Lesley Fox: Animal cruelty is not green

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      If you are making your holiday shopping list, you better check it twice.

      Each year in Canada, approximately two million animals are killed for their fur. Animals trapped in the wild break teeth and bones trying to escape from cruel traps. On fur farms, caged animals are gassed or anally electrocuted.

      While long gone are the days of full-length fur coats, most fur these days is found on the hoods of parkas or on goofy trinkets in dollar stores, pet stores, or department stores.

      To boost sagging sales, the fur industry is working overtime to sneak in bits of fur onto whatever products they can. They’re also trying to capitalize on the recent surge of interest in green and sustainable products by distributing promotional materials claiming fur is somehow ecofriendly.

      Fur is not green

      While raw pelts from the Flintstones era may be considered “natural”, modern-day fur production relies on harmful chemicals, including acids, hydrogen peroxide, chromates, formaldehyde, bleaching agents, and various types of dyes.

      In addition to the chemical treatment of furs that prevents them from decaying, fur farms in particular are responsible for immense pollution.

      In 2009, Nova Scotia fur farms alone housed and killed 913,840 animals. Residents in several areas located near the fur farms, particularly in Yarmouth County, have been increasingly vocal about their concerns over water and air pollution due to mink farm development.

      In early 1990s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined six fur-processing firms US$2.2 million for the pollution they caused. The EPA stated that the waste from fur processing plants “may cause respiratory problems, and are listed as possible carcinogens”.

      But since the 1990s, not much has changed in terms of environmental regulations and many fur farms simply continue to pollute.

      Some fur farmers have actually been going out of business due to their inability to clean up the nitrates, phosphates, and other substances running off with rainwater or seeping into aquifers and polluting local water supplies.

      Greenwashing at its best

      When engaged in debate, proponents of the fur industry are quick to say that no endangered species are used in their fur products, as if this was a commendable feature. But refraining from intentionally harming or killing endangered species is the law, and following the law is a bare minimum requirement of all industries. This isn’t a “green” practice.

      And while it may not be the intention to trap endangered species, traps are indiscriminate. Make no mistake, species at risk do get caught in, and die from, cruel traps intended for other animals.

      While most animals legally trapped in Canada are not species at risk, how few animals should be left before trapping and killing for profit is halted?

      For example, the wolverine is a species whose population levels are of great concern. In Canada, their eastern population is already officially listed as “endangered” and their western population is officially listed as a species of “special concern” due to their low numbers. (A species is listed as “special concern” when it “may become a threatened or an endangered species because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats”.)

      Despite being listed as a species of special concern, wolverines are still legally trapped for their fur in snare or conibear traps.

      Gift for Mother Nature

      The evidence is clear that fur and fur trim is not only cruel to animals, but is also harmful to our environment. And if you find any of the “green” or “ecofriendly” advertisements misleading, you can file a complaint with the Canadian Competition Bureau.

      Making a commitment to be fur-free is a very easy holiday wish you can grant for the animals, and Mother Nature.

      Lesley Fox is the executive director of Fur-Bearer Defenders, an animal-protection organization based in Burnaby.



      RD Jafer

      Dec 8, 2010 at 9:24am

      I am so glad to see this article. More people need to learn the truth about this industry. Fur is not green....it's black and blue.


      Dec 8, 2010 at 1:31pm

      I too am glad to see that you have brought some light on this tragic subject. In this era there is no need to wear a dead animal (or any part of it) on your body. We have so much technology that will keep us comfortable in all seasons. Please help keep the beauty of 'all' nature around for generations to enjoy!


      Dec 8, 2010 at 2:00pm

      Take your animal liberation front propaganda back to Burnaby.

      No one but your little group-think cabal here at the Straight cares.


      Dec 8, 2010 at 3:13pm

      Great article!!! I am so sick of the fur industries green washing, did you know that studies have been done to show that even man made materials take 20 times less energy than fur from fur farms?
      I used to live in Abbotsford by some mink farms, and sometimes the stench was so great, its was far worse than the factory farmed chickens or pigs!
      Thanks for printing this info!!


      Dec 8, 2010 at 3:31pm

      It seems you care, Joshua, otherwise you wouldn't have commented. There's no need for fur; animals deserve the right to live just as much as we do. A little compassion for the vulnerable and voiceless species we murder everyday would help make this world a better place.

      Sable Marten

      Dec 8, 2010 at 3:42pm

      Brilliant article! I just read an article about a local animal abuser who runs a chain of fur stores spouting on about 'fur is green.' You don't need a whole lot of brains to know that fur is about as green as the Alberta tar sands! This is a great article, and is very helpful to activists who work to educate businesses on the ecological devestation, not to mention the indiscriminate violence of the fur trade.

      Thank you Fur Bearers for all of the wonderful work that you do!


      Dec 8, 2010 at 4:39pm

      Carm, what I care about is how an absurdly irrational, special interest, animal rights extremist group has manipulated the Straight into publishing their propaganda.


      Dec 8, 2010 at 5:05pm

      A picture's worth a thousand words.Maybe if Billboards of these animals caught in traps were posted,people would think twice about buying fur trimmed clothes and objects..Why are these traps still being used?? How barbaric and cruel,to allow an animal to suffer like this! Absolutely hateful!!!

      Christine T

      Dec 9, 2010 at 9:12am

      If anyone sounds "irrational" and "extremist" here Joshua, it's you.
      Thanks to Lesley Fox and the Georgia Straight for publishing this well reasoned and informative article.

      Stephen E.

      Dec 9, 2010 at 11:52am

      Joshua, it would be helpful if you could point out what is irrational and/or extremist in this article. I don't see it myself, but I'm a moderate who happens to agree with the tone and content of the argument. Perhaps you could point out where the article and its argument falls short.