Fur Trade Report
from No Compromise Issue 11

Openings and Closings

In New Jersey, Four Seasons of New Vernon went out of business. This Morristown-based furrier is the eighth New Jersey fur store to close in the past year. This leaves 47 fur stores in the state.

Belle Plain, Iowaís Schmuecker Fox Farm and Downers Grove, Illinoisí Charles Ide Mink Farm have gone out of business. The latter closed after an attack by the ALF.

Hana K has opened two new fur stores in Chicago. Previously this company was primarily involved in the wholesale end of the fur trade. One new stores is on Oak Street in downtown Chicago, while the other is in the suburb of Glencoe.

Direct Action for Animals, a North Carolina animal rights group, has been targeting Belks department store in its anti-fur campaign. Reportedly, Belks has closed one of their fur departments already. Hopefully, DAA will succeeded in getting fur out of Belks completely.

It appears that Revillon, the international fur chain, is closing their Beverly Hills location. Though Revillon denies it, the property manager claims that they are gone and not coming back. The storefront now has a "For Lease" sign in the window. In the interest of positive PR for the fur industry, furriers are increasingly hesitant to admit when they are closing stores.

HSG Fur Group of Toronto has now acquired McComber Furs of Montreal. This comes after HSGís recent take over of Grosvenor Furs.

Burtrum Furs and Leather has opened in Saginaw, Michigan. This company is operating out of a storefront formerly held by Ferris Brothers Furs.

Evans Furs has closed four of their fur departments in several different department store chains. They closed one a Memphis Goldsmithís, leaving Evans with only one last Memphis fur department. They also closed two Lazarus fur departments for the second year in a row, as well as a Hudsons fur department.

C&A Brenninkmeyer, the European department store chain, has opened four fur departments in Germany. The company had closed their fur departments in 1991 ,but reopened them after seeing fur-trimmed coats sell well.

Mary Jane Denzer has added a fur department at her store in White Plains, New York. The fur section is being run by the New Jersey-based Steve Corn Furs.

Trapping in New Brunswick

The number of trappers in the Canadian province of New Brunswick has steadily increased, with the exception of one year, since the 1991-92 trapping season. At that point there were 751 licensed trappers. During the 1996-97 season there were 1,370 trappers.

The number of animals reportedly killed (not including "non-target" animals) has increased to 57,449. Somehow, this is more animals than were killed in New Brunswick in years when there were as many as 3,000 trappers.

Public opinion surveys show that most Canadians oppose use of the leghold trap. The same is true in the U.S. That leaves one to wonder why these devices are still legal in North America.

U.S. Mink Farms Down, but Death Toll Is Up

The number of mink farms operating in the U.S. dropped from 415 to 401 between the years of 1996 and 1997, but the number of minks killed rose from 2.7 million to 2.84 million.

With mink prices down, most fur farms have had to expand to make any profit. A mink pelt might only bring a couple of dollars profit, so in order to be viable, fur farms have increased in size.

A state-by-state breakdown indicates that some new farms may have opened up. This would make sense as early 1996 saw a major, though temporary, increase in pelt prices. New farmers would have felt burned in 1997 when prices hit the bottom again.

Since new farms most likely did open, it is safe to reason that more than 14 farms closed. In 1996, 40 mink farms also raised foxes. In 1997 that number dropped to 29. This does not include a count on American fox farms that don't have minks.

Trappers Attempt New Argument for Wildlife Slaughter

The fur trapping industry is now trying to justify its practice by claiming that heavy trapping keeps predator numbers down, thereby increasing nesting success for waterfowl. What the industry isn't mentioning is that the reason it wants waterfowl numbers high is so that hunters can shoot them.

The Delta Waterfowl Foundation is doing research to support these arguments, but the studies are being funded with a $10,000 grant from Furbearers Unlimited, an arm of the National Trappers Association.

The real point of all of this is to give waterfowl hunters an incentive to support trapping. Many hunters do not agree with trapping, and this has led to trapping restrictions in some states. Many hunters complain that their dogs are caught and even killed in traps. This conflict has caused violence to break out in some areas.

North American Mink Ranchers Unite under One Promotional Label

For years, North American mink ranchers have had competing marketing schemes. Ranchers who sold through the Seattle Fur Exchange saw their pelts marketed under the American Legend label. Fur farmers who auctioned their pelts through North American Fur Auctions saw their skins marketed under the name of the American Mink Council.

This led to problems overseas where fur consumers were inundated with conflicting claims of superiority. To alleviate this problem, the two competing fur labels, along with the Canadian Mink Breeders Association, have formed the North American Fur Association. This group will promote all North American mink skins under one label.

This new marketing organization will be funded by a tax on every pelt that is auctioned off at the North American houses and will have a budget of $2 million to $3.6 million annually.

Dutch Fur Retailers Decimated

In 1982, there were 127 fur stores in Holland. As of 1997, that number had been cut down to 22. The question now is, who will be fur-free first: the U.K. or Holland?

Trapper Convention Attendance Declines

The number of people paying to get into the National Trappers Associationís annual convention declined from 6,000 to 4,400 this year, a loss of more than 25 percent.

Anyone who wants to monitor the trapping industry can get on the NTAís e-mail listserv by sending a message to nta@nationaltrappers.com and asking to be included on the list. At this point there are dozens of animal rights activists on their "private" e-mail list.

Caged Fur Production Higher in 1998

The number of ranched fur skins going on the market this winter is going to be higher than usual. Many of the top fur farming countries are urging their producers to cut back production, so an excess of skins are being marketed as many farmers are pelting out their breeding stock.

This turn of events will make it very interesting to see how many minks and foxes are raised in caged fur facilities in 1999. This coming year will be crucial in the fur wars: fur farmers as well as animal rights activists are claiming that what happens in 1999 will set the stage for who comes out on top in this battle.

Approximately 28.3 million minks will be killed by the end of 1998. This is an increase of 5.5 percent over last year and can likely be linked to the skins of animals who would normally be held back for breeding purposes.

Scandinavian countries will account for about 15.9 million of those mink skins, with Denmark leading the way.

In North America, there will be just over 2.8 million minks killed, with another 960,000 in Canada.

Western Europe will bring the following death tolls: England 120,000; Ireland 150,000; France 170,000; Germany 281,000; Belgium 140,000; Italy 300,000; and Spain 300,000.

There is conflicting information out of Russia. The Russian Fur Union had previously declared that they were producing about 2 million minks a year, but the Oslo Fur Auctions is claiming that the Russian confederation is producing 3.9 million minks. The differential could be due to the fact that perhaps Oslo Fur Actions is including break-away states that the Russian Fur Union did not count.

Caged fox production will be about the same with 4.7 million skins being offered. Finland produces more than half of that, and the Finnish fur breeders organizations are urging their members to cut back on fox farming for next year.

Nearly 80 percent of the worldís fox production is in Scandinavia. Finland kills 2.7 million foxes each year; Denmark 85,000; Sweden 15,000; Iceland 35,000; and Norway 523,000.

Russia, Poland, and China are the other large fox producing countries with 600,000, 300,000 and 200,000 animals killed respectively.

Holland raises and kills 30,000 foxes, a number that is down 25 percent from last year. Fox farming has been banned in Holland and the remaining farms are in the middle of a phase out period.

Canada produced 33,000 foxes, compared to 20,000 in the U.S. Argentina produced 30,000 foxes; the Baltic States 80,000; and Germany 4,000. Miscellaneous other countries raised and killed another 10,000 foxes.

Largest Leghold Trap Maker Leaves the Business

Woodstream, the largest manufacturer of leghold and body gripping traps in the world, has stopped making fur traps. The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade had called for a consumer boycott of houseware products made by Ekco, the parent company of Woodstream, to force them out of the trap business. In November, Ekco agreed to stop making all leghold and body gripping traps.

U.K. Shop Drops Fur Trim

Animal rights campaigners in Britain have convinced the Jules B store to stop selling fur-trimmed coats. This high-end fashion store signed a statement that they would never carry any fur products again.

Fur Trim Gaining Market Share in the U.S.

In 1997, 54 percent of the coats sold in fur stores were full fur garments. The other 46 percent accounted for shearling, fur trim, and fur-lined coats. This statistic shows that fur trim has gained a large portion of the market share in just a few years. This survey does not include statistics from stores such as Sears that sell fur trim but do not have full furs.

Of the full furs that were sold, 69 percent were mink.

Top buyers of fur are women aged 24 to 44. This is the demographic that any successful anti-fur education campaign should target.

Swedish Fur Trade on Verge of Collapse

The editor of the Swedish fur trade magazine is quitting, and the magazine is expected to go out of business. The Swedish fur trade association will likely close, and the membership will merge with the Danish fur breeders group.

The Swedish fur industry is under heavy attack from animal rights groups. The demise of their trade organization leaves the industry with no organized voice.

U.K. Fur Owners List Circulated

Animal rights activists in the U.K. acquired a list of customers from the Calman Links fur shop. The list is very detailed, including all sorts of personal information on the stores customers. The list has been circulated throughout the movement. Customers of the fur store are reportedly very worried.

Trapping Banned in California

The voters of California approved a ban on fur trapping on November 3, 1998. This was the end result of a large effort put forth by many different individuals and organizations. The proposal passed by nearly one million votes.

Unfortunately, a similar measure in Alaska failed. The Alaskan initiative was much more limited, and only banned the use of snares for capturing wolves, but it certainly should have passed.

Other animal protection measures that passed involved cockfighting bans in two states, a ban on horse slaughter in California, and several environmental measures aimed at protecting wildlife habitat.