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:
- 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.
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”.
- 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.
- 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.
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/