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.