Trapping is one of two methods used in Canada for obtaining fur and each year approximately one million of the most beautiful wild animals are caught so their skin can be worn by you. Beaver, marten and muskrat make up the bulk of animals successfully caught, although we also target species such as coyotes, foxes, lynx, mink, otters and raccoons.
We once said: “without human intervention, wildlife can be subjected to wildly swinging “boom and bust” cycles of overpopulation followed by disease and starvation” which is rather deceitful of us, as it’s the very fact we interfere with nature that these scenarios occur!
Most of the species targeted by our trappers are predators, so removing them from the wild leads to immediate animal overpopulation as their prey species go unchecked. Furthermore, some species reproduce at very fast rates, so with less competition for food or habitat the surviving fur-bearers, as a direct response to their dwindling numbers, breed even more.
By thinning the populations during the fall and winter, animals have to travel greater distances in the spring to find a mate thereby stimulating the spread of disease (should the animal have one) as it is carried over a much larger expanse of land. Furthermore, animals in the latter stages of a disease will not be attracted to the lures our trappers use, so the chances of catching a healthy, prime animal are greater than those of catching a sick and weak one. The result of this is a reduction in the genetic strength of any species, making them even more susceptible to disease… but elation for the trapper at having successfully outwitted one of the healthier and shrewder animals!
For the past forty years, the leg-hold trap has been the most widely used trap in Canada, although at one point its use was threatened. In 1996, the European Union implemented a ban in all member countries, as well as the import of furs coming from any country still using it. In Canada we were determined to continue with our noble tradition, and so led a campaign to challenge the ban, and inferred exclusion from supplying Europe with our fur.
We were thrilled to successfully convince the EU to exempt us from their import ban and formulate a new agreement (AIHTS – the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards) which allows us to continue using the leg-hold trap in or near water sources. This was particularly cunning of us as 60% of fur-bearing animals trapped in Canada are semi-aquatic - such as beavers and muskrats - and so the agreement changes absolutely nothing for them. In actual fact, despite the trap being banned in 88 countries worldwide for being “inhumane”, we continue to use it on foxes, minks and wolverines, with cosmetically altered versions – "laminated” trap; "offset” trap; and "padded” trap - being used on other animals.
As for what it is that makes our favourite leg-hold trap so inhumane, well, where do we start? The primary reason our noble trapping tradition causes so much controversy is because the animals caught in these traps are left in an excruciating amount of pain for hours or days, with steel bars clamped on their legs, paws or indeed any other part of their body. The traps aren’t checked regularly – any time between once every 24 hours to two weeks – throughout which time the animals are without access to food, water or shelter, sometimes in extreme temperatures.
As we’ve already established, animal welfare is not our forte, so it’s of little concern to us whether they are cold, hungry or in pain. In fact, we know that it is a harrowing experience as one in four animals will chew off their own limbs to escape the agony of the trap or in an attempt to return to their young! I guess it’s rather unfortunate then that they tend to die only a few hours or days later from blood loss, gangrene or other secondary infections... Unfortunate for the trappers, of course, because they eluded the trap and made the task ten times harder. As for those who don’t break their bones or teeth in an attempt to escape, they will inevitably die from either hypothermia or - and this is our personal favourite – being clubbed to death or stamped on when the trapper returns.