Canada 30 Jan 2015 00:00
The original currency of Canada, wild fur, is back. Pushed to the shadows for nearly three decades as effective animal welfare movements stigmatized the use of fur for fashion, massive appetite in China has revived the industry. Over the last seven years, Canada has seen a large increase in the foreign demand for both farmed and wild fur pelts. Sales in 2013 exceeded $950 million, a sharp increase. While there is international interest in pelts, economic uncertainty in Russia has resulted in near-total dominance of Chinese buyers at recent auctions. Roughly 90% of wild fur is sold to foreign buyers.
These images trace the movement of fur, from the forest to auction, and then to manufacturing and fashion. There are an estimated 60,000 trappers across Canada who supply pelts to auction. Marten, fisher, mink, coyote, beaver and fox are sold at the world's largest fur auction in Toronto.
At fur stores in Toronto, designers use the material to produce coats worth thousands of dollars. While the number of shops specializing in both design and manufacturing has declined, those still in business can produce items commanding hefty sums.
While animal rights activists continue to campaign against the use of traps, much of the industry is now heavily regulated by both the federal and provincial governments. Old traps, which often caused animals to struggle, have been phased out, and the majority of trappers now use 'kill traps', which induce death within seconds. While leghold traps are used primarily for larger predators, they are no longer able to pierce the skin of the animal, resulting in reduced suffering. However, not all trappers agree on the use of these traps, highlighting an evolving view on animal treatment within the trapping community.
There are also concerns that the number of animals being harvested isn't being recorded. While trappers are required to submit numbers each year, the termination of a national Wildlife Pelt Census means the data is often lost in a sea of bureaucracy.