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
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
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
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:
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.
Go on to Thou
Shalt Not Kill, Covet, or Steal
Return to 20 November 2000 Issue
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