Reviving Canada's Legendary Fur Industry

Collection with 25 media items created by Leyland Cecco

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. 

Canada Thunder Bay Toronot Toronto Nafa Fur Trade Industry Trapping Pelts Animal Fashion Hunting Traps Beaver Fox Marten Mink Fisher Cayote China Russia Auction North Americ... Factory Processing Selling

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Canada's fur industry 01
Thunder Bay, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
29 Jan 2015

The traps are often wooden boxes in trees, with a piece of meat bait inside. Once the animal passes into the box, the trap snaps shut, killing it. The spring-based traps are known as 'conibear traps', and are meant to grip the neck and body, ensuring a swift kill.

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Canada's fur industry 02
Thunder Bay, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
29 Jan 2015

As per the regulations for traplines, the construction of one cabin is permitted, with a standard size of 200 square feet.

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Canada's fur industry 03
Thunder Bay, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
30 Jan 2015

Marten carry an auction value of roughly $70-80 USD. In 2013, Deans sold a marten pelt for $183.

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Canada's fur industry 04
Thunder Bay, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
30 Jan 2015

Mark Deans inspects a marten trapped using a spring-based conibear trap. The traps are body gripping, with the intent of killing the animal quickly. All traps used in Canada must be approved by the government.

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Canada's fur industry 05
Thunder Bay, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
30 Jan 2015

Many of the traps set to capture marten, fisher and mink are set up in trees, to avoid incidental catches.

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Canada's fur industry 06
Thunder Bay, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
30 Jan 2015

The trapline Mark Deans and his family operate is a vast 54,000 acre spread of land. At certain points, the trapline is only 5 miles from the Minnesota border.

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Canada's fur industry 07
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
07 Jan 2015

A grader inspects wild red fox pelts at the North American Fur Auctions.

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Canada's fur industry 08
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
07 Jan 2015

A grader inspects wild red fox pelts at the North American Fur Auctions.

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Canada's fur industry 09
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
07 Jan 2015

A worker passes by trolleys of farmed mink pelts. The majority of the pelts sold at auction are farmed, rather than wild. In late January, 3.1 million mink pelts were sold.

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Canada's fur industry 10
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
23 Jan 2015

A buyer inspects wild coyote pelts days before the auction.

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Canada's fur industry 11
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
23 Jan 2015

A buyer inspects wild coyote pelts days before the auction. On the left are wild pelts, and on the right are farmed mink pelts.

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Canada's fur industry 12
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
23 Jan 2015

Coyote pelts are sorted into 'lots' depending on the quality of the fur. A buyer bids on a lot, often 90-120 pelts. During the most recent auction, the average price was $135/pelt, placing the average lot value at almost $15,000 USD.

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Canada's fur industry 13
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
23 Jan 2015

Porters (dressed in blue) bring different 'lots' of coyote pelts to prospective buyers. The buyer inspection process lasts 4 days prior to the auction.

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Canada's fur industry 14
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
23 Jan 2015

Porters (dressed in blue) bring different 'lots' of coyote pelts to prospective buyers. The buyer inspection process lasts 4 days prior to the auction.

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Canada's fur industry 15
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
26 Jan 2015

Buyers from all over the world, but predominatly China, bid on wild red fox pelts.

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Canada's fur industry 16
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
26 Jan 2015

Due to the taxing nature of the job, auctioneers are shuffled around each hour. The lead auctioneer (center) calls out prices, with assistants on either side taking phone bids or bids from the auction area.

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Canada's fur industry 17
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
03 Sep 2014

Farley Chattow, a prominent Canadian designer, has used fur in his collections to varying degrees for the last 26 years. Over the last 8 years, he has worked almost exclusively with fur.

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Canada's fur industry 18
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
03 Sep 2014

The large sacks of fur in the forground are full of scraps that are unusable. These scraps are sent to Greece, where they are finely stiched together, and shipped back to Canada. This allows for visibly seamless pelts to be reconstrcuted and used for more inexpensive designs.

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Canada's fur industry 20
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
03 Sep 2014

Farley Chattow works with his 'blocker' to design the layout of a fur coat.

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Canada's fur industry 21
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
03 Sep 2014

Fur strips are 'blocked out' on paper to show the design of a coat.

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Canada's fur industry 22
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
05 Feb 2015

Fur is 'blocked out' on paper to show the design of a coat, or in this case, a blanket.

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Canada's fur industry 23
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
05 Feb 2015

A finished wild silver fox coat, designed by Farley Chattow, is displayed in the show room of Four Seasons Fur in Toronto.

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Canada's fur industry 24
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
05 Feb 2015

A finished wild beaver coat, designed by Farley Chattow, is displayed in the show room of Four Seasons Fur in Toronto.

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Canada's fur industry 25
Toronto, Ontario
By Leyland Cecco
02 Sep 2014

Fur pieces are displayed in the window of the Hudson's Bay Company in downtown Toronto.