Council of Canada Misinformation (cont.)
Question 3: 'How can I be sure the Canadian fur industry practices humane
The question obviously has no real bearing on whether or not fur is “green,” but
the fur industry knows that by far the greatest concern of potential buyers of
furs is that they derive from animal abuse. It cannot avoid addressing the
The answer to Question 3 begins, “Trapping in Canada is strictly regulated by
the provincial and territorial wildlife departments.”
None of those departments or agencies has, as its mandate, the prevention of
abuse of animals. They are focused entirely on whether the number of animals
caught is the number allowed; that the trapper is following the rules in what
is, to all intents and purposes, an honor system. There is no way to effectively
monitor most traplines or privately owned and managed fur farms. There may be a
bottom limit as well as a top limit to the number of animals of a given species
that the trapper can trap, but that is about as far as regulation of traplines
But it would really not matter if trappers were governed by humane societies.
The fact is that under Canada’s archaic legislation, cruelty deemed “necessary”
is also deemed legal. If an animal writhes for hours or even days in agony,
chews at its injured leg, bleeds, suffers panic, slowly strangles or takes 18
minutes to drown, no matter — it is all acceptable under Canadian legislation.
The stress that leads to ulcers in captive mink, or to stereotypic pacing or the
panic associated with having an electric prod shoved up the rectum in order to
kill an animal without damaging the pelt, all matter not one whit in a court of
law, but are quite legal under Canadian legislation.
Even if such forms of animal abuse were not legal, what happens on traplines in
the forests, or on privately owned and managed fur farms, is far beyond the view
of anyone who might be concerned, but since it is not illegal, the point is
The FCC’s answer to Question 3 goes on to say, “Canada is, in fact, a world
leader in the development of new trapping methods. With support from Environment
Canada and the International Fur Trade Federation, more than $20 million has
been invested in research coordinated by the Fur Institute of Canada.”
The one thing you do not see on the Fur Institute of Canada’s (FIC) website is
any picture of fur trap research. This research consists, in major part, of
methodically documenting and measuring what happens to animal after animal after
animal who is placed in a cage with this or that trapping device, to quantify
how much the animal suffers before death. This research is unmitigated animal
abuse; a hidden and shameful part of the fur industry. It has nothing to do with
fur being “green,” and everything to do with trying to assure the marketplace
that such an inherently cruel business as the fur industry somehow is not all
Predictably, the answer to Question 3 goes on to say: “This work provided the
scientific basis for the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards
(AIHTS) adopted by the European Union and the main wild fur-producing regions
(Canada, United States, Russia). Trappers cannot receive their trapping licenses
until they have taken special courses to learn the most up-to-date and humane
The casual reader may assume that “most up-to-date and humane methods” are, in
fact, humane. Even with “humane” defined only by what the traps do, traps cannot
be made humane, so the term “humane” is largely redefined to include what most
people would call cruelty or abuse. While none of this has anything to do with
the “greenness” of the fur industry, how animals suffer in the production of fur
does speak directly to the major concern compassionate people have about the
industry — its abuse of animals.
The courses trappers, some as young as 14, take only teach them to use what are
essentially the same traps that have been used for decades, or even centuries.
These are leg-hold traps, including the padded traps and the laminated traps;
the Conibear and other body gripping traps; and the snare.
The leg-hold trap has been in use for three centuries and what the FCC does not
mention is that in Canada it is legal to use it for Canadian lynx, bobcats,
wolves and coyotes, foxes, beaver, muskrats, otters and mink. Additionally they
catch numerous “non-target” species attracted to baits, or that use the paths or
openings where they are placed.
AIHTS is a major means by which the fur industry, alarmed by the fact that
public awareness of animal abuse in the fur industry was threatening fur sales
on both sides of the Atlantic, sought to create the impression that new
inventions resulted in eliminating the abuse. The differences between “approved”
traps and their predecessors are minor and cosmetic. The so-called “padded” trap
10 is the same old leg-hold trap as has been used for centuries, but with the
jaws lined with a synthetic material. It must slam shut with force and grip even
the strongest, most healthy animal with enough pressure to prevent escape. It
still crushes tendons, veins and arteries, cracks bones, breaks skin and
generates excruciating pain.
And it is still indiscriminate in what it catches.
So is the “offset” trap. This is also the old-fashioned leg-hold trap, but set
so it does not close tight, but leaves a gap. How big a gap? Three-sixteenths of
an inch is the normal width of the gap. Try compressing your own finger or toe,
which may resemble the diameter of a furbearing animal’s leg, to 3-16ths of an
inch and then decide how humane the device is.
And it is still indiscriminate in what it catches.
And finally there is the “laminated” trap, which is also an ordinary leg-hold
trap but with a strip of metal attached to widen the jaws. They are more
efficient at holding the animal, who naturally struggles to escape.
And it is still indiscriminate in what it catches. 11
There are other variants, such as extra springs to increase the pressure by
which trapped animals are held, but there is little or no diminishment in the
cruelty intrinsic to their use.
Several types of traps can be used as
“drowning sets” and
drowning is considered “humane” by AIHTS. Drowning sets, especially snares and
Conibears, may be set underwater. Typically, however, they are placed on land
and weighted. When triggered the trap is supposed to slide down a wire into the
water, submerging the struggling animal beneath the surface. Even if you
consider this to be “humane,” the concept is far from flawless in execution.
Changes in weather can cause the water or the wire to freeze, or floating
branches and other debris can get in the way, preventing the animal from being
far enough submerged to drown. Water levels may decrease due to droughts, also
In the 1980s the University of Guelph strapped beaver, muskrat and mink to
boards, attached devices to monitor heart and brain activity, and then submerged
the living animals in tanks of water. Beavers lasted longest, taking about 20
minutes to die. Beaver and some other aquatic animals do not, technically
speaking, drown. They are equipped with automatic physiological mechanisms that
prevent them from inhaling water when submerged, and literally die of asphyxia,
when, lacking oxygen, levels of carbon dioxide accumulate in their lungs (see
“Terminal Dives in Mink, Muskrat and Beaver” by Frederick F. Gilbert, and Norman
Gofton, Physiology & Behavior, Vol. 28, issue 5, May, 1982, pp. 835-840). This
is called “induced narcosis” or “submission asphyxia,” or more popularly, dry
drowning, so called because little or no water actually enters their lungs. Mink
don’t last nearly as long, and, like humans, die from “wet drowning.”
In 1957, with much fanfare, a gentleman who was totally disgusted with the
suffering caused by traditional leg-hold traps decided to do something about it,
and invented the “body-gripping” trap that bears his name, the Conibear trap, as
a “humane” alternative.
Frank Conibear’s invention was revolutionary in design. It consists of a square,
thick wire metal frame mounted inside another frame about the same size. When
set they form a square-shaped opening with the trigger, baited or not, in the
middle. They can be set on land or under water, or in front of dens. When an
animal touches the trigger, the two frames suddenly snap shut with literally
blinding speed and with approximately 90 pounds of pressure. They cannot be
opened, not even by a strong man, without use of a special key or cords and
knowledge of how they work, and even then each of two springs, one on each side,
must have the pressure relieved in order to extract the victim. There are
numerous examples of dogs getting caught in these hideous devices and dying
while frantic owners
struggle in vain to release them and yet they are deemed humane. Because
they are so dangerous some trappers will not use them for fear of accidentally
getting part of themselves caught in one in such a way that even they cannot
release the pressure of the springs.
The certainly can kill very quickly if the right-sized animal enters them in the
right manner and the jaws crush a vital organ, artery or the brain, but when
that does not happen they can cause agonizing injury and a slow, painful death.
The third common category of gripping trap is the snare. There are variations of
it, but typically it consists of a noose with a device that prevents it from
opening. It can close ever tighter, embedding itself ever deeper into the flesh
of the struggling animal. If it cuts off a vital artery, death can follow, but
sometimes it grips the animal around the body. The bony skeleton of larger
animals can be strong enough to withstand the constriction, and snares can even
break loose from their moorings, but they continue to remain deeply embedded in
the unfortunate animal, leading to a slow death that can not by any standard be
called humane, although that is how the device is categorized by the fur
Snares are used to catch red squirrels, which may dangle above the ground, or
are suspended from the tops of poles until stress, dehydration, or the trapper,
ends their agony.
There are other types of traps, including deadfalls, but there is no trap that
invariably causes a near-instant kill, or only ever catches the species it is
set to catch.
The answer to Question 3 goes on to say: “Fur farming, like all agriculture, is
regulated by the provincial agricultural departments.”
It is, of course, not within the purview of those departments to administer such
laws as exist that pertain to cruelty to animals, inadequate though they be.
The FCC continues: “Canadian mink and fox farmers have adopted Recommended Codes
of Practice, developed by Agriculture Canada in cooperation with the Canadian
Federation of Humane Societies (CFHS) 12 and farm groups.” The codes provide an
absolute minimum standard of care, and even then are strictly voluntary. They
are, as their name implies, “recommended” within the context of fur production.
There was, at the time, those within the CFHS 12 who, while recognizing that the
fur industry was firmly entrenched in Canadian culture at the time, thought that
by seeking to help the animals, the organization would be misrepresented by the
fur industry as somehow endorsing fur farms. The CFHS clearly states: “CFHS is
opposed to the pain and suffering in the raising of animals for the production
of furs.” It goes on to state that
if the practice is to continue, current codes must be upgraded and the needs of
animals taken into greater consideration. In short, the codes are inadequate to
provide humane care for the animals.
The answer to Question 3 concludes: “Farmers have every reason to follow these
codes since only well-cared-for animals can produce the high-quality fur
required to compete in international markets. Farmers who don’t provide
excellent housing, nutrition and care to their animals will not remain in
Does this mean that wild animals, not being cared for at all, cannot produce the
“high-quality fur” demanded by the industry? FCC does not say, but the same kind
of argument is made by numerous people raising animals in order to produce a
marketable product, from puppies to pork chops. The only interest the fur farmer
has, and then only for the animals who will be slaughtered for their furs and
not necessarily for breeding stock, is that at the time the animal is killed, it
has a marketable fur coat. The only other concern is for profit, which, as is
true in any business venture directed toward profit, means minimum expense for
maximum return. It is not necessary to keep the animal healthy throughout its
natural lifespan but only to have it produce a marketable fur coat. The results
are animals caged in tiny enclosures, often in close proximity. On one hand the
FCC seems to be claiming trapping prevents disease, presumably by thinning the
population (see above), on the other hand it is OK to concentrate large numbers
of animals in small areas, and furthermore, that is ecologically beneficial in
ways never explained.
Croatia, the United Kingdom and Austria have banned fur farms. Switzerland has
not, but has put in regulations backed by law that are truly designed to reduce
suffering, and thus have had the effect of eliminating fur farms in that
country. In Austria six of the nine federal states have banned fur farms and
mink farming is being phased out in the Netherlands. Animals who are wild by
nature and live solitary lives or guard large territories (see above) cannot be
humanely kept in fur farms, and develop neurotic behavior such as pacing,
cannibalism and self-mutilation.
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'Who are the animal activist groups and what do they really want?' and the