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The Fur Trade Today - 05/03/06

Published 05/03/06

It’s a battle of trapper tradition vs. animal protection

The fur trade was a major reason why Europeans settled in the land that became Wisconsin. Its economic impact was important for nearly two centuries after French explorer Jean Nicolet arrived on the shores of Green Bay in 1634.

According to local historian John Gurda, furs were leaving this region even before Nicolet’s arrival via trade routes that were mediated by local Indians.

But today, people involved in trapping say they do not know anyone here who makes a living doing it full time.


Camilla Fox, director of wildlife programs for the Animal Protection Institute, has a different viewpoint.

“I think animal advocates have been successful to a certain degree (in) showing the public exactly what happens on a trap line. I think the success (of trapping opponents) started when footage was obtained showing what actually happened to an animal when they are trapped and sit in that trap for hours.”

This sentiment is echoed by Kristin Leppert, manager of the fur campaign for the Humane Society of the United States. “Women are realizing they don’t need to wear fur to be warm or fashionable.”

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 04/01/06

Hunting, trapping otters may expand to address problem

There is good news and bad news concerning Kentucky’s river otter restoration project, begun in the early 1990s.

The good news is, it worked. The bad news is that otters are now so plentiful in some Kentucky waters, they are invading marinas, climbing aboard boats and stealing fish out of anglers’ baskets.

Jim Lane, director of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said he soon will recommend hunting and trapping seasons for otter be expanded statewide to reduce the problem population. Nuisance complaints have steadily been increasing over the past five years, beginning in far Western Kentucky, where there was a natural population. An otter season was opened two years ago with approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Source: Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), 04/02/06

For the third consecutive year, Russians were the largest buyers at the Hong Kong and Milan fairs and, along with China, has been a major factor in pushing up skin prices at the auction level. Unlike eight years ago, when the collapse of Russia’s economy caused the skin market to weaken and almost bankrupted the fur industry in Greece, then as now its main supplier, Russia’s economy is on a much more solid footing and is expected to continue to grow and further increase the ranks of those who can afford furs for more than utilitarian purposes.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 04/03/06

Although China also has grown tremendously in the area of fur farming and now ranks as the second largest producer of mink after Denmark, it has not yet attempted to set up its own international auction system. Its estimated annual production of about 8 million mink is more than the combined crops of the U.S., Canada and Finland, yet North America and Finland each hold four mink auctions a year. So far, virtually all of China’s production is being taken up by domestic manufacturers, both for export and home consumption. Sales are understood to be direct from the farms, including pre-arranged contractual agreements. Product quality, which is considered still not up to Western standards, has been improving steadily as a result of a continual infusion of breeding stock from better-quality North American and European farms.

At this rate, according to the experts, it won’t be long before Chinese mink will be attractive enough to western buyers for them to want to bid on them — even though they may still send those skins to Chinese processors and manufacturers. While, from a quantity standpoint, the Chinese already are qualified to hold at least two international auctions a year, trade experts think it won’t be too much longer before both quantity and quality make such auctions attractive to Western buyers. Would such an eventuality impact on the existing auctions or market prices? That is considered doubtful, since Chinese mink are still sold outside the auction system, so the reasoning is that Chinese auctions theoretically would not be competitive and would only be helping to meet the growing demand. One of the problems might be in the annual auction scheduling, but it is noted that early-March — a usually open month and right after the annual Hong Kong Fair — might be an appropriate time.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 04/10/06

Activists say angry fishermen keep them from seal hunt

TORONTO, Ontario (AP) — Animal-rights activists said they were harassed by protesters Thursday and prevented from documenting Canada’s seal hunt, despite police intervention.

Members of the Humane Society of the United States said one of their vehicles was run off the road, while several dozen seal hunt supporters surrounded their hotel in eastern Quebec and prevented their group from leaving.

Rebecca Aldworth, a spokeswoman for the group, said the police were serving as mediators between the angry fishermen, whose livelihoods are supplemented by sales of the seal pelts and blubber, and the Humane Society, which calls the hunt barbaric and wants it halted.

Source: CNN, 04/14/06

Italy urges EU to fight sealing

Ban on seal skin imports comes into effect

Rome (ANSA) — Italy on Friday urged the European Union to take action to discourage seal-hunting as a national ban on the import of seal skins came into effect.

A government decree, approved this year after a petition by Italian animal rights activists, outlaws the import of seal pelts. The ban also covers products like seal-skin handbags and purses.

“Italy is leading the way in this action against the barbarous killing of animals and now we ask Europe to take action against all countries that permit this practice,” said Deputy Industry Minister Adolfo Urso.

Source: ANSA (Italy), 04/14/06

Could animal activists soon be sporting Burberry plaid?

The British fashion house, most famous for its ubiquitous black, camel, red, and white check pattern, announced yesterday that it will no longer use any fur from China. The decision was made after Heather Mills McCartney, a vegan and staunch advocate for animal rights, showed footage of a raccoon dog being skinned alive in China to a top Burberry executive.

“We applaud Burberry for making this humane move and ending its use of fur from China,” Michael Markarian, executive vice president at The Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. “Chinese fur farming practices are among the most cruel and barbaric, and we hope that other fashion houses and designers will follow Burberry’s lead.” The HSUS is the nation’s largest animal protection organization.

Source: Fashion Week Daily, 04/14/06

Lawsuit Threatened to Protect Endangered Species from Deadly Traps in Maine & Minnesota

Lynx, gray wolves and bald eagles illegally injured & killed in body-gripping traps

Sacramento, CA – In an effort to stop the illegal trapping of imperiled species in Maine and Minnesota, the Animal Protection Institute (API) today sent letters of intent to sue the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources unless they take immediate actions to protect threatened and endangered species from deadly body-gripping leghold, Conibear and snare traps. Copies of the letters were sent to the Governors and Attorneys General of Maine and Minnesota and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Through Freedom of Information Act requests, API has discovered that Canada lynx, bald eagles, and gray wolves are being trapped and frequently killed in body-gripping traps set for other species. In Maine, five threatened Canada lynx were caught in traps in 2005 alone; at least two of the lynx killed were kittens. In Minnesota, records indicate that at least 24 threatened bald eagles were trapped between 1990 and 2005. Of these, more than half died or had to be destroyed.

Source: API Press Release, 04/18/06

McCartney’s fears over real fur sales

Animal rights campaigners Paul McCartney and his wife Heather believe UK high street shoppers could be unwittingly purchasing real fur.

A BBC documentary found that as there is no legal requirement to label fur garments, some people may not know what they are buying.

In the programme, which will be broadcast tonight, the couple continue to fight to curb the market for fur products.

They have been outspoken in their criticism of high-profile celebrities who wear fur, and campaign vigorously against the trade in dog and cat fur.

Source: Ireland Online, 04/19/06

Trapping lawsuit pending over harm to lynx and eagles

A California animal rights group has filed notice that it will sue the state of Minnesota for failing to protect lynx and eagles from accidental trapping.

The Animal Protection Institute this week sent letters of intent to sue the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources unless the agency protects the species from leghold, conibear and snare traps.

The group also will sue the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to stop accidental lynx trapping.

In both states the suits, if successful, could mean tight restrictions or even a ban on trapping in areas inhabited by lynx.

The notice is the latest in an ongoing effort by environmental and animal welfare groups to push state and federal agencies to change trapping regulations so lynx aren’t caught and killed in traps set for other animals.

Source: Duluth News Tribune, 04/21/06

The lightness-of-weight factor, which has become more important in recent years, has become even more critical as a result of lifestyle changes, as well as a perception of a global warming. Among the ways the lightness factor is being addressed, in addition to shearing the fur, is by making the furs reversible to their own leathers, employing knitting or weaving techniques and eliminating linings. Not a beneficial alternative for linings suppliers, many of whom already have gone out of business because of imports of fully-lined garments, but possibly another signal for them to explore their business options.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 04/24/06

The April 17 hearing on the class-action suits brought by two former mink ranchers against five New York brokerages has been deferred, giving the defendants more time to respond. The plaintiffs, who have moved for a consolidation of their suits (SPR, 04/03/06) have asked for additional time to file an amended, consolidated complaint, which is expected to delay the hearing for 90 days or so. The case is to be heard before Judge Ricardo Martinez in Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington. The suits filed separately by Wanachek Mink Ranch of Cle Elum and Jordan Fur Farm of Olympia alleged conspiracy to fix prices for furs at auctions in the United States. Charged were Alaska Brokerage International and David Karsch, its former vice-president; Global Mink Corp.; Mechutan Fur Corp.; Klondike International Furs, and Delta Trading Corp. Both Wanachek and Jordan have been out of business for several years.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 04/24/06

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