You want to help nature?” Ride your bike to work, put out your blue box, and buy a fur coat.”
In October, 2008, the Fur Council of Canada (FCC) launched a brilliant public information campaign entitled “Fur is Green“. The message: fur is natural, renewable, sustainable, durable, long-lasting, reusable, recyclable and biodegradable. Fur has positive ecological impacts, such as population control and research and development of modern and humane trapping methods. In sum, fur is good for the environment. FCC executive vice president Alan Herscovici told the National Post, “You want to help nature?” Ride your bike to work, put out your blue box, and buy a fur coat.” The press was all over it, and fur companies were happy to use the green message to sell their furs. The Fur is Green campaign was a smashing success.
The FCC is a lobby group paid by the fur industry and consisting of about 70,000 members. As a means to fulfill its mandate to promote the trapping, breeding and killing of fur animals, it effectively cloaked itself as a team of cheerleaders for the environment. Do you perceive partiality ?
Fur is “Natural”
According to the FCC, fur is “natural” because it is biodegradable. It can be passed down to the next generation, it can be recycled to make pillows, throws and other things.
What the FCC left out is that that the only way fur can be preserved is through tanning, a chemical process whose sole purpose is to it prevent the fur from decomposing naturally.
Tanning is achieved by the application of toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and chromium. These carcinogenic chemicals modify the fur’s DNA to such an extreme that it becomes virtually impossible to identify the species from which the fur originated.
The FCC also argues that fur is “natural” because trapped animals come from “nature”. Even if that were a plausible argument, they leave out the part that over 70% of the fur produced in Canada comes from fur factory farms. The most commonly farmed animals are mink. Fur-farmed forced to spend their lives in tiny wire cages with hardly any floor space. These furry creatures are fed a diet of leftovers from abattoirs, fish factories and other food-processing plants. They are killed at about seven months of age by exposure to carbon monoxide or anal electrocution.
Fur is “Renewable”
If fur is a renewable resource, why is the list of endangered and extinct animals growing? Commonly trapped animals are not specifically selected because there are too many of them or because they are sick. They are trapped because there is a market for their fur. With low operating costs, and high prices, the fur industry, including trappers, kills as many animals as the fur market will sustain. Millions of “non-target” animals also get caught and killed, including many endangered species. Are the non-target animals, such as the protected cougar also a renewable resource?
The Newfoundland Marten came very close to extinction as a result of trapping. In the late 2000s, the Canadian government stepped in and established “modified trapping,” requirements including the use of brass snare wire or six-strand picture cord, rather than stainless steel, for small-game trapping. Marten are more easily able to break free of brass wire or picture cord when they get caught in a trap. As a result of their ability to free themselves, the marten has been moved to the threatened list.
Closer to the border, Canadian trappers seek out wolverines because their pelts can be sold for approximately $400 each. Consequently, the U.S. wolverine population is now close to extinction.
Fur is “Sustainable”
There is nothing sustainable about wildlife endangerment or extinction. There is nothing sustainable in the toxic emissions, water and soil pollution caused by factory farming.
For those who do not care about the welfare of the animals, environmental issues might matter more. Is anybody concerned about the disposal of manure, urine, and carcasses?
What about surface water runoff going into rivers, lakes, and nearby properties? Is anyone curious about the quantity, and quality of inspections? A 2011 report on mink farming revealed that farmed fur outperforms other textiles such as cotton and polyester for land use, climate change, ozone layer depletion, soil and water pollution, and toxic emissions. According to the report, 110kg of carbon dioxide is produced for each kilogram of mink fur. The report also concluded that each kilogram of fur was responsible for more than 200 kilograms of manure.
Most of Canada’s fur farms are located In Nova Scotia. In 2011, The David Suzuki Foundation reported that manure runoff from mink operations has threatened the quality of the soil and water, impacting humans and non-humans. A 2009 government assessment found 37 of 38 fur farms allowed runoff to flow into wood, swamps, marshes or wet pasture. See 2011-Mink-Industry-and-Lakes-in-Nova-Scotia A separate water quality survey by Acadia University identified mink farms as “the most likely source of contamination”.
Meanwhile, Paula Lishman, fur designer and former president of the FCC, continues to describe fur as “not polluting.” She sees herself as a conservationist, fashion designer and a spokesperson for the future of the fur industry in Canada. On November 23, 2012, she told the Globe and Mail that fur “feels amazing and ….it has a really good future because it’s not made of non-renewable products. It’s not polluting and it is warmer than anything”. She insisted that trappers are true conservationists. “[Fur] is, to me, the ultimate natural fibre.”
What else is she going to say? Fur made her rich.