A dose of truth for those drinking the Kool-Aid
By Savanah Tillberg, Staff Writer
While scrolling through my Facebook a couple weeks ago I came across a video posted by the infamous animal-rights-activist group PETA. Immediately intrigued by the headline, “Fur Trapping Is Cruel,” I hesitantly clicked play. If there’s one thing PETA absolutely does right, it’s producing shocking and heart-tugging material. Confused and disheartened by the video of a coyote being tortured by a trapping device, and knowing very little about the modern fur industry, I decided to look into Ontario trapping more closely. Here’s what I found.
The fur industry is regulated. To be a trapper in Ontario you have no shortage of hoops to jump through. A certified trapper will have, at minimum, completed the required course, obtained a trapping license, trap only on land identified on the license, trap only during specified seasons, abide by the annual harvest quotas, and only use certified humane harvesting traps as per the AIHTS (Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards). In short, Canadian trapping is not the cruel, care-free killing spree the media has painted it as, nor are those images fair representations of trapping.
In an interview with Kathleen Ball, owner and operator of Silver Cedar Studios located in Thunder Bay, she explained that, “In Ontario, trappers are considered stewards of the land,” meaning that they are considered responsible for the maintaining the biodiversity and “managing the natural capital” of the land they use. Ball added that all trappers in Ontario are required to send in “fur harvest reports” which allows the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to determine exactly how many animals in each region have been harvested. Ball stresses the importance of being cautious to not over-harvest the land, saying, “It’s targeting certain species, certain numbers, and certain times of the year – therefore maintaining a sustainable breeding population and guaranteeing a higher gene pool in the long run for those animals.”
A common criticism of trapping and the fur industry is the notion that it severely damages the animal populations in those areas. When asked about this, Ball explained that trappers target the animals more likely to die from disease and starvation due to overpopulation in order to avoid negatively impacting with the sustainability of the species. She adds that by targeting the weaker animals, their lineage would improve by removing those less likely to survive from the breeding pool. Ball also speaks of the importance of only trapping particular animals in their designated season and “not [trapping] during the breeding season when there’s young animals and the parents are needed.”
Being cruel to animals is not sensible for trappers. Animal cruelty is a major concern people raise when discussing the fur industry and the media is full of vivid imagery depicting trapping as a cruel and inhumane. Ball explains that “an animal that is stressed out has increased blood flow to the surface – it’s a fight or flight mode – what that does is cause a weaker skin, a weaker pelt, and weaker fur in the long run,” and therefore cruelty in trapping only results in ethical dilemmas and monetary suffrage. Canada has the most humane standards for trappers in the world – and as Ball says, “trappers are ethical – they want a quick, clean kill and they don’t want the animal to suffer.”
Ball also explains that sustainability is a very important aspect of trapping. She says that fur “is a sustainable, organic and non-polluting resource” and she comments on the value of avoiding synthetically produced products and their lasting impacts on our planet.
Canada was founded on the fur industry. People often forget that before there was a Canadian dollar, there was the beaver pelt. The fur industry and trapping are undoubtedly significant aspects of Canadian culture and the Canadian economy. It is important that Canadians take the time to properly educate themselves on seemingly controversial subjects such as these before formulating opinions based on shocking and sensationalized propaganda.