Lesley Fox: Fur flies over RCMP hat

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      I am in bed by 10:30 p.m., I like Taylor Swift, and I feel bad if I swear in front of my parents. But for some reason, the Conservative Party of Canada thinks I’m “a radical”.

      I work for the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (APFA). We use solution-oriented education to oppose the commercial fur industry. A few weeks ago, we celebrated a success: after years of discussions and letters, the RCMP informed us they’d be phasing out muskrat fur hats for their regular cold weather conditions. Muskrats are caught in horrendous traps—typically Conibears (think a giant rat trap) or leg-hold traps. The RCMP decision was good news—it meant that they’d found a more humane solution.

      Their letter even outlined that their own members, as well as the public, had been hoping for a switch from the heavy fur hat to a more common toque.

      That’s when things got a little bit crazy.

      During question period, member of Parliament Robert Sopuck stood up and demanded to know what the government was going to do about the “egregious anti-fur decision” by the RCMP. The environment minister, Leona Aglukkaq, noted that the RCMP’s use of fur hats “will not be discontinued, despite the efforts of the radical animal-rights activists”.

      We should take a moment to note that the government also uses the term “radical” in describing the ISIS terrorist organization beheading people and raping women and children in Iraq.

      Our immediate response was to issue a statement noting that the government was interfering with an arm’s length agency on a decision regarding uniform protocol. They had not interfered when the issue was sexual harassment or the treatment of officers suffering from PTSD.

      It was a clear case of vote pandering. We started to say that. But then, something else incredible happened: the fur industry made a public statement that they had, in fact, protested the decision to the government, who on their demands, overturned the decision.

      To break this down: an animal welfare organization that works with municipalities and schools and has a history dating back to the 1930s is “radical” for asking the RCMP to look at different solutions. The people who effectively bullied the government of a nation into political interference are not radical. The government that wanted to protect the $35 per year income that muskrat trapping brings the fur industry (250,000 muskrats x $10 per pelt / 70,000 members = $35 per year) and overturned an arms-length police agency’s decision on uniforms are not radical.

      Maybe it’s time Canadians start looking at who is representing whom.

      In fact, we strongly suggest they do so. The fur industry brings income into this country, that’s for sure. But where is that income coming from, and where is it going to? How many people actually have jobs related to the fur industry? How often is the fur industry using public funds to promote itself? It’s hard to say, as neither the government nor the fur industry have released any publicly available economic impact studies (most industries will do this when they want public or political support).

      We do know that the last census (2011) by Statistics Canada showed 655 individuals identified themselves as full time trappers. We know that the vast majority of fur “harvested” in Canada comes from factory-style fur farms. We know that most fur from Canada is sold overseas—primarily to the dwindling Chinese market. We even know that fur sales, according to Trapper & Predator Caller magazine, are down 70 percent across the board this year.

      But all the government wants us to know is that they support jobs from our heritage—like trapping, running residential schools, operating Japanese internment camps, and using immigrants to build railways. Wait—that’s not right, is it?

      The reality is that the fur industry is very well funded when it comes to lobbying and marketing. Globally, 100,000,000 animals are killed for their fur every year. Some people stand to make a lot of money if the industry does well. But we also know that 85 percent of British Columbians are opposed to killing an animal for their fur (Insights West poll). We know that we have tens of thousands of supporters as an organization who are opposed to this industry.

      And we know that next year, we voting Canadians, will have our day at the polls.

      Lesley Fox is the executive director for the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, a nonprofit wildlife protection organization based in Vancouver. Learn more about the fur industry and the inherently inhumane practices involved at furbearerdefenders.com.




      Oct 11, 2014 at 6:11am

      The RCMP attempted to modernize, reduce costs and heard the voices of animal rights activitists but only Harper in his usual micro-managing style reversed the decision for a handful of trappers in the north. Yes the fur hats were a tradition but not a major one such as the Musical ride, the red serge, stetson. RCMP have become a military police force controlled, managed not by the commissioer but by the government. They were at arm's length a decade ago now under the absolute power & control of the Harper reign.
      Another glaring example of control was over the new Swiss assault rifles & following Harper's "get tough on crime" the Mounties banned these rifles used for killing (no hunting use) but to appease voters in Alberta Harper reversed their ban. Harper speaks with forked tongue & thus tarnishes deminishes the RCMP.

      not a lot of jobs

      Oct 12, 2014 at 4:34am

      The fur industry claims 1 millions jod worldwide, but it is likely an inflated number. The french fur association stated a more accurate numbers of 60 000 jobs in Europe (so probabaly 100 000 world wide) not more. the inderect jobs are not depedent of the fur industry. They can work faux fur as well.


      Oct 19, 2014 at 10:48pm

      I stopped reading when the author compared the fur industry to Japanese internment camps. Does that mean chicken farmers can be compared to concentration camps? Oh wait - the animal rights activist leave the meat industries alone as it's easier to attack an industry that is mostly comprised of small businesses who don't have the means to protect themselves like huge factory farms and grocery stores do.

      Alan Stephan

      Oct 20, 2014 at 3:01pm

      A typical example of Ms. Fox's cynical reasoning: when it suits her (to claim that trappers are not an important part of society?) she reports that only 655 individual identified themselves as full-time trappers in the last Census -- perhaps not understanding that very few people trap "full-time, unless they are doing animal damage control; fur trapping, of course, is only permitted during controlled fur trapping seasons. But when it suits her to claim that muskrat trapping provides little income, she divides the $2.5 million annual value of the muskrat harvest by 70,000, which is the total number of trapping licenses issued!