Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
Fur flying new green flag
Business in Vancouver December 4-10, 2007; issue 945 (www.biv.com) by Glen Korstrom
Pappas expands to Richmond as growing Canadian fur industry opts for public image makeover
The Fur Council of Canada is out to convince consumers that the $1.5 billion North American fur industry is environmentally sustainable and that fur is an eco-friendly material, not a cruelly obtained skin. Green buzzwords - such as "sustainable," "renewable," "biodegradable" and "non-toxic" - are sprinkled throughout the council's website, advertising and billboards as part of a $1 million marketing campaign launched last week.
The campaign has drawn the predictable derision from animal rights groups, but marketing experts say it's backed by persuasive arguments. "They're using part of an encirclement attack, which is what we teach," said Lindsay Meredith, a Simon Fraser University marketing professor.
Strong challengers use encirclement attacks to compete with market leaders. In this case, the fur council's frontal assault is aimed squarely at the high-profile anti-fur lobby.
"What they have to do now is overcome the major attack point," Meredith said. "That's the issue of how wild animals are trapped and handled. For farmed animals, their positioning is not bad. They've got to treat this simply as, 'Hey, look, don't get two-faced about this. You guys eat cows every day so there's no difference. Your shoes are made of leather so back off.''
The anti-fur lobby has achieved prominence from its own public awareness campaigns. Its mid-1990s "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" campaign featured naked supermodels on billboards. Members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have similarly drawn attention by throwing red paint at fur-wearing fashion models on catwalks.
"We think it's the responsibility of the industry to explain our own story," Fur Council of Canada executive vice-president Alan Herscovici told Business in Vancouver. "Consumers who wear fur have a right to know that it's an environmentally sustainable industry. We're supporting the people on the land."
Herscovici said that seldom-used leg-hold traps have improved over the years so that they hold the animal in place without cutting into flesh. They're no longer the steel-jawed devices that still appear on the posters of anti-fur lobby groups.
"Nature is not Disneyland. Wildlife dies in nature," Herscovici said. "For example, 80% of young muskrats don't make it through their first winter. Each species produces many more young each year than the habitat can support. This is the principle of sustainable use."
The fur council's campaign comes from a position of strength. Canadian fur exports grew 25% to $450.1 million in 2006 from $360.6 million in 2005. Locally, that strength is clear from Pappas Furs' expansion in June to Richmond's Aberdeen Centre.
Pappas' president Constantine Pappas said his 700-square-foot Richmond store has done a brisk business and can be supplied with corporately designed garments from the company's 24,000-square-foot, four-storey Yaletown headquarters. That facility includes a 6,000-square-foot retail store, as well as space for designing, manufacturing and reselling raw fur. Pappas would not reveal annual revenue, but he said his company is the world's largest fully vertically integrated fur company.
This is despite a bit of a setback at the turn of the century. Pappas opened a second store at the corner of Howe and Hastings streets in 1999. He closed the outlet in 2002. "In 2003, we started to see a turnaround in people's attitudes toward fur," Pappas said. "In 2005/2006 we started to get a lot of young people. That's something that we hadn't seen for 10 to 15 years. The business has been growing since 2004."
But Peter Hamilton, who founded Vancouver's Lifeforce Foundation, believes fur retailers have blood on their hands. He recently visited Lower Mainland fur farms and was quickly shown the door after he started snapping photos of animals in cramped cages.
"If the fur council says fur farming is ecologically friendly, they should allow people to take photographs and especially see the slaughter methods," said Hamilton, who doesn't eat meat or wear leather. "There could be 50,000 mink on one farm. There's no way to be able to kill them all painlessly and instantly."
Wild fur industry is dying, group says
RE: "Fur flying new green flag" (BIV issue 945; December 4-10)
The Fur Council of Canada is being funded by the Canadian Ministry of Trade as well as by Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
This is the same Canadian government that has silenced the voice of the largest animal charities in Canada by restricting their criticism of the fur industry with the loss of their charitable status. Because we would not be silenced, our 40 year-old charitable status was revoked by Revenue Canada.
However, I was pleased to read [Simon Fraser University marketing professor] Lindsey Meredith's comments and particularly his statement "What they have to do now is overcome the major attack point. That's the issue of how wild animals are trapped and handled."
This they cannot do as long as fur-bearing animals are being caught and suffering in cruel traps across Canada and throughout the USA, where most animals are trapped.
The steel-jawed leg-hold trap, contrary to the fur council's claim, is still the main trap used throughout North America and is now known worldwide for its cruelty. The fur industry has attempted to confuse the public by adding a thin strip of material to the jaws and then calling it a padded trap.
The European Union has been trying to ban wild fur imports for many years and only threats of action under GATT and WTO have delayed such action. The EU is still now considering this issue. However, the effect of the European public's concern over cruel trapping has resulted in the major blow against the fur council. The public is no longer buying wild fur as it once did.
Canada used to trap five and a half million animals each year in the 1980's while now it is down to less than one million animals trapped a year. In BC for example, the 1980 figure was 300,000 and last year only about 35,000 animals were trapped, a 90% decrease. Similar numbers and decreases are evident across Canada and throughout the U.S.A.
The Fur Council is far too late to save its image of cruel trapping.
We agree that there have been some significant increases in sales of caged mink (and some caged fox) due to increased sales in China and Russia. The height of the market is now about to start collapsing as the mink market is just about saturated. In a year or two China, the main mink producer, will start reducing prices and the North American mink producers will soon fail.
Further, without the glamour, variety and originality of wild furs, the same old boring mink fur will soon lose its appeal with the public.
The fur industry is dying and no waving green flag is going to save it. The world's public has learned about cruel trapping and knows of all the animal suffering.
Fur-Bearer Defenders Vancouver (sadly, both George and his wife Bunty, passed away in early 2010)
Comment: There's nothing "green" about the brutal and despicable fur industry, no matter what the spin. Not only do we exploit all other species for selfish human wants, we're destroying the entire planet in the process. We're a ruthless lot.
Plight of Green Fashionistas
It began with the gift of a vintage rabbit fur coat. Not for me; for my friend, who was faced with a modern-day fashion dilemma.
For most of her life, she had been opposed to fur on the grounds that it was cruel, unnecessary, gauche. But this coat was so adorable . . . and so thin . . . and so warm. And it was vintage. Which means that, when you think about it, the rabbits were already gone.
And when you compared her fur to the alternatives — the fleece sweatshirts that don’t biodegrade, the “vegan leather’’ jackets made from PVC - the winner of the do-good outerwear derby wasn’t entirely clear. It’s worth noting how much our culture has come to value the merits of green — both because people truly care about the Earth, and because caring about the Earth has grown so chic. But the actual rules of green living are surprisingly hard to navigate, not least of all when it comes to choosing clothes.
Do you want to save the animals or the planet at large? Do you focus on your outfit’s origins, or its afterlife? Do you submit to the harsh realities of the food chain? Or do you fret about the death of cows and bunnies while the planet weeps over your petroleum-based pleather?
The decline of the anti-fur stigma shows just how complex the rules have become. Jo Paoletti, an American studies professor at the University of Maryland, recalls that she once gave away a vintage fur cape because too many people glared at her at parties.
But over the last decade, many fashion houses have begun to embrace fur again. Onetime PETA models Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford have fronted ad campaigns for high-end furriers. Bravo’s Rachel Zoe wears luscious fur vests in public with no apparent guilt.
And when my friend started asking around about her coat, she found a lot of people who weren’t appalled by rabbit pelts. Someone told her that Canadians wear fur because it’s warmer than any alternative. Someone else pointed out that people eat rabbit, so why not use all of the rabbit?
These days, the fur industry seems especially emboldened. The Fur Council of Canada has launched an ad campaign declaring that “Fur is Green’’ — in the sense that trappers kill animals who might have overpopulated forests, and that fur breaks down in landfills, unlike performance fleece. The council also takes pains to claim that trappers and farmers treat animals humanely, a byproduct of shame for which animal-rights activists deserve some credit.
But PETA has devolved into self-parody of late, chastising the president for swatting a fly, putting too many naked models in lettuce bikinis, acting overzealous with red paint. When it comes to fashion, it seems, everyone has to decide how and when to be cruel, where to stake her own spot on the fur-to-leather-to-meat-to-clean-air continuum. Paoletti points out that, however “natural’’ fur may be, the fur-production process still takes a big environmental toll. But then “greenwashing’’ is rampant in the fashion world today, she says: Fabric made from bamboo is marketed as earth-friendly, but it’s chemically identical to rayon, and manufactured in a way that’s decidedly bad for the planet.
Besides, Paoletti notes, you can make a bigger impact with your laundry habits than with any piece of clothing you buy — and you can also help the Earth by buying fewer clothes in general. In that context, vintage fur could either be the world’s biggest cop-out or a brilliant solution, a way to embrace recycling and luxury at once. Paoletti isn’t passing judgment, though she wishes my friend could wear a button on her rabbit coat that says, “It’s vintage!’’ Style still has a lot to do with what other people think. But my friend figures that if anyone looks sideways at her coat, she’ll simply tell them it’s a fake.
January 2010 Animal compassion ads are rejected by transit boss in one Canadian city while ads for the "Fur is Green" campaign are spotted on a Vancouver skytrain. Read more and take action:
Comment: BC municipalities are beginning to consider legislation to prohibit the use of leg-hold, snare and conibear traps. In 2011, the Town of Gibsons became the first to do so. They are banned in at least 88 countries and are opposed by the World Veterinary Association, and many other organizations. Carmina Gooch pointed this out to in a recent e-mail to Vernon City Council. The matter is being addressed at the Feb.27/12 meeting.
February 20, 2012 Time to end fur trapping in Nevada?