Here are some quick answers to common questions about the fur trade.


Why is relocation seldom done with "nuisance" wildlife?

Relocation of animals is an important tool in wildlife management, but is done only under certain conditions, the most important being that a species is threatened or endangered. For example, if an animal is plentiful where it is being a nuisance, but is rare in another part of its range, it may be a good candidate for relocation.

Most nuisance animals, though, are not relocated but are euthanized. There are several good reasons for this, including:


  • Transferring the problem. If an animal is a nuisance in one location, relocating it may just pass the problem on to someone else. This is one reason many municipalities actually have laws against relocating nuisance wildlife.
  • Relocated animals may just return. Relocating many species a short distance can be a waste of time, while some are known to travel vast distances, and may even show a form of homing instinct. For example, in 2003 a lynx was caught in British Columbia and moved to Colorado as part of a reintroduction program. In 2010, it turned up again in Alberta after a trip of 1,000 miles, and very close to where it had originally been trapped.
  • Hostile resident wildlife. Moving an animal to a new habitat inevitably stresses them, and the biggest cause of stress may come from hostile resident members of their own species. This is particularly common in highly territorial species, often resulting in the introduced animal experiencing constant harassment, rejection and even starvation.
  • Lack of suitable habitat. Finding appropriate habitat when relocating an animal is not as easy as well-meaning members of the public often believe. And choosing an unsuitable habitat can be a death sentence, particularly if the animal can’t feed itself.
  • Disease control. Before relocating wildlife, they should be thoroughly tested for transmissible diseases like rabies, mange and distemper. This is costly and time-consuming, plus failure to do so risks spreading these diseases to other populations.

Are steel-jawed leghold traps with teeth still used?

The short answer is no.

Once common around the world was a kind of trap known as a steel-jawed leghold trap. Sometimes referred to today as a “conventional steel-jawed leghold restraining trap”, these are rarely seen these days outside of museums, and have not been used for most Canadian furbearers for decades.

These are restraining traps, meaning they are designed to keep an animal alive on land until the trapper arrives and can decide whether to dispatch the animal or release it. In practice, though, animals were often injured, and thus unsuitable for release.

The main reason for this was the trap’s design. Two jaws had sharp teeth that interlocked tightly on an animal’s leg, often causing injuries.

Modern descendants of these restraining traps are far more humane, thanks to several key modifications. Most notable are changes in the jaws. Teethed jaws have long been banned, while today’s jaws consist of two flat bars with rounded edges that are laminated or coated in rubberized padding. They may also be offset so they can’t close completely.

Another key refinement is in the trigger pressure required to activate a leghold trap. When combined with correct setting of a trap, this almost guarantees that only target species will be caught by their foot rather than their calf, allowing the animal considerable freedom of movement. It is for this reason that the term “leghold” trap has largely given way to “foothold” trap.

Other important modifications have been made to how traps are anchored. A foothold trap is typically held in place by a chain connected to the ground or a nearby object like a tree. By incorporating a shock-absorbing spring and a swivel, the animal is far less likely to harm itself trying to move the trap.

As proof that these modern foothold traps are humane, they are used not only by fur trappers but also by wildlife managers who trap live animals for tracking and relocation.

As for the legal status of conventional steel-jawed leghold traps, the development of more humane traps dates back decades, culminating in the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS), ratified by Canada in 1999. Under the AIHTS, traps are certified as meeting these humane trapping criteria for use with 19 furbearer species, including 12 caught in Canada: beaver, muskrat, river otter, marten, fisher, raccoon, badger, ermine, coyote, wolf, lynx and bobcat. Since conventional steel-jawed leghold restraining traps set on land have been banned under AIHTS terms, none of these species can legally be caught with them.

The use of AIHTS-certified leghold (or foothold) restraining traps is legally limited to coyote, wolves, lynx and bobcat.


Are farmed furbearers skinned alive for their fur?

Absolutely not. This claim has been spread by some animal rights groups to discredit the fur trade, but even though it is absurd, an alarming number of people repeat it as though it’s true. They also claim there are many videos showing this practice, when in fact there is just one, and it was clearly staged for the camera. Shot in a Chinese market in 2005, it shows a worker cruelly beating and skinning a live raccoon dog. It was first disseminated by the animal rights group Swiss Animal Protection, and then more widely by PETA. Remember, if you are unfortunate enough to see this video, it does not depict anything done in the fur trade. Rather, it shows that some animal rightists have no respect for the truth or for animal welfare.

Following are the reasons why animals are never skinned alive in the fur trade:

  • It would be completely inhumane. Contrary to what animal activists claim, most livestock farmers take good care of their animals. It not only makes sound business sense, it’s also the humanitarian thing to do. It is therefore completely ignorant (and insulting) to claim that farmers would inflict unnecessary suffering by skinning their animals alive.
  • It would endanger the farmer. Common sense should tell us that an animal would fight back if someone tried to skin it alive. This would put the farmer at risk of being bitten or scratched, or cut with his own knife. No farmer would expose themselves to such danger.
  • It would take longer and be less efficient. Believers in the skinning alive myth say it saves the farmer time because he doesn’t have to euthanize the animals first. But that’s absurd. Approved methods of euthanasia take seconds only, but if that’s too much trouble, since you’re already holding a sharp skinning knife, why not just kill the animal?
  • It would almost certainly damage the pelt. Considerable skill is needed when skinning a furbearer to avoid nicking the pelt and reducing its value. That would be impossible if the animal were alive and struggling. Plus, its heart would still be beating, so blood would get all over the fur and stain it.
  • It would be illegal. In North America, Europe, and most other regions, it is illegal to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal. Skinning an animal alive is therefore not only inhumane and immoral – it’s clearly illegal.

For more information, see 5 reasons why it is ridiculous to claim animals are skinned alive. Truth About Fur.

What happens to farmed mink when animal activists release them?

Because farmed mink are domesticated animals, they are used to farmers supplying all of their needs, including food, water and shelter. So, when animal activists release them into the wild, they face many dangers they are unprepared for.

Typically, many farmed mink do not wander far from their sheds and are quickly recovered, but for those that leave the farm, the future is very uncertain. If there are abundant and easy food sources in the area, like chicken coops and koi ponds, they might survive long enough to adapt to life in the wild. But most end up dying of starvation, or become roadkill, a curious fact thought to be because they confuse the sound of traffic with the farm’s motorised feed cart.

In countries where American mink are not indigenous, there is evidence that released mink can adapt to the wild and form feral populations. However, this has come at a high price for local wildlife on which the mink prey. In the case of the UK, descendants of released mink are seen as a major threat to the native water vole, and also some colonies of ground-nesting birds.


Is fur an ethical clothing choice?

Many factors influence whether a particular clothing choice may be considered ethical. They include the environmental impact of producing the raw materials, manufacturing, and eventual disposal of the product; and the working conditions of all the people involved in every phase of its lifecycle.

In the case of products derived from animals, such as fur, there are additional considerations. While public opinion polls clearly show that most North Americans believe what we wear is a matter of personal choice, they also indicate that clothing that involves the killing of animals must meet the following criteria to be considered ethically or morally acceptable:

  • Sustainable use. The survival of the species should not be threatened.
  • Animal welfare. No unnecessary pain or cruelty should be inflicted.
  • Important use. Animals should not be killed for frivolous purposes.
  • Minimal waste. As much of the animal as possible should be used.

For a full discussion of how the North American fur trade satisfies these four criteria, see Is it ethical to wear fur? Truth About Fur

SEE ALSO: Why fur is the ethical clothing choice. Truth About Fur.

Does a fur garment biodegrade after it has been processed to make it more durable?

Fur is a natural, organic material, and like all such materials will quickly disintegrate and biodegrade unless preventive measures are taken. To avoid this, pelts are first “dressed”, a process that preserves the leather without harming the hair follicles, making the finished garment last longer.

However, even this cannot prevent deterioration entirely, and in time – decades, if the garment is properly cared for – the leather will dry out and become brittle. And when a fur garment reaches the end of its long life, it will biodegrade just like any other organic material.

Some people are confused, though, believing that the same processes used to make fur garments durable must also make them resistant to biodegradation. What they overlook is that people who own furs also take great care of them, and that means reducing their exposure to conditions that are conducive to biodegradation. If they failed to do this, their fur garment would not last nearly as long.

To demonstrate this, and also to compare the rate of degradation of real fur with that of fake fur made from petroleum, Truth About Fur conducted the Great Fur Burial experiment. The results were clear. After just one year, the real fur had almost entirely biodegraded, while the fake fur remained intact.

SEE ALSO: New study compares natural and fake fur biodegradability. International Fur Federation


Is commercial sealing in Canada sustainable?

Yes, without doubt. Not only is Canada’s commercial seal hunt sustainable, quotas could actually be increased significantly without harming seal stocks.

Canada is home to six species of seal – harp, grey, ringed, harbour, hooded and bearded – whose populations are all healthy and growing. Their combined numbers are thought to exceed 10 million.

Commercial sealers harvest harp seals in the Northwest Atlantic, home to the world’s largest stock estimated at 7.4 million. Today this harp seal stock is thought to be three times what it was in the 1970s, and some scientists believe it is more numerous now than at any time in history.

Meanwhile, fisheries managers are also concerned by the growth of the western Atlantic stock of grey seals. Until a few decades ago, this stock was largely confined to Atlantic Canada, but now its range is expanding southwards to areas where it was formerly extirpated, and it is already numerous in New England. The Canadian population is estimated at 505,000.

So while commercial sealing in Canada is undeniably sustainable, management of seal stocks has been controversial. The fishing industry insists that growing seal stocks are inevitably hurting the recovery of commercial fish stocks on which the seals feed, and want to see an increase in sealing quotas. However, the federal government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans continues to urge caution in setting sealing quotas, while expressing doubt that seals are hurting fish stocks.

For further reading see Why seal populations must be managed. Canadian Seal Products.

Do Canadian sealers still harvest whitecoat pups?

No, not for decades. Harp seals at birth appear yellow because they are stained with amniotic fluid, but within a few days they turn white, hence the name “whitecoat”. They remain white while they are nursing, which lasts until they are about 12 days old and weigh 36 kg or more, and their mothers abandon them. At this point the white fur starts to shed and they transition into “greycoats”.

Whitecoats were once harvested by commercial sealers, but anti-sealing campaigns used images of them to great effect, looking cute and cuddly. In 1983, the European Economic Community banned imports of whitecoat products, and in 1987 Canada banned their harvesting.

Images of whitecoats have been of tremendous significance in the ongoing struggle between advocates of sustainable use and animal rights groups. In the 1970s and 1980s, when the campaign against Canadian sealing was at its height, these images appeared everywhere. They are less commonly seen today, but some animal rights groups still use them in fundraising materials, even though whitecoats have not been harvested in almost four decades.