Fur: Sustainable, Safe, Humane

July 9, 2020

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    The wild fur industry is a centuries old industry that fueled the settlement of North America through exploration and trade. Today, the heritage of the fur trade can be seen in the trappers and hunters of Canada and the United States where fur is still a valuable renewable resource. The harvest of wild fur is now bound by strict government agreements and regulations, including bag limits, seasons, humane equipment, and protected areas all in order to ensure balance in the environment. In some areas, governments even incentivize the harvest of some species to protect people and animals. When an imbalance in nature creates a surplus of an animal, fur can be harvested for use in garments. Further, should an imbalance go unchecked, herd of animals will suffer from starvation or disease. As a natural, renewable resource, fur is much more eco-friendly than its polyester counterparts as it releases no microplastics and requires no petroleum to produce. Trapping and hunting play a vital role in balancing nature’s ecosystem, benefiting from the animals taken in the process. 

Humane

    One aspect of the wild fur industry that cannot be ignored is the protest of animal rights activists regarding animal welfare associated with trapping and hunting. Many misconceptions are held regarding how wild animals are actually trapped or harvested. Modern trapping and hunting is highly regulated to protect animals, ensuring only the most efficient methods are used, inflicting no undue harm to the animal. Canada, Russia, the United States, and the European Union have all signed agreements requiring humane trapping practices in order for the fur to be exported [1]. According to these standards, a lethal trap must render the animal insensible within 300 seconds, and live traps are rated for any damage they may inflict [2]. What is surprising to many is that the same live trapping methods used by trappers are by animal researchers for relocation, collaring, or study of furbearers [3]. Millions of dollars have been invested by the fur institute of Canada for research and development of humane trapping techniques using state of the art equipment [4].

Environment

    In today’s world, environmental sustainability has never been more important. Inherently, fur is a natural, renewable resource. There are numerous performance benefits of real fur and its natural insulating qualities, but most important is the biodegradable qualities of natural garments. Fur contains no microplastics, which are extremely dangerous to aquatic life once released to the environment. A microplastic is defined as a small plastic particle that is less than 5mm in diameter [5]. Microsynthetic fibers are similar, but take a strand-like shape, and are more common with synthetic garments. 124 to 308 mg of microplastics are released per kg of washed fabric. This  correlates to 640,000 to 1,500,000 Microsynthetic fiber particles [6]  Small animals like plankton and mussels are most susceptible to these pollutants, which in turn poses a threat to the entire food chain [7]. Even if you responsibly dispose of a synthetic garment, pollution still occurs throughout its lifetime. Fur garments are also known for their longevity. Synthetic materials are often discarded after one or two seasons, adding to the ever-growing mass of plastic pollution. To wear fur is to utilize a natural resource, support indigenous peoples, and keep waste out of our oceans and landfills. 

 

Management

    Another positive affect of hunting and trapping is the ability to manage population numbers as one of the most dangerous threats to any ecosystem is the unchecked growth of one or more species. 

   

 

 

 

Some argue that nature has it’s own “boom and bust” cycles. While this may be true, undeniably, almost all ecosystems have been drastically altered by agriculture or urbanization. These boom and bust cycles no longer allow for the gradual rise and fall in populations. Explosions in population followed by mass die offs is very dangerous to an entire ecosystem. It’s much safer to regularly harvest the surplus animals as they become available, keeping the symbiotic relationships in check. Furbearers are especially susceptible to disease once overpopulated, with coyotes, foxes, and other canines succumbing to Sarcoptic Mange, a mite that destroys the animals’ fur, and often kills it [9]. This is just one of many diseases that pose not only a threat to the animal, but pets and people as well. and  One comprehensive study by Michael R. Conover on hunting, trapping, and the environment concluded the following:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This opinion is held by trappers, hunters, researchers, and the Department of Natural Resources alike. Populations of some animals growing without bound will be unavoidably detrimental to other species, and will usually lead to starvation and disease of the overpopulated animal. 

 

Utilization

A further benefit to hunting and trapping is the opportunity to utilize an animal harvested in its prime. In the U.K. where hunting and trapping is largely not allowed, people must be paid to cull the ever growing red fox population. Sadly, with little domestic fur trade, the foxes are killed and their carcasses burned, letting the pelts and rest of the animal go to waste [11]. Sadly, this practice is all too common in countries with similar hunting and trapping regulations. In the United States and Canada, on top of a bounty the government pays in some areas to harvest coyotes or other problem furbearers, the pelts can be kept and sold by the taker, providing an economic and regulated solution to a serious problem. 

The fur trade has allowed for the responsible collection and utilization of nature’s greatest resource for centuries. Today, it is more beneficial than ever to harvest and wear fur. Although many misconceptions encumber the industry, the facts are that fur is humane, sustainable, and even beneficial for the environment, and with the help of everyone from the trappers and hunters to the manufacturers and vendors, it will be for years to come. 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

[1] Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards — Furbearer Conservation [Internet]. Furbearer Conservation. 2020 [cited 9 July 2020]. Available from: https://furbearerconservation.com/aihts-resources

[2] Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards.

[3] Aphis.usda.gov. 2020. [online] Available at: <https://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/nepa/risk_assessment/RA4%20Foothold%20Trap%20-%20Peer%20Reviewed.pdf> [Accessed 7 July 2020].

[4] Hiltz, M. and Roy, L., 2000. Rating of killing traps against humane trapping standards using computer simulations. Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference, 19.

[5] Katsnelson A. News Feature: Microplastics present pollution puzzle. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2015;112(18):5547-5549.

[6] De Falco F, Di Pace E, Cocca M, Avella M. The contribution of washing processes of synthetic cloths to microplastic pollution [Internet]. nature.com. 2019 [cited 9 July 2020]. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-43023-x

[7] Microfiber Pollution & the apparel industry [Internet]. Microfiber Pollution & the apparel industry. 2020 [cited 9 July 2020]. Available from: https://brenmicroplastics.weebly.com/

 

[8] What Happens When Something in a Food Chain Goes Extinct? [Internet]. Sciencing. 2020 [cited 9 July 2020]. Available from: https://sciencing.com/happens-something-food-chain-goes-extinct-18214.html

 

[9] Coyotes by Suburban Wildlife Control [Internet]. Suburbanwildlifecontrolil.com. 2020 [cited 9 July 2020]. Available from: https://suburbanwildlifecontrolil.com/coyotes.html

 

[10] Conover M. Effect of Hunting and Trapping on Wildlife Damage. Allen Press. 2001

 

[11] harrison g. These assassins earn hundreds of pounds a night shooting foxes in cities around the UK - then burn their bodies [Internet]. The Sun. 2020 [cited 9 July 2020]. Available from: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6592211/urban-fox-assassins/

“Animal overpopulation occurs when an ecosystem is unable to support the existing wildlife because there are too many of a given species. The environment suffers due to the strain from the natural activities of the overpopulated species. The results can be devastating as animals scrape for food and wander into unnatural habitats in search of something to eat. Disease is also a factor as the ecosystem makes a final attempt to regain a natural balance and order. Overpopulated animal species lead difficult lives with limited resources [8]”

It often is in the best interest of society to maintain a wildlife population below the level of the environmental carrying capacity. Reasons may include the desire to 1) reduce the frequency of massive die-offs in that species, 2) produce the maximum sustained yield of animals for harvest, 3) maximize environmental benefits for other species, 4) reduce spread of disease or parasites, and 5) reduce wildlife damage to acceptable levels. In most cases, using hunters and trappers is the only cost-effective and efficacious method available to reduce wildlife populations over large areas. Hunting and trapping reduce wildlife damage by many different mechanisms, including 1) reducing a wildlife population below the environmental carrying capacity, 2) removing individuals from a population earlier in the year than would normally happen through natural causes of mortality, and 3) changing the behavior of animals so that they are less likely to cause damage [10].