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The Fur Trade Today - 06/01/06

Published 06/01/06

Man Sentenced to 25 Months in Federal Prison For Selling Federally-Protected Wildlife Valued at More Than $200,000

A Pennsylvania man who sold more than $200,000 worth of endangered species’ parts, hides and mounts through his website and retail shop in Port St. Lucie, Florida, was sentenced 25 months in prison today by a federal court in Miami, Fla. Kevin M. McMaster, of Greensboro, Pa., was also ordered to serve three years of supervised probation upon his release from prison and pay a $250 special court assessment.

McMaster, 35, recently relocated to Greensboro, Pa., from Port St. Lucie where he operated a website known as Deadzoo.com and a retail store, Exotic & Unique Gifts, businesses through which he admitted to selling more than $200,000 worth of federally-protected wildlife including tiger, snow leopard and jaguar skins as well as a gorilla skull and baby tiger mounts between 2003 and 2004.

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Press Release, 04/20/06

McCartneys Inspire UK Fashion Retailer Fur Ban

North West-based discount fashion retailer QS Discount has banned the sale of fur products — real and fake — from its stores in Chorley, Atherton, Farnworth, Urmston and Sale, and called for other retailers to follow suit.

The QS Discount fur ban responds to last night’s BBC One’s Real Story about the planet’s fur trade. The programme featured Sir Paul McCartney and Lady Heather Mills McCartney during six months of their campaign to expose animal cruelty in the global fur trade.

QS Discount managing director Simon Yates reveals why he was inspired to take action,

“After more than 20 years in the business, I like to think I know pretty much all there is to know about the fashion trade — but the BBC’s Real Story programme was an eye opener for me.

“If people like Paul and Heather McCartney are prepared to go to such extraordinary lengths to educate us about animal cruelty in the fur trade — then it’s not much to ask for retailers like QS Discount to join them in their Anti-Fur stand.”

In the programme, Sir Paul and Lady Heather talked about their battle against the market for fur — especially the trade in domestic cat and dog fur for which Heather is appealing for an EU ban. The programme also revealed how, with no legal requirement to label fur garments, high street shoppers in the UK could be unwittingly buying real fur.

Simon adds, “In the past we’ve rarely stocked fur items any way — but that’s no excuse for any retailer. I was genuinely disturbed by what I saw in the Real Story programme and didn’t hesitate to impose an outright ban. To be honest, I can’t understand any fashion retailer who wouldn’t be prepared to do exactly the same.”

Source: QS Discount News Release, 04/20/06

Catholic group backs McCartney anti-fur campaign

An international Catholic animal welfare lobby has backed a new campaign by pop legend and animal rights campaigner Sir Paul McCartney to prevent high-street shoppers from unwittingly purchasing real fur.

The Universe reports that the former Beatle and his wife Heather are continuing to wage war against shops selling real fur after a BBC documentary following their anti-fur campaign found that the absence of any legal requirement to label fur garments meant that some people in the UK could be buying real fur without ever knowing.

“I cannot imagine of any Catholic wanting to take part in this barbaric trade,” said Catholic Concern for Animals General Secretary Debbie Jones after stating her support for Sir Paul’s campaign.

Source: Catholic News, 04/24/06

Tibetan Broadcasters Ordered To Wear Fur

KATHMANDU — Chinese authorities in the Amdo Tibetan region of northwest China have ordered Tibetan broadcasters to add fur trimmings to their traditional clothing, in an apparent jab at an anti-fur movement inspired by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Che Xizhen, head of the Qinghai provincial propaganda department, and Rinchen Gyal, head of the provincial Communist Party’s ideology-focused United Front Work Department, visited the Qinghai television station, where they announced that Tibetan-language broadcasters must wear fur-lined traditional Tibetan clothing, a source close to the station said.

“The two of them came to the television station and gave orders, saying, ‘You’ve got to add fur linings to your clothes. This is compulsory or else.’”

Source: Radio Free Asia, 04/28/06

Industry fur flies over allegations of rigged auctions

David Karsch has been a fixture in the fur industry for almost 50 years, but he probably never thought his career would end like this.

Mr. Karsch, who lives in New York, is at the centre of a price-fixing controversy that has dogged the North American fur industry for the past two years. While fur has enjoyed a comeback in recent years, with record prices and a renewed interest from fashion designers, the industry is still under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice over allegations that bids at some fur auctions were rigged.

Department lawyers have subpoenaed thousands of documents from more than 36 fur brokers, auction houses and buyers in the United States, Canada, Europe and China, according to court filings. And officials say the investigation isn’t over.

Source: The Globe and Mail, 05/01/06

Although fur stores have done well with shearlings in recent years, despite their initial resistance to the item, several noted they were not planning for further expansion in that direction. While they still believe the item has good sales potential, they also point out that many other non-fur retailers have picked up on shearlings and the furriers are leery of getting caught in a price war. For that reason, they say they’ll take the high road with fashion and better shearlings. Retailers also see a better potential for wild furs and intend to take on more beavers, both sheared and full-furred, but also such other long-hairs as lynx and certain foxes. Considering their high regard for Canada’s proficiency with wild furs, those who specialize in them may fare relatively better than others.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/01/06

New York manufacturer Alexandros has entered into a licencing agreement with TV fashion journalist Leon Hall, a first, to produce a collection “for the voluptuous woman.” The Divas Collection, size 14 and over in a variety of flat, sheared and regular furs, will debut at the Alexandros booth at NAFFEM this week ...

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/01/06

Officials: Coyote bounties failed, time for end

Virginia counties have paid tens of thousands of dollars in bounties since 1999 to curb the state’s coyote population but have had no success. So state and federal officials are recommending an end to the bounties.

“Learn to live with the coyotes, they’re here to stay,” said J. Mike Harris, cooperative extension agent in Tazewell County, which has paid hunters and trappers $8,000 in bounties since July 1. “Bounties have never worked.”

After years of clamoring from farmers angry over coyotes chewing into their sheep flocks and goat herds, the General Assembly in 1999 authorized counties to pay bounties for coyote carcasses. At least 15 counties pay bounties ranging from $25 to $100, and they typically spend from $2,500 to $10,000 a year.

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, 05/06/06

Substantial carryover inventories from last season combined with this year’s higher wholesale prices to cause retailers to move cautiously at the North American Fur & Fashion Exposition in Montreal last week. Although this was the last in the series of major international fur fairs and for smaller independents an important resource for their seasonal requirements, they felt little pressure to make selections and place orders at this time. For many, the fair served mainly as a showcase of what is available for the new season and a sort of catalog of where to go or who to call when the need arises. For the time being — and likely well into the fall — they have enough salable merchandise and were interested in buying only a few fresh items.

Unlike last year and the year before, when the skin market was rising rapidly and wholesale prices were constantly in flux, the general sense is that mink and most other skins have plateaued and that garment prices also will flatten out. Ergo, no rush to buy. At last year’s Montreal fair, buyers were told that prices were subject to change, which turned out not to be merely a sales hype — prices did follow the skin market further upward. This was not the case last week; there were no such caveats.

In actuality, this was not considered an unsuccessful fair, especially for those exhibitors who had read the signals and prepared accordingly, or for buyers who found what they were looking for. While overall orders at the fair may have declined as compared with a year ago — which was largely anticipated under the circumstances — few retailers went home without having placed orders.

The greatest concentration of activity appeared to be in the area of wild furs in general and, more specifically, in jackets, sportswear-type pieces and accessories. Although price — or the maintenance of established price points — was a factor for more than a few buyers, they commented that fashion and freshness were at least as important. Significantly, this dovetailed with one of the fashion forecasts by a Vogue magazine editor at a breakfast seminar for retailers to the effect that the coming season’s looks in both furs and ready-to-wear will be more wild and rugged. The magazine also predicts, based on this year’s designer collections in Milan, Paris, London and New York, a greater use of mixed materials including more fur on textile ready-to-wear — not only the usual collars, cuffs and linings, but also sleeves, pockets and other details. More fur hats, gloves and boots as well.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/08/06

Neiman Marcus has been inducted into Kopenhagen Fur’s Purple Club, an elite organization it established last fall whose members will have exclusivity to its top-quality purple label. Membership is restricted to 100 of the leading fur retailers around the world who meet certain criteria. There presently are 70 and Neiman’s is the first American firm as well as the first department store. The main purpose of the club, according to Heidi Nyby, Kopenhagen’s retail marketing manager, is to preserve the luxury image of mink, chinchilla, Swakara and fox. Only about 100,000 mink skins a year will qualify for the label, which would mean about 2,500 garment labels. In addition to promotional support, the club offers such services as seminars for sales staffs on a variety of topics. It was understood that Neiman’s first Purple collection will be in exclusive designs by Michael Kors, Zandra Rhodes, Zac Posen and Ralph Rucci, all produced by Pologeorgis Furs of New York.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/08/06

The fur trade, sometimes referred to as the world’s second-oldest profession, is catching up with modern communication and now has its first known web log, or blog, which can serve as an open forum on the Internet on topics of interest. The blog was set up by FBLG Inc. and introduced last week during NAFFEM. It was designed to allow discussion among retailers, between retailers and manufacturers and may be expanded to include other segments of the trade. Such open discussions may include sales trends, fraud alerts, inventory availability, protest activities and virtually any other subject an inquirer wants to open. It will be accessible by password only and will be monitored to prevent abuses. It is being made available to FBLG members at no charge for six months. Other retailers and manufacturers may join for a $100 contribution to FICA. For further info: Gary Gold at (514) 281-0071.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/08/06

The Justice Department’s price-fixing case against a New York fur broker was set for trial this week, but has been postponed until later this month. Charges against Alaska Fur Brokerage International and its former vice-president, David Karsch, were to be tried May 9 in the U.S. District Court in Seattle. As previously noted, the two were charged with conspiring to rig the bids at an auction of otter pelts in violation of the Sherman Act. They have pleaded not guilty and have moved to have the case dismissed, arguing that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts because the auction was run by a Canadian company (Fur Harvesters Auction based on North Bay, Ont.) and the alleged co-conspirators were acting for Chinese buyers. Government lawyers, however, have filed notes in court of a meeting with Karsch in which he allegedly confirmed he agreed to coordinate bidding strategies for certain lots. Defendants’ lawyers have objected to the notes on the grounds they do not accurately reflect what happened at that meeting. They also note that the conversation was not taped and that the notes were made by a government official. The new trial date could not be learned at press time.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/08/06

A Florida fur trader has been sentenced to 25 months in prison and three years of supervised release for offering and selling in interstate commerce more than $200,000 in skins of endangered species. The acts, according to the Justice Dept., were in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. Kevin M. McMaster operated a website known as deadzoo.com and Exotic & Unique Gifts in Port St. Lucie. McMaster admitted he sold or offered tiger, snow leopard and jaguar skins, as well as a gorilla skull and baby tiger mounts. The U.S. judge who imposed the sentence found that the defendant was unable to pay any fine.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/08/06

It’s a Draw! McCarroll’s sketchy charity

NEW YORK — Project Runway’s second season has come and gone, but fans are still obsessed with the show’s first winner, caustic softy Jay McCarroll. The 30-year-old designer was just recruited by the Humane Society for an online charity auction, featuring original sketches and watercolors from the fashion personality.

The sketches include those seen on his most recent Bravo documentary Project Jay, with drawings of his British Indian Punk collection available, plus drawings for a dress commissioned by Heidi Klum. Each sketch is rendered in watercolor, and signed and dated by McCarroll.

The auction starts on May 15 and lasts for 10 days on eBay. All prices begin at $100 and a percentage of all final proceeds will go to the Humane Society’s campaign for clothes without fur — a material that McCarroll probably won’t be using this September when his first solo show takes Manhattan.

Source: Fashion Week Daily, 05/10/06

Colorado trappers are itching for more than raccoons and coyotes

COLORADO SPRINGS — The face of a skinned coyote stares from the hood of the fur cape. Its body and legs hang over trapper Claude Oleyar’s shoulders and down his back.

“The black-powder, muzzle-loader people love these,” Oleyar said, adjusting the $125 novelty. “Dressing up like old mountain men.”

The coyote cape hangs among the assorted skins collected by a 61-year-old wildlife biologist who has spent most of his life trapping animals.

Everything he catches these days is somebody’s nuisance: pet-eating coyotes, attic squirrels, backyard raccoons, foxes and skunks, ringtailed cats prowling the bowels of the luxurious Broadmoor hotel.

But Oleyar and fellow trappers hope to be skinning some other animals soon.

Ten years after voters put a partial trapping ban into the state constitution, the practitioners of Colorado’s oldest trade are calling for a new season on mink, swift fox and other mammals with valued pelts.

Source: Denver Post, 05/13/06

Radio New Zealand: Animal rights group calls for gin trap ban

An animal rights group is calling for a nationwide ban on the use of leg-hold or gin traps.
The traps are commonly used to catch possums for the fur trade, but also claim the lives of native species like kiwi and weka, and domestic pets.

Auckland Animal Action spokesperson, Rochelle Rees says councils and ultimately the government should ban the traps, which she likens to “antiquated torture devices”.

Source: www.radionz.co.nz, 05/13/06

Seal Ban Go-Ahead

Ministers are to back a Europe-wide ban on the import of seal skins. The move comes after a Sunday Mirror investigation in March highlighted the horrific slaughter of thousands of seals during the annual cull in Canada.

It follows a public outcry over the killing of 325,000 pups for their meat and pelts from animal lovers, MPs and celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney and his wife Heather.

Source: Daily Mirror, 05/14/06

Maryland Lawmakers Pass Animal Protection Legislation into Law

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States today commended Maryland lawmakers for enacting new legislation to prohibit private ownership of dangerous wild animals as pets. Governor Robert Ehrlich signed three animal welfare bills today, including measures to restrict the private ownership of dangerous wild animals, to strengthen the state’s animal cruelty law and to enact a Howard County ban on the use of inhumane and indiscriminate steel-jawed leghold traps.
And finally, the governor signed H.B. 465, which was sponsored by the Howard County Delegation. This bill adds Howard County to the list of Maryland counties that prohibit the use of steel-jawed leghold traps except under certain circumstances. These bone-crushing traps are inhumane and indiscriminate, routinely killing wildlife, endangered species, and even family pets.

Source: HSUS Press Release, 05/16/06

The world fur trade has changed much in recent years and is a far cry from when skin prices were determined by the established markets, where demand was subject to changes for various reasons. Today’s skin markets are under the firm control of China and Russia, both of which have been experiencing explosive growth in consumer demand for furs. With their economies expected to continue to roar ahead at a robust pace — enabling still more consumers to afford furs for the first time — the skin markets appear to be assured of firm support for the foreseeable future.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/22/06

New York Fur Fashion Week gets under way June 12 with a series of about a dozen showroom events. Orchestrated by the Fur Information Council of America (FICA) the theme is “An Intimate Affair with Fur” and will enable editors to see the collections close up and interact with the designers. Other main events include an invitation-only breakfast sponsored by Elle magazine, a dinner by W, a FICA board meeting on June 15 and Fur New York’s Man of the Year dinner that evening honoring Keith Kaplan, executive director of FICA.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/22/06

The bid-rigging case against Alaska Brokerage International and David Karsch was scheduled for trial last week, but reportedly was delayed pending negotiations on a plea. Efforts to obtain comment from the Justice Dept. attorneys were unavailing, nor could Karsch be reached. According to a 29-page trial memorandum filed by the DOJ with Seattle Federal Judge James L. Robart, the government’s attorneys plan to enter evidence that bid-rigging conversations between Karsch and unidentified buyers prior to the wild fur auction held on Feb. 14, 2004, were overheard by the late Donald Blahut, who was chief financial officer of Fur Harvesters Auction at the time, and Steven Casotti, cfo of American Legend, and relayed to Mark Downey, FHA’s chief executive officer and auctioneer. Casotti and Downey are to be called to testify as prosecution witnesses. Stay tuned.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/22/06

Traditional Fur Trade Revives

Karakul has long been a symbol of Afghanistan — so much so that president Hamed Karzai chose a hat made out of the curly lambskin as his trademark.

The beautiful silky fur, made from the skins of newborn lambs of the karakul sheep, fetch a high price on the international market. Many farmers in Afghanistan’s north are now looking to the karakul trade as a way out of poverty.

Source: Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 05/23/06

China pledges to stop cat and dog fur trade

The animal cruelty video that makes Heather Mills McCartney cry has finally triggered a Chinese government pledge to stamp out the trade in cat and dog fur, it emerged today.

Miss Mills McCartney recently admitted that the horrific footage of cats and dogs being rounded up and skinned alive — to save the cost of humane killing — brings tears every time she sees it.

And she has watched it countless times while championing an end to the barbaric slaughter of millions of animals a year in China to service the European market in canine and feline fur.

Now Scottish Conservative Euro MP Struan Stevenson, who has worked closely with Miss Mills McCartney on the campaign, has been assured by senior Chinese government officials that they are just as horrified and will act to end the practice.

Source: Ireland Online, 05/24/06

The [North American Fur] Auction also was abuzz about reports that New York broker David Karsch had entered a guilty plea to bid-rigging charges brought by the Dept. of Justice. The government investigation has had the trade on edge since its inception two years ago, when FBI agents descended on buyers attending the American Legend sale in Seattle and showered them with subpoenas. Those served included not only Americans, but prominent brokers and buyers from Europe and the Far East as well. It led to widespread suspicion that the probe was triggered by reported assertions by Legend representatives at rancher meetings that prior years’ depressed prices were the result of collusive practices by buyers. Foreign buyers’ fear of being detained for questioning if they returned to the U.S. prompted Legend to shift its 2005 auctions across the border to British Columbia. An assurance by the DOJ that it would not harass buyers enabled Legend to move back to Seattle this year.

While Karsch’s plea (details below) ended speculation about how strong a case the government had, it also has set off new conjecture about where the issue may now be headed. In the absence of any statement of intentions by the DOJ, buyers are wondering what’s next. Will the feds now go after Karsch’s alleged co-conspirators in the case involving the otter sale two years ago? And would it end there, or might it have implications for those who concentrate on mink and other furs and would represent bigger ‘fish’ in the government’s eyes? The general belief is that the agents have to justify the expense of the investigation, which is estimated to be far greater than any fines produced by the otter case.

To say the situation has many in the trade on edge would be a gross understatement. Although virtually none among those who have been subpoenaed — and others who have not — believe the government can make a similar case against mink buyers, they are somewhat jarred by the latest developments. Nevertheless, their concern has not impacted on their competition in the auction room, where their actions reflect consumer demand in the markets they represent.

Meanwhile, the current situation also has produced some friction among buyers, particularly involving those who were subpoenaed by the government as witnesses against Karsch. These reportedly included highly respected business associates who were friendly toward the defendant, but were called to testify and who had no alternatives, under oath, but to tell what they saw or heard. Such animosity is expected to be temporary and likely to fade, especially if the investigation proceeds further and others get a better understanding of the situation if they are placed in the same uncomfortable position.

At this point, there also is speculation that the government may believe it already has proved its investigation was justified and can bring enough pressure against others to reach financial settlements without trials.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/29/06

The Justice Dept. last week released details of the plea agreement reached with David Karsch in the bid-rigging case involving otters. According to the eight-page document, Karsch pleaded guilty May 16 in Seattle to the one-count charge that he and Alaska Brokerage International, of which he was vice-president, “and other co-conspirators, entered into and engaged in a combination and conspiracy to rig bids for otter pelts sold at an auction held by Fur Harvesters Auction in King County, Wash., on Feb. 14, 2004. The combination and conspiracy unreasonably restrained interstate and foreign trade and commerce in violation of Section I of the Sherman Act ... the substantial term of which was to suppress competition by refraining from bidding against one another ...” Sentencing was tentatively set for Sept. 18 by Federal Judge James L. Robart in Seattle, but it was understood there would be a postponement because Karsch is scheduled for surgery on both knees in July. The maximum sentence under the statute is three years imprisonment and a fine of $350,000. Alaska Brokerage pleaded nolo contendere, official details unavailable at press time.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports, 05/29/06

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