Friday, March 2, 2007

Fur and Fur Trim: The Bloody Truth

Fur coats and products with fur trim are the result of a brutal and violent industry. Each year, millions of animals are killed for their pelts. In Canada, approximately one million animals are still trapped for their fur each and every year. Of the animals trapped, almost 90% are victims of leg-hold traps.

What does a leg-hold trap feel like? Imagine slamming a car door on your fingers and you'll have a pretty good idea. But as painful as the traps are, they aren't designed to kill. They simply hold the animal until the trapper returns to finish her off, which could amount to days of insufferable agony.

Some 'accepted' methods of killing trapped animals include clubbing, suffocation and drowning. In addition to the targeted animals, countless others become trapped as well. These include family pets, endangered birds and in 2002, a 13-year-old B.C. boy, who received injuries to his leg after getting caught in a beaver trap not far from his home.

In 1996, an Angus Reid Poll found that 80% of Canadians oppose the use of leg hold traps. Sadly, leg hold traps are still the ‘trap of choice’ in Canada today.

However, most fur today comes from fur farms - also known as fur ‘ranches’. Here the animals suffer even worse, forced to endure confinement in tiny wire cages with barely enough room to turn around. Deprived of basic necessities like clean water, protection from harsh weather and exercise, many animals develop neurotic behaviours including depression, repetitive movements and self-mutilation.

Some animals are also subjected to genetic experimentation and inbreeding to produce specific colours, leaving many animals with crippling deformities and conditions such as blindness, neck spasms, painfully contracted uteruses, and susceptibility to disease. Fur farms are designed to maximize output, with no regard for the animals' mental, emotional, or physical well-being.

Surprisingly, there are no laws dictating how these animals are to be killed. The least expensive way is usually the most appealing. Some methods include carbon monoxide poisoning which burns the eyes and lungs of the victim; strychnine poisoning (which causes painful muscle cramps leading to suffocation); anal or vaginal electrocution, (which can last for up to 20 seconds because the current does not pass through the brain); suffocation by crushing the chest, and neck-breaking. All of the above methods are perfectly legal and standard practice in the fur industry.

Recently, attention has been drawn to the over 2 million dogs and cats that are slaughtered each year around the world - mainly from China, Thailand and the Philippines - to provide fur and fur trim for clothing, accessories and toys (for both children and pets).

Many countries have banned the import and sale of dog and cat fur, including Italy, France, Australia, and in 2002, the United States. Unfortunately, it is legal to import dog and cat fur into Canada and there are currently no standards in this country to distinguish real fur from fake fur on clothing labels.

How You Can Help

1) Don't buy items made of fur and fur trim. And don’t be fooled by fur that looks synthetic. A fur coat, hat or lining dyed pink or purple may still be real fur. Make sure it’s fake before buying it.

2) If you know of a store that sells fur or products made of fur, tell the manager or store owner (or write them a letter) that you will only shop there if they stop.

3) Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to let the public know how you feel about fur products.

4) Urge the Prime Minister to ban all imports of dog and cat fur to Canada. You can send your letter to:

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street.
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A2

Fax: (613) 941- 6900


“You can judge a nation, and its moral progress, by the way it treats its animals.” - Mohandas K. Gandhi

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Writing a Letter to the Editor

Writing letters is a great way to let people know how you feel about a particular issue. It’s also an effective way to educate the public about animal exploitation.

When your letter is published in the local newspaper, you reach thousands of people. Except for the front page, more people read the letters to the editor section than any other part of the newspaper.

Although some people still submit hand-written or hand-typed letters, email is probably the most common method of sending letters to the newspapers today. Either way, you can find submission guidelines in the Letters to the Editor section of your local newspaper or on their website.

You can find subjects to write on by checking out your local newspapers and magazines for anything related to animals in our society. This might include an animal death or escape from a zoo; a rodeo or circus coming to town or the announcement of local events such as 'Rib Fest', 'Chicken' Fest or 'Wing' Stock that promote the killing and eating of animals.

Local radio and television stations, as well as local businesses, advertise places that exploit animals too. Keep an eye (and ear) open for opportunities like these to write about. Perhaps you or someone you know has recently visited a zoo and were upset by the way the animals were kept , or maybe you dined out and found that the restaurant didn't offer any vegetarian dishes. You can use these experiences to express your concerns as well.

Once you know what you are going to write about, it’s time to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. It’s easy to write a letter to the editor, but here are a few tips to increase the chances of your letter being published:

1) Keep it short and simple – a maximum of 200 words – and stay on message.
2) If you are printing or writing your letter, make sure you do so legibly.
3) Be sure to use correct grammar and spelling (have a friend proof read it for you before you submit it).
4) Call for action. Tell readers what they can do to help.
5) Include your name, address and telephone number (some newspapers call to verify authorship before printing letters).

Your letter stands a better chance of being published when it addresses a local issue or something that has recently occurred. You can also expand on something already in the news, for instance, a point that was omitted, a letter you disagree with or something that was incorrect.

Keep in mind that you don't always have to write about negative things. You can congratulate the paper on a story that inspires compassion towards animals or acknowledge the actions of an animal rescuer.

If you are going to criticize, remember to keep your anger in check. Name-calling not only hurts your credibility but could also invite potential lawsuits if you libel someone. Keep your emotions at bay too. While passionate pleas may work on some people, they could be received as the over-zealous rants of fanatics if not balanced with rational statements.



[newspaper name]
[newspaper address]

[RE: Headline, author and date if you are writing about a story]

Dear Editor:

The circus is coming to town, along with the mistreatment of animals and the risk of injury to the people of [your city].

Since 1990, circus elephants have been responsible for over 40 human deaths and there have been over 75 documented attacks on people by captive “big cats.”

It is no wonder circus animals attack their trainers. They’re kept in shackles and cages almost 23 hours a day and live in cramped, barren enclosures in railroad cars and transport trucks with no heat in the winter and no relief from the heat in the summer.

They are forced to perform unnatural and dangerous stunts and many are beaten or isolated from other animals when they misbehave or are slow to learn a trick. As a former animal trainer once said, “To get an animal to perform on cue requires cruelty.” After all, the performance is what makes the animal valuable to the circus. A non-performing animal is a liability.

There are numerous animal-free circuses out there, as well as other ways to raise money for charities without causing suffering to animals. If children knew how they animals were treated, they wouldn’t want to go.

Please speak up and tell those that sponsor animal circuses that you will only attend animal-free circuses.


[your name]
[your address]
[your phone number]