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The Fur Trade Today 12/29/01
Joe Miele
New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance

Much to the dismay of the fur trade, Korean President Kim Dae-junk has specifically discouraged Koreans from purchasing fur products and other luxury items and to spend their money on other things in order to boost Korea's sagging economy.

With projections of less consumer spending over the holiday season and throughout the rest of the fur sales season, the industry worries that there will be a glut of factory farmed mink and fox skins on the market. (resulting in lower fur prices next year, thus cutting into the image of "exclusivity" that some people feel about fur - JM)

California trappers are going against federal and state environmental edicts by using neck and leg snares to trap coyotes in San Benito County.

According to an environmental report made in June 1997 by the USDA, neck snares may not be used in areas that are known habitat for the endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox, as San Benito County is. A snare-trapping program, said the federal report, "is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the San Joaquin Kit Fox." The information existed 2½ years ago when county supervisors gave the go-ahead for what has become a controversial $60,000 a year program. Since its inception, trappers have killed at least 2,773 coyotes in the county.

Neck snares are considered indiscriminate traps that can't distinguish between one animal and another. As a result, they often trap and kill other "non-target" animals. County officials have declined to give a count on the numbers or types of other animals accidentally caught in the snares.

In 1995, trappers killed 2,315 coyotes in a 16-county region surrounding San Benito County for an average of 144 per county. In 1999, trappers in San Benito County alone killed 1,237. Leg-hold traps were banned from the state after Proposition 4 was passed in 1998.

Source: The Pinnacle 12/6/01

Of the dozen or more retailers surveyed in November, about two-thirds reported falling short of last November's sales figures. Interestingly, many of them reported that sales of bigger-ticket items such as sable coats in general and mink coats above $7,000 were off, compared to last year, but that they moved more minks in the $3,000 to $6,000 bracket and many other items in the medium-price category.

Although sales volume was down in most instances, some retailers commented that their profit margins had improved, due to their service business - particularly cleaning, repairs and remodeling. Such services, including summer storage, account for about 10% or more of American furriers' annual volume and an even greater share of their profits. This year however, customer have not been picking up their furs from storage because of the mild weather. As of last week, some retailers said that as much as 50% to 65% of storage garments had yet to be reclaimed. This is upsetting to them because they fear such delayed activity is likely to interfere with their ability to cope with new-fur customers.

Macy's New York reported last week that its cold weather-related business (outerwear) is running about 30% to 40% behind. Even such fashion favorites like cashmere and other cloth coats trimmed with furs are going neglected by customers. At this point, major retailers are beginning to get jittery about the rising specter of huge markdowns which, when combined with the less-than-lustrous pattern of business all year, would make for some deep red figures when they close their books on 2001.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports 12/10/01

An order by federal district judge Royce C. Lamberth has forced the US Department of the Interior to cut itself off from the internet after reports came out that is was relatively easy for hackers to tap into American Indian trust data. This could have a major impact on the trade in furs taken from animals killed by trappers. The court order means that required licenses and permits that are computer-generated and based on Internet access will not be obtainable. The websites that stem from the Department have become an indispensable source of official regulations and actually issue required fur trafficking permits. In the fur industry, the focus is mainly on the C.I.T.E.S. furs, which are listed as threatened (as opposed to endangered) and trade in which is controlled by the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Furs from otters, lynxes, lynx cats and bobcats are on this list and cannot be imported or exported without special licenses issued by Fish & Wildlife. Trade in those furs for the foreseeable future is doubtful. There was word that the Virginia office of FWS has a 30-day backlog on processing C.I.T.E.S. permits, which fur dealers said would nullify orders which called for immediate delivery. While state-issued trapping licenses are not affected, dealers trading in furs from trapped animals must have licenses issued by FWS. According to a spokesman for the service, new licenses cannot be issued under the circumstances, but renewals of existing permits should be easily reissued.

Despite more seasonable weather conditions in the US and Canada and the strong fashion appeal of furs and trimmings, sales continue to be described as sluggish. A spot check of retailers last week turned up little satisfaction with the way business was going halfway through what should be their biggest selling month. The prevailing opinion among furriers is that it is going to be very difficult to match the sales figures of last year's month. A growing concern is that unless some frigid weather develops soon, many consumers may put their fur buying plans on a back burner until next year.

Thanks to a 41% increase in the prices of furs sold through Finnish Fur Sales, the auction house recorded a 31% increase in volume in its latest fiscal year, even though the number of skins sold decreased by 800,000. The report issued by Finnish Fur Sales covered the 12-month period ended Aug. 31.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports 12/17/01

Atlantic sealers will be allowed to kill 275,000 harp, gray and hooded seals in 2002, the same number as were allowed to be killed this year, Canadian Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal has announced. Most of the 275,000 animals slated to be killed are harp seals, but 10,000 hooded seals and a smaller number of gray seals in areas other than Sable Island will be allowed to be killed as well. The number of Grey seal pup's killed has been increasing by 13 per cent a year on Sable Island, while the rate of increase in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is less certain, although clearly smaller. The license conditions put in place in 2000 to prohibit the harvest of whitecoats and bluebacks will remain in place. About 210,000 seals were killed this year, while 91,000 were killed in 2000.

Ken Jones, senior fisheries management officer, resource management Atlantic for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said he would consider a proposal put forth by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association that all sealers must test to make sure that the seals they hunt are dead before they start to skin them.

Atlantic Marine Products purchased 110,000 animals and has fully processed each seal's skin so it is ready for the garment industry. The company has also squeezed and refined 168,750 gallons of seal oil from those seals. This oil is marketed as Terra Nova Omega-3, a popular non-prescription oral food supplement.

Sources: St John's Telegram (Newfoundland) 12/13/01
The Vancouver Sun 12/17/01
The Western Star 12/15/01

On December 11, British Parliament took steps to enact a ban on the trade in domestic dog and cat fur in the UK. Baroness Elizabeth Conway Symons said that "...the import, export and trade in domestic dog and cat fur is abhorrent (and) we are exploring what proportionate and enforceable steps we might take to ban any such imports." Adding to the anti-dog and cat fur case was Baroness Anita Gale. Baroness Gale mentioned said to the Lords "one reason that the United States introduced a ban was because fur traders in America were mislabeling the product in order to disguise its true origin and that, therefore, consumers were unaware of what they were purchasing. " Baroness Gale also mentioned how British fur traders were quite happy to do the same.

Baroness Symons pointed out that dog and cat fur may be legally sold under labels that vaguely describe it as "fur", "other fur", and even "exotic fur".

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 11 Dec 2001 : Column 1234

Ministers in the UK will announce next month that the importation of domestic cat and dog animal pelts to Britain from China will be outlawed. The ban came as it was learned that a fur collar, obtained from a leading store in the West End of London contained dog fur. The collar was bought in from a large furrier and was simply labeled as fur - not specifying which species it came from. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals claims that up to two million cats and dogs are slaughtered every year in China to supply fur sold in stores in Britain and other European Union countries. The law will have to be changed to bring about a ban, which could be on the statute book by September, 2002. In the US, dog and cat fur was banned from sale in 1998 after a public outcry.

Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK) 12/23/01

Business prospects for most of the Western World are clouded at this time due to weather conditions, economic factors and the war in Afghanistan, all of which have been having an adverse effect on retail fur sales so far this season. While most of these problems have impacted on North American and Western European markets, retail demand for fur-trimmed garments continues to grow in Russia and China. This is what has been sustaining the world's skin markets for the past two years or more.

Both October and November set records in sections of North America, Europe and elsewhere as the warmest ever. This cut heavily into retail fur sales in those months, which followed a month that was severely impacted by the Sept. 11 attacks, putting an even bigger burden on December - the most important month of the year - to recoup. This seems very unlikely as December sales are showing little improvement over the disappointing November sales.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service has been given limited access to its computers on a temporary basis and is again accepting applications for permits to export the skins of animals listed on the C.I.T.E.S. list. The temporary arrangement is not nearly as fast as the normal service, and because there had been no service since Dec. 6, a backlog has been built up and the current waiting time for permits could be as long as three weeks. The upcoming Christmas and New Year's holidays will mean further delays for fur exporters looking for permits.

Source: Sandy Parker Reports 12/24/01

Lydia Nichols
Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade
P.O. Box 21780
Washington, DC 20009
202.328.0774 fax

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