PETA, are you “fur” real?

It’s when I moved the city that I realised wearing beaver mitts in -30 temperatures is apparently not as normal and natural to others as it was to me… Canada was founded predominantly because of the fur trade. Ironically, this same market is receiving a lot of criticism and is currently experiencing a social change due to PETA’s persistent activism against the fur industry. I am aware that many companies are using inhumane practices that I don’t agree with nor support, however, PETA is claiming that ALL fur industries are horrible. I’m not buying their propaganda, however, a lot of people are… and that, to me, is problematic. 

PETA’s well known “Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign dates back to 1991 and has now grown internationally. Their campaign strategies include showcasing numerous images and videos of cute animals that are encroached, drowned, beaten and electrocuted to raise public awarenesss and accuse EVERY fur company of demonstrating unethical and inhumane treatment of animals. They are extremely active on social media and regularly publish articles and launch petitions. Many celebrities and activists have joined PETA’s naked campaign which has furthered their interest and gained the solidarity and support of many. Their various initiatives and commercials have caught the public’s attention, and consequently, fur sales have dropped significantly.

But have PETA’s anti-fur campaigns convinced me to give up trapping and wearing fur items? Not a chance, and here’s why:

  1. Not all fur industries are inhumane

Animals being brought to life for the sole purpose of being sold, used for science or trained for entertainment, such as circuses, zoos, animal tested cosmetics and products, farmed animals and meat factories, are not acceptable. Animals belong in the wild where they can live a free life. While some companies practice unethical treatment of animals, individual trappers do not. The trapping process for most is a fair fight between man and animal, in the wild, just like it has been done since the beginning of time.

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Trappers spend their lives in the wild. Their method is hard work.
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Farming animals with the sole purpose of selling them, however, is not. Know the differences. Trappers respect the animal’s life in the wild.

After PETA’s 1991 campaign, the fur industry in Canada signed the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS) in 1997 in order to recover sales with Europe. This agreement ensures effective and non-cruel trapping practices. Since then, 8 editions have been released and it continues to be updated.

In addition, other initiatives have been put in place to ensure respect, good practice and protection of animals:

  • Each trapper who harvests fur must have a trapping license and partake and pass the Fur Harvest, Fur Management and Conservation course.
  • The license identifies the areas where the trapper can trap and gives harvest quotas for certain species (example: beaver, fox, otter, etc.).
  • Each trapper can only trap during the open season (varies depending on the animal).
  • They must also report the number of animals they catch, sell and keep each year under their trapping license (their annual harvest report counts help monitor animal populations).

In spite of these improvements and good initiatives, the fur industry does not have the same platform as PETA and the industry cannot deflect and defend PETA’s accusations. As a result, the fur industry continues to fall under the common narrative that “all fur industry is inhumane and unacceptable”.

 

  1. For many, there is a cultural importance of land-based activities that support subsistence

Trappers treat the land and wildlife with respect, honor and dignity, and it is unfortunate that PETA’s campaign have had a snow ball effect on the trapping industry. First, the fur industry’s reputation declined as the public became angry and disgusted with all fur products. Second, this led to a lack of demand, hence a decrease in sales and investments for companies. Fur Harvesters Auction’s annual reports clearly show a decrease in fur values. For example, in 2003, skins sold for $150 and in 2016 this amount decreased to $26 (Fur Harvesters Auction Inc, 2017). Thirdly, this decline also affects the lives of trappers. Many trappers have had no choice but to look for alternative careers to earn a salary and to make a living.

Marcel Labelle, a proud Métis, expressed that: “When the fur industry went down, I almost died. We had no source of income but also, being on the trap line, that’s all I ever knew. It was my passion. So I went to university and graduated and got an office job that made good money. But I soon found out that I was also dying in there (verbal communication).”

Additionally, there are a lot of controversial issues exposed by PETA in the media regarding seal hunting, all of which largely overlook the Inuit’s perspective. The arctic regions have very limited access to conventional and supermarket foods so they depend on hunting for food, especially the seal, and then rely on selling the sealskins for income (enough to pay for essential things such as ammunition, gasoline for their snowmobiles, hygiene products and some market foods, if available). Animal rights activists who were outraged by the Atlantic seal hunt directly affected this small group of Inuit by successfully having sealskins banned in Europe. Their already unguaranteed economy was even more disturbed and caused what the Inuit describe as their version of the Great Depression. This lead to prevalent poverty, forced relocation, and even an upsurge in suicide rates.

 

  1. Valuable lessons are taught from harvesting your own food and clothing

Eating meat to then utilise and wear items of nature in a respectful manner constantly reminds me of the interconnectedness and interdependence of our surroundings. The land feels infinitely more alive, abundant and full of life once you learn how to live from it, and because of that, it is more worthy of care.

Ironically, PETA labels all animal eaters and wearers as “inhumane”, however, the times I spend in the bush hunting or trapping for my own food or fur are the moments where I feel most human.

 

 

 

Sources:

Fur Harvesters Auction Inc. (2017). Auction Results. Retrieved from            https://www.furharvesters.com/auctionresults.html

Government of Ontario. (2017). Trapping in Ontario. Retrieved from            https://www.ontario.ca/page/trapping-ontario

Peta. (s.d). I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur. Retrieved from https://www.peta.org/videos/id-rather-go-naked-than-wear-fur/

Scientific American. (2017). What Impact has Activism had of the fur industry?. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/impact-activism-on-fur/

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Confession of a Canadian ‘’white girl’’: Bridging the gap between us-them mentalities towards Indigenous peoples

Growing up, I knew only two things about aboriginal people in Canada: 1) they don’t pay taxes, and 2) their post-secondary education is paid. It’s sad and embarrassing to admit but unfortunately, this is relatable for many Canadians (and those two facts aren’t even necessarily true).

I grew up in a small French town in Northern Ontario, surrounded by people who are proud of their language and their culture. Despite being taught to be proud of my Franco Ontarian heritage, my community failed to teach me about the cultures of the Anishinaabe and Objiwe community, the Nipissing (Nbisiing) First Nations. For most of my life, I didn’t even know this community existed, let alone their culture, their past, and their ongoing challenges… and it’s only about an 8 minute drive from my house (15 minutes if you follow the speed limit…). Seriously though, something’s wrong with that.

Throughout my education, I was taught to honor the famous Jacques Cartier for having planted a flag and “discovering” Canada. He was celebrated, respected but more than that, he was a hero. It was only in an 8th grade history class that I was introduced to residential schools. In this hour long lesson, the teacher justified the actions and intentions of our European ancestors as ‘’good’’. They wanted to ‘’civilize’’ the first people who were here in Canada and it’s thanks to ‘’us’’ that Aboriginals today live such a “good life”. We were taught that the French came to colonize and civilize the indigenous people and make their lives better.

It was my first lesson on the Aboriginal people of Canada, but also my last. During my four years in high school, I was taught nothing about Aboriginal culture (unless racist jokes and discussions that went against indigenous movements count?). The educational system failed to inform me about the General Allotment Act, the Indian Reorganization Act, the Indian Act, the assimilation experiments on concentration camp, Dear Island, the 60’s Scoop, the Trail of Tears, the long-term effects of residential schools, treaty violations and so much more. Why weren’t those in the curriculum? Why weren’t those discussed in classrooms?

It’s in the course Introduction to Aboriginal Studies at the University of Ottawa that I got a glimpse of the history, misconceptions and stereotypes of Indigenous peoples, not only in Canada but all around the world. My first boyfriend and his family are aboriginal and I was able to learn more about who they are as a community and their beautiful way of life. My perception on Aboriginal peoples has changed drastically. If it hadn’t been for that little 3 credit bonus point, easy elective, last minute decision class…and the luck I had to be part of an aboriginal family through my boyfriend at the time, I still would live with the false ideologies and perceptions towards Indigenous peoples, and this is what I find truly concerning. There remains a large number of Canadians who are misinformed and I wonder how they are going to know the truth. I think of all those who do not have the opportunities I had, and how they will remain ignorant. Not necessarily their fault, but due to the lack of information and awareness in our Canadian societies.

I don’t blame my parents or my teachers for my lack of knowledge about our true history because I am aware that they learned it the same way I did. They, like any other Canadian, didn’t have the opportunity to learn about the true history of our country. That’s somewhat the problem isn’t it? We have generations and generations of false information about our history. And we seem to think that history is part of the past but that’s false. Our history is transmitted in the stories we share about the past to future generations. Over the years, we have placed the Indigenous peoples under a microscope, similarly the same way a scientist would do with an insect. The one who observes has the power to define. Then, we learn about our history and realities based on these definitions and interpretations that are most often false.

I now feel privileged to be learning about different Aboriginal cultures in Canada. I’m learning a lot about their defeats and sufferings, the challenges they have faced and the ones they are still facing today. Even with their difficult past, it’s amazing to see how they have been able to overcome the burdens placed on them and how they continue to defy their challenges. Sadly, the healing and rehabilitation process of these lost cultures won’t be possible if not all Canadians are mindful and aware of what went on and what is still going on today.

No one here should feel colonial guilt for what our ancestors have done and the mess and despair they have caused. We are not responsible for their actions, however, we are fully responsible for today and the course of this country. I think that together as a community, with the support of Government initiatives, educational institutions and organizations, we can properly educate our country about our history. Together, we can raise awareness and eliminate false ideas about Aboriginal peoples. Society’s fixed and most often discriminatory opinions towards Aboriginals people can be eliminated if everyone is given the opportunity to learn the facts – an opportunity I wasn’t given until the age of 19.

I know I’m just a ‘’white girl’’ talking about large matters that I have so much left to learn about. I might not fully understand what it means to be Aboriginal in our world today, but I’m trying. These courses, readings and discussions with Aboriginal individuals have helped me understand that whether someone is First Nations, Métis, Inuit or non-status, we are all united as one. I hope we walk into the future together and continue on this path towards mutual respect and reconciliation. There is still so much for all of us to learn.