to a conclusion with six officials of the groups being fined as much as $12,000.

Industry insiders estimate that this latest case may last several years and cost the fur organizations millions of dollars in legal fees and other costs. The specialist attorneys that handle these kinds of cases charge fees of $500 an hour or more. The cost to individual dealers/brokers could be from $100,000 to $300,000.

Because of this case it is thought that many fur trade officials, most in their 60's and 70's, may be heading into an early retirement.

Sources: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/31/04
Sandy Parker Reports, 06/07/04

The North Lake at Greystone Homeowners Association, said they will not employ another trapper to kill the animals. Anne Miller, executive director of the Wildlife Center at Oak Mountain State Park, said that killing or relocating beavers is at best a temporary solution. “When they do something like that, they’re creating a vacuum that’s going to invite a new set of beavers,” she said. “They have to accept that there are beavers there and they have to live alongside them.”

Source: The Birmingham News (Alabama), 06/04/04

Danish activist Joh Vinding reports the following news on the state of fox factory farms in Denmark.

There is a bill before Danish lawmakers that will mandate a number of welfare improvements for foxes. A committee which has dealt with the bill for almost two years has demanded the following improvements:

- All foxes are to have a platform in their cages and a solid floor (not wire).

- All foxes are to have access to at least two cages 2x2 meters in size no matter if they have cubs or not.

- All foxes need access to a nesting box all year around.

- All foxes should be able to have access to a chewing bone. The minister will, in collaboration with the fur industry examine whether all foxes should be able to dig.

New farms cannot be established (nor can existing farms expand) as other rules will apply to them. Some of these rules require that all foxes will need to be able to dig and socialize with other foxes.

Given the average age of fox farmers in Denmark (all farms were expected to be gone in 10 years due to retirements), this is an uncontroversial decision.

There are currently 86 fox farms in Denmark that kill more than 30,000 foxes annually.

Sources: Danish activist Joh Vinding, 06/07/04

A coalition of wildlife protection groups that include among others the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and Republicans for Environmental Protection, is petitioning the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to ban the use of leghold traps and snares on public land. Organizers for the effort say that three commissioners from Game & Fish are willing to support the measure, and one more is needed for there to be a majority on the board.

Source: Mary Ray - mkrscrim@gilanet.com, 06/07/04

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