North American fur boasts strong global standards for traceability, sustainability
By The Fur Institute of Canada
The importance of knowing where the products we buy come from, how they are produced, and feeling comfortable that those products are produced safely, appropriately and ethically cannot be understated.
If you eat a fish in a restaurant, you want to know it was harvested/produced from a sustainable fish stock, processed under good working standards and safe to consume. When you buy chicken or beef or pork at the grocery store you always like to know that it’s healthy, free of harmful/problematic drugs and produced in such a way that it meets high animal welfare standards. It’s the same when you purchase electronics, shoes, garments, vehicles or any number of things: You want to feel secure you’ve made a good purchase and that you are doing the right thing.
It is no different for products made with North American fur. But there is, however, one major difference between North American fur and a great many products: Fur from the United States and Canada already meets the absolute highest standards of traceability, animal welfare, eco-friendliness and sustainability.
This was clearly revealed when the international fur trade pulled together the elements of a new global program called Furmark.
It began with the global farmed fur sector and a desire by producers and the trade in Europe who wanted to have full traceability for products: The idea was to a program with a mark or brand that could assure everyone through the supply chain about the quality and sustainability of the product they were using or buying. That motivation has since caught on globally, including North America, and a full roll out of the program is now targeted for next year.
It was only natural then that wild fur producers would seek to do the same. So, out of that, experts in North America were asked to work together to provide the full list of provisions that assure those above-mentioned traceability, animal welfare and sustainability standards. The goal at the time was to pull together a full list of traceability items in both countries, going from the traditional trap-line to the final modern product and see where there might be any gaps. But then a funny thing happened when everything was put on the table: It was discovered there really weren’t any significant gaps in wild fur beyond some proprietary technology issues (related to issues like coding and tags).
In essence, wild fur was already fully assured by way of a full suite of government, industry and independent requirements and documentation (including but certainly not limited to the Agreement on International Humane Trap Standards, CITES, ISO Standards, etc.). Those elements support the highest possible levels of regulation, science, enforcement, traceability, animal welfare and sustainable harvests. Everything that was needed was already there!
This should really come as a surprise to no one who understands how fur is produced. The North American conservation/wildlife model is the best in the world. And the wild fur trade is a very important part of that model.
Just consider the basics of wild fur: Animals taken from scientifically-supported abundant animal populations, with a focus on ecosystem balance and protections for threatened or endangered species. Trappers with the utmost training, expertise and experience using devices that have been rigorously tested using the most advanced scientific methods to assure animal welfare. Trappers who also function as providers of scientific data and stewards of the land, the real champions of climate change adaptation. Fur that is purchased and tracked through dealers and auction houses (using some truly advanced technology) with a trail that leads right from the trapper’s doorstep all the way through to the auction house and on to the final buyer. Permitting and licencing systems that ensure appropriate tracking, conservation and animal welfare. And all of it backed up by science, and enforced by strict government regulation and enforcement.
The North American model not only works, it exceeds expectations. But without the trapper addressing predators and problem species in the scope of ecosystem management, a crucial link in the chain is broken. That is why the wild fur trade continues to understand the importance of showing the world how advanced, environmentally sound, sustainable and ethical everything being done from start to finish truly is.
At the end of the process, the wild fur people in North America realized they had already put decades of work into an issue that many other global industries are still struggling to catch up with.
Furmark promises “an independent, world-class comprehensive certification and traceability program that addresses and assures sustainability and animal welfare.”
- See here: https://www.wearefur.com/responsible-fur/wild-fur/
- And here (page 29): https://www.wearefur.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/FurMark-Full-Brochure-final.pdf
To ensure traceability, Furmark comes with a cloud-based block chain system with a company called Chainpoint that will trace pelts from the auction houses through to the manufacturing stage. All stages of the supply chain, beginning at the auction house level, will participate in the traceability system to enhance transparency at the buyer and consumer level.
Dressers and Dyers are also a part of the FurMark program and will be subjected to independent testing and certification. To be a FurMark dresser/dyer, they must: Agree to use only chemicals from the agreed fur chemical list; undergo government inspections of factory outputs; and agree to random spot checks of dressed/dyes pelts to ensure they are chemically compliant.
And for fur farmers to be FurMark certified, they must agree to undergo third party animal welfare and environmental audits by a third party and independent animal welfare auditing company.
But it is not just Furmark alone that provides the necessary assurances. Additionally, auction houses and others in the fur trade are also developing programs to compliment/enhance that effort. It is also noted that companies using North American fur are doing their part as retailers and manufacturers to insure the highest levels of customer assurance.
The Fur Institute of Canada, in its role as Canada’s lead expert on humane trap research and furbearer conservation, has and will continue to work hard with industry partners throughout North America to help pull this work together on behalf of stakeholders.
So what does all this mean?
If you are a producer in North America, it means you should be proud of all you have in place ensuring what you bring to the marketplace.
For trappers, it means there is no further government or industry regulation needed to assure wild fur traceability or assurance, because it already exists and is working extremely well. You are encouraged to speak with whomever buys your product to find out exactly what those assurances are for your area and type of harvest.
If you work in the trade, from the auction house to the retailer, it means you are buying and selling a sustainable product that comes with all the necessary support any great product should have.
And most importantly, if you are a customer, thinking about buying an item that contains North American fur, it means you can do so with the utmost comfort that it the fur is natural, sustainable, and traceable and also that you contributed to both the environment and the economy especially in rural regions.
So you can go ahead and enjoy all the comforts of real fur.
It’s the responsible thing to do.