raccoon-furEditor’s note: I conducted this interview in a devil’s advocate style in an attempt to refute every possible justification for wearing fur. It worked.

The Fur Bearer-Defenders is one of the first organizations I became involved in to protect animal rights. Fur, which again has become trendy, is a luxury gained at the expense of innocent animals. There are many rationalizations for this (rational-lies) such as it’s good for the environment and that nothing equals the warmth of fur. Plus, the myth still lingers that today’s trapping methods are more humane than those previously used.
The Truth About Trapping

There is also a problem with urban wildlife and trapping, there are many companies that trap and injur animals as part of their raccoon removal processes. There are many companies that are fully licensed trappers and understand the values of humane removal. It is best to have humane services by a licensed trapper because these professionals understand the biology of the creatures and don’t do things that will impact their well-being or urban ecosystems. Raccoon removal Mississauga services are serious business in cities like Toronto with so much wildlife.

Q. The Fur Institute of Canada has a section titled Humane Trap Research and Development (isn’t this an oxy-moron..) On this page they discuss the signing of the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards by Canada, Russia and the European Union. What does this mean for animals?

A. The so-called ‘Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards’ is step backward for animal welfare. The reason is that it appears to give an international ‘seal of approval’ to most of the terribly cruel trapping methods being used to today, similar to those used for decades or centuries. The profit-motivated fur trade itself drafted the standards set out in the agreement (with the Canadian government), and has also been put in charge of determining which traps meet those standards.The main three traps used in Canada for decades – the steel-jawed Leg-Hold Trap, the Conibear Trap, and the Snare trap, cause indescribably agony, and have already been approved for further use as meeting these standards for many of our animals. These supposed ‘humane’ standards were set so low as to be virtually meaningless if not detrimental to Canada’s animals.

More information on this Agreement can be found on Fur-Bearer Defenders’ website at: http://www.banlegholdtraps.com/trap_parent.htm (choose “international agreement” from the sidebar on the left).

Q. Please discuss the mission of The Fur-Bearer Defenders.

A. Fur-Bearer Defenders is a non-profit society established in 1944, to stop trapping cruelty and protect fur-bearing animals. We work to educate the public, the media, activists, and government about the cruelty involved in trapping and the fur trade. As people have increasingly learned about this cruelty, we have seen the number of of animals trapped fall from its height of 5 million animals per year in Canada, down to today’s one million.

Fur-Bearer Defenders operated as a charitable society since 1953, until just a few years ago when the CCRA (the Revenue Canada) annulled our charitable status because of our outspoken ‘criticisms’ of the fur trade. They said a charity shouldn’t be criticizing a legal industry, and we shouldn’t be trying to change any law. Of course we are criticizing cruelty to animals, and trying to ban cruel traps – ‘charitable’ to most peoples’ definition, we believe. As a result of similar threats, other major animal caring groups across Canada have become justifiably afraid of touching the fur or trapping issue due to threats to their charitable status (which would jeopardize funding for all the other good work they do for animals, including dogs and cats, etc.). This has left Fur-Bearer Defenders as one of the main voices left in the country to speak out for fur-bearing animals, thus strengthening our resolve and determination, even further.

Q. What campaigns are you currently working on?

A. A few of the campaigns Fur-Bearer Defenders is working on right now are:

1) Municipal Beaver Issues: Fur-Bearer Defenders is working to encourage local and other municipal governments to use only humane solutions when dealing with problems related to beaver such as flooding. Several municipal governments in BC and elsewhere, when faced with beaver challenges, are contracting fur trappers to come in and trap and kill the beaver with Conibear traps. This is a needlessly cruel, and short-term solution, as it doesn’t address the issue of what attracted beaver to the area in the first place (and will likely continue to do so year after year unless changed). We are addressing this problem, through awareness of the cruelty of Conibear traps to the municipality and its residents, and through providing information, and direction for exepertise, on a variety of humane alternatives such as pond levellers, beaver deceivers, beaver bafflers, etc.

2) RCMP Hats: Fur-Bearer Defenders has already got national media coverage twice on the issue of the official winter uniform hat of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). It is made from trapped muskrats, most of them trapped in steel-jawed Leg-Hold traps. We are working to encourage the RCMP to stick to their stated Core Value of : ” Compassion: demonstrating care and sensitivity in word and action”, and therefore find an alternative, non-fur material for their officers’ hats. The image of the RCMP is truly representative of Canadians, and therefore, should reflect the values of Canadians, which is to increasingly shun fur and the cruelty that produces it.

3) FurTrim TV Ads: We have found over the years, almost without exception, that as people learn about the cruelty involved in fur production, they don’t want to be a part of it. One of the most powerful ways we have found to convey this cruelty in a very obvious and straightforward way is to show it. Fur-Bearer Defenders has video footage taken by a trapper on a legal, registered trapline, of animals suffering in today’s commonly used fur traps. We have just produced and begun airing a new TV commercial using some of this footage and discussing the issue of fur trim. Fur trim is not a by-product. When you buy or wear fur trim, on coats, sweaters, vests, scarves, earmuffs, shoes, or anything else, you are directly causing the suffering and deaths of fur-bearing animals, either in steel traps, or via a horrific life in cramped cages.

More information on our campaigns is reported regularly in our member newsletters – information on the trapping issue, what caring individuals can do to help, and what we are doing to help as an organization. Membership is integral to our work, and costs only $10 for a year.

Q. What activist resources are available for Canadians and those abroad who’d like to spread information about the horrors of fur?

A. Fur-Bearer Defenders makes all kinds of resources available to activists and individuals everywhere who are interested in getting involved in their community and helping to stop trapping cruelty. It’s as easy as writing us, phoning us, or looking at our website. The resources include trapped animal photos and videos, posters, pamphlets, informational guides, and already-made newspaper ads that you can purchase space for in your local paper (in any language).
Canadian Aspects

Q. In their Northwest Territories Market Forecast, The Fur Harvesters Auction of Canada evaluate the market requests for various animal furs. For some, like beaver and arctic wolf they note a decreased or poor demand fror “poorly handled” or “damaged” skins. What could this imply about the treatment and experience of trapped animals?

A. You cannot necessarily tell by the condition of the pelt, how much the animal suffered. In some cases, an animal’s long struggle can indeed cause extensive damage to its skin, like for example if a fox is trapped by the back foot with a steel-jawed Leg-Hold trap. He struggles for his life, in an incredible panic, pulling with incredible might against the trap, and really tearing up the ground, and bushes and whatever else is in the vicinity of the trap.

However, some of the traps, like the Conibear trap, can slam right across the middle of the body of the animal, sometimes in more than one place, really holding the animal so securely and with such force, that they can’t even put up the kind of struggle that would show as damage to the pelt. Fur-Bearer Defenders has a terribly sad photo of a white ermine in just this horrible situation. Some trappers, when first using the Conibear trap, claimed, and perhaps thought, that the animals were suffering less, because the ground wasn’t as torn up around the animal as they were used to seeing with the Leg-Hold traps. But ermine, beaver, otters, and many others can actually live and suffer an extremely long time while crushed in the Conibear trap’s powerful steel jaws.

Proper animal skinning , to produce a pelt of most value to the fur trade, requires experience and training. And many trappers, especially the poorer trappers that live in remote regions, never get the needed training – or virtually any trapping training at all. Many trappers never even see the annual trapping regulations, and especially if they don’t speak English, as the regulations are printed only in English (or in French in Quebec).

Q. On their homepage the Fur Harvesters Auction has a pdf titled Beaver Tail Preparation. They note that they received an order for a (ghastly) 5,000 tails and pay $3 USD each. In addition they state: “Second quality tails or tails less than 8 inches will not be returned.” So in addition to wasting life they’re wasting fur. Is this common in the industry?

A. Indeed, every fur, totally unnecessary and made purely for fashion, is a waste of a life. On top of that, wasting fur can happen in a variety of ways. It happens whenever, for whatever reason, the fur is not of the desired quality for the buyers, perhaps due to animal illness, carelessness in pelt preparation, lack of trapper skinning training, etc. It can even happen by chance if a too-small animal enters a huge trap meant for a larger animal. Or if a predator animal is able to get to the trapped animal before the trapper does.

‘Waste’ also happens when non-target animals are trapped, and the animals are simply disposed of, or left as bait for the next animal. Today’s traps are NOT species specific. We’ve seen all kinds of non-fur animals get caught accidentally in traps, including hawks, owls, eagles, and even deer or pet dogs and cats. We in fact just heard of yet another family pet dog trapped and killed, this one by a Conibear trap set out for beaver in an urban area very close to our Vancouver, BC office.

Q. I was reading the DECEMBER 2004 WILD FUR MARKET REPORT on the website of The Fur Harvesters Auction. They reveal a strong demand for beaver, wild mink, and sable. Despite the “humane” trapping methods boasted by The Fur Institute of Canada, what kinds of suffering do these animals experience in various “humane” trapping devices?

A. There are NO “humane” traps suitable for or used by the fur trade. Beaver, mink, and sable (marten) are often trapped using Conibear traps – sometimes also using steel-jawed Leg-Hold traps. Fur-Bearer Defenders has created a new video about the cruelty of Conibear traps, and about the suffering of aquatic fur-bearers dying from lack of air , trapped under the water, and drowning to death. What the animals go through for a bit of fur trim on a coat, sweater, vest, scarf, or earmuff, is really quite unimaginable until you see it for yourself.

You can view it if you wish on PETA’s website at: http://www.furisdead.com/feat-bushbeaver.asp – Click on “click here to watch video footage” which you’ll see next to the photo of George Bush.

The following quote is from the Pelt Handling Information page of the Fur Harvesters Auction website: “Care should be taken when removing animals from traps especially if they are frozen. Simply prying an animal out of a trap may remove portions of fur and down grade pelts. If furbearers are completely frozen in traps, it would be wise to take the furbearer still in the trap to your camp or fur shed and remove it after it has thawed.” Is it just me, or would an animal have to be left in a trap for a long time to freeze this way? What kind of suffering would this involve?! Your article under the Hot Topics section of your website, “Fur trappers must check traps every 2 weeks’ lists the regulations regarding this throughout North America. The article was written in 2002. Are these specifications still current?

A. These regulations are still current. The two week figure is for certain trap sets used in British Columbia. In many areas of North America though, Conibear traps and others don’t have any legal restriction at all on how long an animal may be left to suffer. Laws regarding trapping are absolutely archaic, and only persist, in our view, because of the public’s lack of awareness of the reality of the situation (though more and more people are indeed learning the awful truth).

You are so right about the freezing. Can you imagine how an animal must have suffered to freeze to death? I know many of your readers must have experienced freezing temperatures, and to freeze to death is nothing like “humane”. Many trapped animals are left in all kinds of harsh environmental conditions – blazing sun, cold, rain, wind, snow, with no shelter or water or food, an easy target for predators, etc., and all the while in the extreme pain of the steel trap that has slammed onto their body. And they are there minute after minute, hour after hour, sometimes day after day, no idea when their suffering will end.

I personally slammed my finger once in a Leg-Hold trap while demonstrating it at a highschool. It was not the largest type of Leg-Hold trap and it was NOT slammed full force. On top of that, I of course was able to get my finger out as soon as it was smashed – very unlike a poor animal that is stuck for hours or more. But, even at that, I cannot describe how painful it was! It bled, and damaged the tissue, and hurt severely for at least 24 hours. I now have a real, albeit only partial understanding of how horribly our animals must suffer out on the trapline.
European Aspects:

Q. SAGA Furs of Scandinavia describes itself as “the leading international fur trade marketing organisation.” On the “Fur Farming” section of their website they brag: “It is comforting to know that SAGA MINK and SAGA FOX come from animals bred with care and respect.” They make it sound like a petting zoo! What really goes on in fur farms?

A. Caged fur animals (“fur farmed” animals) live their entire miserable lives in cramped cages. They suffer emotional trauma and behavioural abnormalities as all their natural instincts become thwarted. Their death often comes by gas or electrocution. “Care and respect” certainly have nothing to do with it.

Q. A common belief about fur is that nothing equals its warmth. The British Fur Association states: “The properties of fur which gives it superior thermal and comfort qualities are essentially unmatched by synthetic fibres.” Is this true?

A. This is absolutely false. Most people who live, work, and play in the most extreme of cold temperatures in Canada and elsewhere in the world do not choose fur. Climbers who go up Mount Everest do not choose fur. Take a look at any photo of people living in the most northern regions of Canada. Although some may be wearing fur, many of them will not be. Most government forces (military, police, etc.) do not wear fur, even in their coldest climates. Their are all kinds of humane, alternative materials to fur that are just as warm or warmer than fur.

Q. The British Fur Trade Association, like many other pro-fur websites, boasts that fur is environmentally friendly because it is biodegradable and is not produced from oil, like many synthetic fibres. Assuming we are in a very cold climate (below 0), do we have any environmentally-friendly alternatives to fur?

A. Fur is by no means an environmentally friendly choice. Like the fur trade says, natural fur is biodegradable. It is the skin ripped from an animal’s back. Think about that for a moment. Skin is not a ‘material’ that can be ripped right off an animal carcass, and then sewn right into your coat or hat. It has to be treated with severely harsh chemicals in order to withstand time and not deteriorate, stink, decay and rot. Those chemicals are extremely hard on the environment. On top of that, the fur trade will readily tell you that furs need to be drycleaned every time they are washed, and they also need to be stored in a special refridgerator during all the summer months, each and every year. Further, many of the furs these days are dyed bright colours with harsh dyes, so they look less like a dead animal. That is the “harsh” reality. Hardly “environmental”.

Fur-Bearer Defenders http://www.banlegholdtraps.com is a non-profit society est. 1944, working to stop trapping cruelty and protect fur-bearing animals. Fully funded by donations and memberships of caring individuals, and run by a volunteer board, Fur-Bearer Defenders has earned a solid reputation, providing trapping research, video footage and resources to animal groups, activists, media and government.