Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
20 November 2000 Issue

By JJ [email protected]

Approximately 3.5 million fur-bearing animals -- raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, lynxes, opossums, beavers, otters, and others -- are killed each year for their fur by trappers in the U.S. Another 2.7 million animals are raised on fur "farms," according to PETA.

My first memory of ever seeing a fur garment was one my grandmother had. My recollection of it was just 8 dead animals, staring at me in sadness and in horror. This was one of those kinds of coats that really is only bodies sewn together, and though I never saw much style and fashion evident in any fur coats, this had to have been the worst. There's only one thing good that I can say about it -- there was nothing anyone could have done that would have turned me off on fur more than this garment did. Both my grandmother and mother were typical of their times - they felt that the ultimate gift a woman could receive was either furs or diamonds. I sure won't turn down the diamonds, but any man that would even think of giving a gift of fur would quickly find himself outside the door, permanently.

Those eyes still haunt me, and though my grandmother was a wonderful woman, she, like so many others, simply must not have seen the connection between living, feeling, knowing beings and those pieces of fur that she was so proud of. That connection that so many miss, always seems to be that one really illusive mystery in life, that I've never been able to justify. Why are some empathetic and others aren't? Why are some empathetic to all but the animals?

Some simply need to be reminded, and that's one of the main reasons for the annual Fur Free Friday. Recently, Bob Chorush, an activist, complained to J Crew about a fur trimmed item they were selling, and he received a letter from that company saying they had "gotten several comments about the rabbit trimmed boots and I have discussed this issue with our merchants. We will not have any additional fur items this season, nor do we have plans to have any in upcoming seasons. As you put it, this seems to have been an oversight on our part." Mr. Chorush was then asked to call (collect) to discuss the issue further, by David Towers, the Director, Customer Experience of J Crew.

Another encouraging sign is that the House of Lords in Britain is completing its final stage in passing a bill to ban fur farming. Among others, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) has been campaigning for this bill.

"CIWF applauds the Government's decision to ban fur farming", says Justin Wilkes, CIWF's Parliamentary Officer. "The keeping of mink - who are essentially wild animals - in small barren cages is ethically unacceptable. It is totally wrong in a civilized society for animals to be kept in restricted and deprived conditions simply to serve the whims of fashion and adornment. CIWF will now turn its attention to banning fur farming in other European countries - and the United States".

The Fur Farming (Prohibition) Bill will prohibit the farming of mink and other animals primarily or solely for their fur from 2003. There are at present around 13 mink factory farms in England and Wales.

By nature, mink are highly active, semi-aquatic animals. In the wild, mink travel and forage over distances up to 2 miles; they also swim, dive and climb. All these activities are denied them in the tiny cages of the factory farm.

According to US Commerce Department data, imports of fur apparel increased by over 95% to $16.4 million in July, bringing the seven-month total to $62.1 million, a gain of 63%. This increase is being seen by some in the industry as being reflective of the shrinkage of domestic production and increasing reliance on outside suppliers.

Hong Kong/China is now the largest exporter of fur garments to the U.S. For July, Hong Kong shipped nearly $6 million, up 174% - almost 40% of the total. For 2000, Hong Kong's cumulative total was $24.9 million, up 132%. Canada shipped $4.8 million, and a total of $23 million (up 21%) for the year. Italy shipped $2.9 million in July, up 81%. Their total for 2000 is $5.9 million, an increase of 88%. Shipments from Greece increased 2% to $671,000 in July. Greece shipped a total of $2.9 million (up 65%) in 2000.

Furriers are trying to make a presence on the World Wide Web. Upscale department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nieman Marcus are selling furs online where customers can use the technologically advanced features of their websites such as zooming in for close-ups of detailing and styling.

While the fur trade is benefiting from the positive spin being given to it by the fashion press, all is still not well for trappers. Thousands of low-grade furs are being stored fur buyers' freezers. As long as these supplies exist, the demand for furs from trapped animals will be scant. Also of concern to trappers is the high cost of gasoline. That, coupled with the current state of fur prices, is expected to be enough to keep many trappers out of the woods.

A study done by New York State biologists reveals the indiscriminate nature of conibear traps. Beaver trappers regularly catch otters in their traps, even though otter season may not be open. It would be illegal for a trapper to deliberately set a trap for otters out of season, but if an otter is caught in a trap set for beavers, no trapping regulations are violated. Biologists from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation found that 76% of the otters caught in New York are killed with the same trap sets used for beavers. The DEC is researching modifications to the traps that can reduce the incidences of non-target animals being killed in traps.

Trappers and their apologists often cry that if trapping were abolished wildlife populations would explode uncontrollably. Obviously, these people know nothing of the situation in Arizona since 1994 when Arizona voters banned the use of many traps on public land. Since that time, wildlife biologists have detected no change in animal populations.

But, in the end, it still comes down to the consumer. If grandma still thinks she has achieved a higher station in life by wearing dead animals, then trappers will keep trapping, fur farmers will keep fur animals in puppy mill conditions, and animals like minks, who are so similar in every way to the "pet" ferrets that are so loved in so many of our homes, will continue to be killed for vanity and fashion. Personally, I think the only fashion statement that fur really makes is that it makes the wearer look fat.

For Fur Free Friday demonstrations you can join, see the map at the following website:

events index

For more information about Fur Free Friday, the following website should be of interest:
Fur Free Friday 2000

Statistical information derived from "The Fur Trade Today" newsletter.
Source: [email protected]

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