Whilst it is true that fur is natural, this is only the case if it stays on the animal’s back. It’s fair to say, therefore, that when we state fur is a “natural resource” we are bending the truth. In fact, it isn’t even a resource that we have been given any right to tap into BUT it is important that we are using key words such as “natural”, “renewable” and “sustainable” to lure everyone into a false sense of ecological complacency.
The history of the global fur trade is evidence that no species, irrespective how abundant, is immune to possible extinction should their pelt become valuable to us. It has happened time and time again, even with species whose populations numbered in the millions. Case in point: spotted cats being reduced to near extinction, within the space of only a few decades, because the trade in their skins became so lucrative. After all, we’re less concerned about fur being renewable or sustainable, and more concerned about the money in our pocket.
This isn’t a recent phenomenon, however, as we played a significant role in the decimation of the Canadian beaver population. By the mid-19th century the beaver had almost been trapped into extinction, with us shipping 200,000 pelts to Europe annually when demand was at its highest. Eventually, however, beaver fur fell out of fashion which is probably the only reason the population was able to become stable again.
At present the species commanding the highest pelt prices are bobcats, coyotes, lynx, wolverines, and wolves - species that happen to exist naturally in very low numbers in Canada. As fur prices rise and trappers find fewer of these valuable pelts, they will become even more eagerly hunted. It is common sense that commercial extinction can happen fairly fast if animals with valuable pelts are killed in a totally unregulated manner; so it amuses us that the only federal endangered species legislation in Canada (SARA – Species at Risk Act) is not being enforced, but we’re not complaining!
To throw both provincial, as well as federal, agencies and governments off the scent (no pun intended) we often refer to trappers as “conservationists” but in reality trapping upsets the delicate and complex balances that exist in nature.
First of all, an estimated 9 million "trash animals" are accidentally caught and killed by traps each year. Some of these are domestic cats and dogs – companion animals that are no doubt loved dearly by someone somewhere - as well as other wild animals, some of which are endangered or threatened species. We don’t factor these incidental deaths into the sustainability of the fur industry because we discard them; after all, they have no economic value to us.
Secondly, irrespective of the fact that some animals are naturally rare in the world (for whatever reason) and the population of others is dwindling because of us, we will continue to kill them whilst their pelts are in demand.
The fact remains that any animal can walk into a trap, and endangered species are no exception. We hide the fact that these animals are killed, as well as the fact that we may have murdered your cat or dog, to avoid “public outrage” which can become tiring when you are working in an industry as abusive and cruel as ours.
Factory farming - or trapping - fur-bearing animals does not maintain any natural balance. It is also in no way ecologically friendly, renewable or sustainable. In fact, history suggests that the total extermination of fur-bearing animals will come easily and rapidly, and with no one to stop us…