INTERNATIONAL FUR TRADE FEDERATION PRESS RELEASE, MARCH 27, 2000
British Fur Ban “Morally and Scientifically Unjustified” Says New Economic ‘Think Tank’ Report
THE FUR FARMING (PROHIBITION) BILL, currently before the British Parliament, opens up a new dimension to UK legislation – ‘public morality’, or an ethical policy – which a new report by the Institute of Economic Affairs describes as both ‘morally and scientifically unjustified’!
The 30,000-word IEA report ‘Fur and Freedom -in defence of the fur trade’ by journalist Richard North, critically evaluates the relationship between ethics and fur, and explodes “some of the myths” surrounding the fur trade. It maintains that arguments against the fur trade are spurious and would, if valid, rule out the trades in beef, pork, eggs and leather.
Of the public morality stance, North says: “This language is new, and seems necessary mostly because there are few serious justifications for picking out fur farming as particularly bad except perhaps, that large numbers of people profess themselves opposed to it. In other words, public ‘morality’ is now synonymous with public ‘opinion’.”
He maintains that “just because an activity is considered morally wrong by many does not justify a ban on that activity. In a pluralistic society such as Britain’s, Parliament should encourage toleration, subject to the caveat that people are not harmed. Farming and wearing fur harms nobody”.
North acknowledges that there are “profound animal welfare issues in the use of fur, as there are in any other animal use”. However, he points out: “Few consumers of bacon sandwiches would consider their activity to be as morally problematic as wearing fur and yet there are close parallels between them”.
A foreword to the report by Prof. Roger Scruton, a former lecturer at Birkbeck College, London and Boston University, Massachusetts, declares: “The decision that a trade should be criminalised, without proof of its immorality or any suggestion that it is socially divisive or environmentally destructive, and only because a pressure group has said so, is a novel departure in English government.”
Commissioned by the British Fur Trade Association, the report will be published this month (March), but can be accessed in full now on the Internet at: www.iea.org.uk/wpapers/fur.htm and is available for purchase fromwww.iea.org.uk/books/env16.htm.
For further information contact: International Fur Trade Federation, PO Box 318, Walton KT12 2WH, UK.
FUR COMMISSION USA PRESS RELEASE, MARCH 24, 2000
Wisconsin Joins Oregon in Attacking Eco-terror with RICO Statutes
By Teresa Platt, Executive Director, FCUSA (April 1998 – May 2011)
FOLLOWING AN OREGON BILL introduced in February, Wisconsin State Representative Steve Kestell has introduced Assembly Bill 899(1) to battle eco-terrorism through RICO statutes.
AB 899 will amend the state statutes relating to unauthorized release of animals, adding this type of eco-terrorism to racketeering activity.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, commonly known as RICO, was designed to combat criminal organizations at state, federal and international levels.(2)
On Mar. 23, Wisconsin Assembly Bill 899 received a public hearing before the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice. Local fur farmers Jim Wachter and Mel Blanke, Sr. testified along with Dennis Schmitt of the North American Fur Auction (NAFA).
According to Rep. Kestell, “Testimony by members of the fur industry was critical to committee passage of AB899,” which received a 10-4 affirmative vote. AB 899 is expected to move to the floor in the State Assembly the last week of March.
Stated Kestell, “This legislation would offer an important prosecution tool under the Wisconsin organized crime laws.”
Oregon and RICO
The Wisconsin bill is similar to a bill introduced in February in Oregon. The Oregon proposal, authored by Rep. Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton) and Rep. Lane Shetterly (R-Dallas), and supported by Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers, would make repeat eco-terrorism punishable under the state’s racketeering statute.(3)
Both bills recognize the export of urban-based terrorist actions impacting rural resource providers around the country. “So often, these acts of vandalism and destruction of property and interference with legal activity are not isolated incidents committed by one person acting alone,” Shetterly stated.(3) “These acts are committed to further a plan of attack against a particular target, or make a political statement.”
The Oregonian has reported on the escalation of attacks by groups such as the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front, terrorist groups dedicated to “liberating” the Earth and animals from any interference by mankind. In a ground-breaking four-part series on eco-terror in the west, Oregonian reporters Bryan Denson and James Long documented 100 major arsons, bombings and other acts of sabotage with damages greater than $50,000 in 11 Western states. Damages from those crimes totaled $42.8 million from 1980 through late 1998 – two-thirds of which occurred in the preceding four years. Arson was the weapon of choice used by eco-terrorists.
RICO was designed to help law enforcement deal with criminal activity that is organized, methodical and brutal, in particular the use of intimidation to generate cash or control legal businesses for illegal gain.
The Outfit, the Syndicate, La Cosa Nostra, the Family, Mafia, the Mob: these were the names given to organized crime in Chicago alone. Older citizens will recall the Black Hand, a secret society that engaged in acts of terrorism and blackmail across the US early this century. Joining these names in the new millennium are the Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front and a group specializing in letter bombs called the “Justice Department”.
Chuck Pritchard, chief counsel to the Oregon attorney general’s office, stated in a Jan. 17, 2000 memo, “Eco-terrorism is becoming a major criminal issue in the Northwest. Groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth First have caused significant property damage in this state and elsewhere. The FBI has expanded its efforts against these groups in an attempt to make a meaningful impact on them.”(3)
To many following these issues, it is obvious that state and local law enforcement and policy makers have been far more consistent, aggressive and successful than federal agencies at battling eco-terror. However, it takes a significant commitment by law enforcement to investigate, develop and prosecute cases against those participating in and funding underground terrorist activities. Current misdemeanor penalties do not reflect the massive investment of time and energy required by law enforcement to bring this criminal component to justice.
Unlike the Mafia et al., many terrorists are not in the business of extorting cash from victims. Nonetheless, in 1994 the Supreme Court ruled that advancement of an agenda or cause was sufficient grounds for a RICO action. In the 1994 case over abortion clinic conflicts, the Supreme Court found that blocking entrances to clinics was a type of extortion, a “predicate act” under RICO. Additionally, using blockades, bombs and threats in an attempt to close clinics was racketeering, an illegal enterprise in its own right. Whether the racketeering was conducted for money or some other motive was irrelevant.
Simply put, blowing up buildings and vehicles, stealing animals, damaging people’s lives and property and organizing and funding these actions behind the scenes, can be prosecuted under RICO, whether the motive is cash, ego or politics.
(1) An analysis of Wisconsin AB 899 by the Legislative Reference Bureau notes, “Current law prohibits the unauthorized release of animals. A person engages in the unauthorized release of animals if, without the consent of the owner or custodian of the animal, he or she intentionally releases an animal that is lawfully confined for scientific, farming, recreation, restocking, research, exhibition, commercial, educational, companionship or protection purposes. A person who violates the prohibition against the unauthorized release of animals is generally guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined or imprisoned in a county jail or both. However, a person who commits a third or subsequent violation of the prohibition is guilty of a felony and may be fined or imprisoned in a state prison or both. In addition, Wisconsin currently has an organized crime control law, which provides criminal and civil penalties for engaging in racketeering activity and continuing criminal enterprises. … Current law defines ‘pattern of racketeering activity’ to mean engaging in at least three incidents of racketeering activity within a seven-year period that have the same or similar intents, results, accomplices, victims or methods of commission or otherwise are interrelated. ‘Racketeering activity’ is an attempt or conspiracy to commit, or the actual commission of, certain specified felonies, including felonies relating to homicide, battery, theft, burglary and robbery.” AB 899 “expands the list of felonies considered to be ‘racketeering activity’ to include felony violations of the current prohibition against the unauthorized release of animals.”
Information on Wisconsin State Representatives and legislation can be found at www.state.wi.us. AB 899, Mar. 20, 2000: Introduced by Reps. Kestell, Suder, Ott, Leibham, Musser, Porter, Albers, Urban, Stone, Goetsch, Vrakas, Hahn, Sykora and Johnsrud, co-sponsored by Senators Baumgart, Roessler, Huelsman, Schultz and A. Lasee. Referred to Committee on Criminal Justice. Rep. Kestell can be reached at (608) 266-8530 or [email protected]
(2) For information on RICO see US Code, Title 18 – Crimes and Criminal Procedure, Part I – Crimes, Chapter 96 – Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, Sec. 1961. Definitions at www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/1961.html and Sec. 1962. Prohibited activities at www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/1962.html. See also Furrier Files RICO Suit, FCUSA press release, July 6, 1999, and Second RICO Suit Filed Against Fur Protesters, FCUSA press release, Aug. 8, 1999.
FUR COMMISSION USA PRESS RELEASE, MARCH 19, 2000
Animal Rightists Saved by Masks
Special to FCUSA by Simon Ward
ANIMAL RIGHTISTS on trial for harassing a former Wisconsin mink farmer were saved by their masks when the prosecutor admitted he could not prove the case against them.
Judge Timothy van Akkeren threw out the case Mar. 17 against eight animal rightists charged with disorderly conduct while wearing a mask, a misdemeanor. Six others are scheduled for trial in April on the same charge. All served four days in jail, however, before being released on bail.
The incident occurred Jan. 16 in front of Gene Meyer’s farm in Sheboygan County. Meyer testified that a group of between 12 and 15 people harassed him from the public right of way in front of his farm. He told the court that he felt scared because the gang wore masks, were dressed in black, “like the grim reaper,” and chanted, jeered and taunted him.
The defendants, however, said that they had held a peaceful demonstration, and, if anyone had behaved in a disorderly fashion, it was Meyer.
Meyer admitted to using some colorful language, remembering that it was animal rightists that had brought his 41-year fur farming career to an end. Last August, all his mink were released, and he decided to retire rather than start again from scratch. “My language was terrible,” he said. “I was very, very upset. … My mink were my life.”
County prosecutor David Bayer argued that the activists could not have been engaged in a legitimate protest, since Meyer was no longer an active fur farmer and had informed them of this fact. Furthermore, they carried no signs, and had not alerted the media or the public to their plans.
“I don’t believe they were there to protest,” he said. “Nobody else was around, just Mr. Meyer. It was an attempt to see the fruits of victory. That is why they were taking photos of his place. They were there to rub Mr. Meyer’s nose in it.”
However, Bayer said he could not ethically continue to prosecute the case because guilt of disorderly conduct could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Complicating the case was the fact that not all the defendants could be identified, either by Meyer or by two passing motorists who had witnessed the incident. Furthermore, there were only 13 masks found in the activists’ truck and submitted as evidence, while 14 people were arrested, casting doubt on who was actually involved in the incident.
“This case is fraught with problems in terms of identification,” explained Bayer, “because they were wearing masks.”
In explaining his decision to drop the charges, Judge Van Akkeren added that even if some individuals were proven to have been disorderly, it would have been difficult to show how others had been party to the disorderly act.
On learning at his home of the judge’s decision, Meyer told the Sheboygan Press, “I’m disappointed, there’s no doubt about that, but I’m glad it’s over. Everybody did their best. But it’s surprising what you can get away with in our court system.”
Terrorists Walk from Wisconsin Jail FCUSA press release, Jan. 21, 2000.
Masked Terrorists Arrested for Harassing Wisconsin Farmer FCUSA press release, Jan. 18, 2000.
The following article first appeared in The Country Today (March 2000), Wisconsin’s largest paid-circulation farm newspaper, and is reproduced here with permission.
Farmers Critical of Nonpoint Rules
By Judy Brown, Regional Editor
FOND DU LAC — Some nonpoint source pollution rules proposed for Wisconsin are as muddy as the water they’re intended to clean up, several producers said March 16 at a hearing conducted by the Department of Natural Resources.
Dozens of farmers, local town officials, land conservation department officials, crop consultants and others weighed in on many aspects of a big package of rules designed to set performance standards to improve water quality.
A handful of county highway commissioners also testified they were discontented with the nonpoint rules.
Speaking for the Department of Transportation, Dan Scutter, Madison, said DOT would send DNR an entirely rewritten subchapter on the rules.
He said the costs for implementing various proposals would be substantial at the state level and when local and county costs are added “it may be staggering,” he said.
Since the rules are nowhere near ready for implementing, the DOT official suggested they be turned back to the nonpoint advisory council.
Although the redesign of nonpoint source pollution rules has been a work in progress for the past three or four years, many testified that the rules were vague and confusing.
Others said they understood very clearly the rules and indicated that if allowed to stand, they’ll consider career changes.
“If we have to stop growing corn silage for our cows, you are going to put us out of business,” said Green Lake County dairy farmer Rodney Zeitlow, Berlin.
He, like many others, contended that a provision under N.R. 151 limiting soil loss from riparian fields to 0.33 or less of the T (tolerable) rate has to be changed.
“I think the rules as they are written are quite restrictive,” Mr. Zeitlow said.
Bernard Halbur, Fond du Lac, also said the 0.33 soil loss standard was unacceptable.
“To get down to that level I think some concessions have to be made,” Mr. Halbur said. “It will actually squeeze some producers out of business.”
Through March, DNR and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection will hold hearings to receive comments on proposed administrative rules to control nonpoint source pollution in both urban and agricultural areas.
Four new rules have been proposed along with three revised rule packages.
With such sweeping rules planned, other farmers brought up DNR’s track record in managing the state’s deer herd and wondered about the Canada geese that contribute to water quality problems.
Saying she rents land from DNR, Sheila Hafeman, St. Cloud, told the agency officials, “Your record is terrible. I don’t believe you should be controlling us as a dairy farmer.”
In an interview, Mrs. Hafeman, who has a 42-cow herd, told of several concerns in the proposals.
Even though there would be cost-sharing dollars for practices, she questioned how many producers could come up with $30,000 for manure storage.
She also is troubled knowing that in the past producers installed cost-shared practices, such as manure storage tanks and contour strips, to be in compliance but find that the systems have to be updated.
If new stringent rules are to prevail, Mrs. Hafeman said they should apply to all, including urban residents, loggers and fish hatcheries.
Others wanted to know whether there would be tax breaks if formerly farmed land close to streams were turned into buffers.
“We’re of the opinion that land should be valued as to what it’s used for,” said Russell Rasmussen, runoff management section chief in the DNR Bureau of Watershed Management.
He said DNR was working with the Department of Revenue to make its point on the value of taking land out of production.
Based on comments received at this and previous hearings, Mr. Rasmussen said DNR would look at one issue that requires incorporating manure because it’s sending mixed messages.
“We can’t expect to incorporate manure and do no-till at the same time,” Mr. Rasmussen said.
Several farmers noted that many small farms with 50 to 60 cows haul manure daily.
“With one load of manure it’s not practical to incorporate every day,” said Harold Schoessow of Mequon in Ozaukee County.
Having spent parts of several days reading the proposed rules, Wilmer Geiser, chairman of the town of Charleston in Calumet County, said the proposals create more questions than solve problems.
In a wide-ranging statement, Mr. Geiser shared many of the same concerns as others regarding cost-sharing, time allowed to inject manure and wildlife damage sustained by farmers.
“Three days to incorporate eliminates daily spreading,” Mr. Geiser said. He also questioned the need to keep a log on the amount of manure spread and the day.
“We don’t have secretaries,” Mr. Geiser said. “We can’t be working that way.”
Other crop consultants who are active in writing nutrient management plans questioned the need for detailed paperwork.
“Your records will become a public record,” said Brian Madigan of Rosendale. Town and village people who respond to complaints about farm odors no doubt will access the manure records, he said.
FUR COMMISSION USA COMMENTARY, MARCH 15, 2000
Unanimous Verdict : Fur Is Back!
By Simon Ward, Communications Director, FCUSA
EVERYONE AGREES, FUR IS BACK! From farmers and trappers to auction houses, designers, retailers and consumers, the renaissance of fur is being hailed. And it’s not just the industry talking the market up:
“The demand for fur is probably the strongest it’s been since … the stock market crashed” in 1987, says Eric Wilson, ready-to-wear editor at Women’s Wear Daily.(1)
“Everybody is buying a fur,” says Keith Tauber, general manager of New York’s Ritz Furs, to the New York Daily News. “This winter it was back to the ’80s. We are exhausted by the traffic.”(1)
“Credit the still-booming economy, the fickle fashion industry or just consumer weariness with being told what not to wear, but fur is hot again,” reports the Columbus Dispatch.(2)
After more than a decade of erratic demand, both at home and in export markets, fur is back on America’s catwalks, back on the covers of fashion magazines, and back on the streets.
And to round out the comeback, pelts are now pulling in sharply higher prices at auction, so farmers and trappers can get a fair return for their hard work.
“THE FASHION INDUSTRY, never a business that espouses moderation, has re-embraced fur with a vengeance,” reported Time Magazine.(6) Part of the reason has been the new flexibility with which fur can be used, making it more suitable for trims, accessories and lightweight casual wear.
WORLD OUTPUT OF MINK PELTS has dipped in recent years, but with the fashion industry’s renewed interest in fur, American farmers can expect busy times ahead.
Always susceptible to economic trends and the whims of the fashion world, America’s fur industryenjoyed its last purple patch in the mid-’80s. 1987 saw highs both for average pelt price,$43,(3) and domestic retail sales, at $1.8 billion.(4)
Then a series of factors plunged the industry into uncertainty.
In 1987, the stock market crashed, impacting both domestic and foreign fur markets, notably Japan with the bursting of its “bubble economy”. Consumers tightened their belts and sales of big-ticket items such as furs dropped.
In the early ’90s, the domestic market was hit by warm winters, a luxury tax, and the rise of the animal rights movement, which for strategic reasons targeted the small and vulnerable fur industry.
For the period 1989-93, pelt prices averaged just over $25, while retail sales in 1990 stood at $1 billion – 44% below 1987.
Gradually the US economy came back on track, and by the mid-’90s the fur industry was starting to benefit from the increase in disposable income, aided by a shift in consumer preference toward quality items.
Meanwhile the Asian export markets of China and South Korea were growing. In the mid-’90s, Korea in particular emerged as a power player on the auction scene, and was largely responsible for propping up prices.
Then came a double whammy to undo all the gains.
First was the Asian currency crisis, claiming Korea as one of its biggest casualties. When the bottom dropped out of the Won, the effect on pelt prices was sudden and dramatic.
And hard on its heels came the economic collapse of one of fur’s largest markets, Russia. Could things get any worse? Thankfully, no.
America’s economy continued to grow, to the point where it is now in danger of overheating. By the late ’90s, young city professionals were enjoying the best times of their lives. And when times are good, it shows up in wardrobes, with quality furs the garments of choice for keeping warm in style.
“[Fur] is a symbol of prestige, of making it,” said Michelle Everett, 35-year-old owner of a catering company to the NY Daily News this February. And she is just “one of thousands of city women, many of them successful bankers, brokers and businesswomen, who are splurging on fur after a good financial year,” the Daily News reported.(1)
Meanwhile, Korea is recovering economically, and this spring made a comeback on the US auction scene. While most Western buyers were low-key, Korean and Chinese buyers came on strong for a major part of the offering.
As for Russia, gauging how many pelts auctioned in the US actually end up there can be hard, given the current state of its border controls, but even that shaky economy seems to have plugged some gaps.
And looking to the future, China must give fur producers reason for optimism. Already a huge buyer of pelts, “there is a steadily increasing segment of the population that can afford – and wants – mink and other fur coats,” wrote Sandy Parker, publisher of the Sandy Parker Reports, reporting from the North American Fur Auctions (NAFA) February 2000 sale.(5)
Of course, the volumes of pelts imported by certain countries are a poor indicator of where the final retail markets are, but with 20% of the world’s population, China represents a potentially vast consumer base which can only grow as it shifts to a decentralized, market-driven economy.
On the image front, meanwhile, public sympathy for the animal rights message has waned at the same time as fur has been re-embraced by the fashion world.
While Americans strongly endorse animal welfare, the no-compromise position of animal rightists on fur, or any other form of animal use, was never likely to take hold among our conservative middle classes.
But it is not just the message most Americans have rejected. As with any perennial “cause” that never seems to progress, “The public is … showing signs of protest fatigue,” reported Time.(6) “In the past, fur activists who freed minks from farms got sympathy. Now they are prosecuted.”
Furthermore, the confrontational way in which the message has been delivered, by the criminal Animal Liberation Front and “respectable” non-profits that tacitly support it, has provoked a backlash from designers and consumers.
Reported the Times Union, “As the fashion frenzy for fur explodes, animal activists, including members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, are in a fury.”(7) A defensive PeTA representative, Christine Mott, told the Times Union that PeTA activists “don’t go into the fur shops and cause a scene or throw paint at people.” Yet days later, they crashed three New York fashion shows to perform their shenanigans with tofu pie and red paint.
“I’ve never dressed any of my clients in fur, but now I will,” fumed celebrity-stylist Phillip Bloch to the NY Daily News after he was hit with paint.
“[E]veryone in the industry is really annoyed” with PeTA, he said. “They are mad and they are not going to be bullied by this organization.” He also predicted Vogue editor Anna Wintour – once treated by PeTA to a dead raccoon tossed on her plate – would “do pages of fur just to spite them.”
The LA Times sees things the same way. “Wearing fur has become, for some, a statement of defiance against the people who want to tell others how to spend their money and which animals are wrong for humans to harvest,” it decided.(8)
But none of this would have happened if the fashion world had not taken a new interest in one of its oldest materials.
In 1985, just 45 designers showed fur in their winter collections. But for the 1999-2000 collections, every US fashion magazine identified fur as a major trend in its fall issue, and more than 220 designers now use fur in their ready-to-wear collections.Saga Furs of Scandinavia, and the International Design Centre which it opened in the late 1980s. Saga has been hosting designers on expenses-paid trips to introduce them to new ways of working with fur, including some developed by Saga itself. Among them are techniques for dying, printing, shaving and twisting fur, and treating it so it can be dry-cleaned.
“One of Saga’s greatest successes,” reported Time, “has been to create fur that is lighter and thinner. … And if there is one thing fashion people like, it’s thin.”
The fruit of these efforts is seen in the flexibility with which designers are now applying fur.
“I look at fur today as I look at a fabric,” said Valentino to Time. “There is no difference. I use tiny borders of mink as a ruffle in my wool suitings.”
Changes on the economic, image and fashion fronts are now translating into healthier bottom lines for retailers, auction houses, and ultimately farmers and trappers.
According to the Fur Information Council of America, retail fur sales in the US grew from $1 billion in 1990 to $1.21 billion in 1998. That’s still well shy of their 1987 high, but when 1999’s results are in, a continuation of the upward trend is expected.
The auction houses tell a similar story. After spiking in 1996 at over $50,(9) average pelt prices at US auctions fell sharply in 1998 and ’99. But this winter, prices rose just as sharply, first in Helsinki and Copenhagen, then in North America this February.
Reporting on its latest auction, the Seattle Fur Exchange [SFX] saw pelt prices advance “on average 60% on males and 35% on females compared to February 1999.” The sale drew over 250 buyers, up 15% from last February, of whom more than half were Asian. The second-largest delegation, after China, came from the revitalized Korea.
Not surprisingly, SFX president Edward Brennan was upbeat. “The new price levels … came as a shock to many of the buyers,” he said. “However, there were a significant number of buyers who could not buy the quantity of mink pelts they had budgeted to purchase. Based on this knowledge, we fully expect that the market will continue to advance during the upcoming auctions. This could mean that we will have one of the most dramatic single year price increases over the 50 years for which we have records on auction sale results.”
A week later in New Jersey, Brennan’s prediction was right on track. Over 300 buyers attended the NAFA auctions, far more than in recent years, and again it was Chinese and Korean buyers pushing the prices up. All mink pelts on offer went at prices firm to as much as 10% above Seattle levels.
Reporting from NAFA, Sandy Parker remarked: “[T]he comparison with year ago levels was dramatic, the male averages showing advances of from 33% to as much as 79% and the females ranging from 19% to 49% higher.”(10)
Of course, a sudden rise in prices followed by a sharp drop has been seen before, but Parker believes it will be different this time. “[T]here is a growing feeling among buyers that there is less likelihood now that the price rise is merely a spike,” he said. “… A major factor is the recovery of the Korean economy, which has returned that country’s buyers to the international market in a big way.”(5)
Farmers and trappers will be keeping their fingers crossed that Parker is right. And that the fashion magazines are right. And that retail figures are right, and media reports are right.
Unless everyone is wrong, they have nothing to fear. Fur is back!
(1) “Cool Stigma Gets Big Thaw”, NY Daily News, Feb. 18, 2000.
(2) “Shoppers Warming Up to Fur”, Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), Mar. 5, 2000.
(3) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), US Department of Agriculture.
(4) Fur Information Council of America.
(5) Sandy Parker Report, Feb. 21, 2000.
(6) “Warming Up To Fur”, Time Magazine, Oct. 19, 1998.
(7) “Fur or Faux: Despite controversy, popularity on rise”, Times Union (New York), Jan. 29, 2000.
(8) “The Fur Fury; Is PeTA Driven by Animal Rights or Resentment of the Rich?” LA Times, Feb. 18, 2000.
(9) In 1996, SFX averaged $53.26 per pelt, up from $37.53 in 1995.
(10) Sandy Parker Report, Feb. 28, 2000.
Fur Sales Up in 1999 : Record Increase Substantiates Fur’s Prominence with Consumers Fur Information Council of America press release, May 31, 2000.
FUR COMMISSION USA COMMENTARY, MARCH 15, 2000
PeTA Quits Fur War! Next Stop Leather
By Simon Ward, Communications Director, FCUSA
CAN IT BE TRUE? Can People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American fur industry’s biggest bug-bear, really be giving up on fur?
If one believes PeTA boss Ingrid Newkirk, or at least the accuracy of the New York Times’ reporting, the answer is yes.
On Feb. 15, just days after her minions attacked three New York fashion shows featuring fur with paint and tofu pies, Newkirk was quoted as calling those attacks “our last hurrah” in the war on fur.(1)
On the same day, PeTA launched its “skins” campaign, with the aim of doing for leather what it claims it has already done for fur: bury it.
The fact that fur, far from being dead, is making a spectacular comeback,(2)did not escape Newkirk’s interviewer, Ginia Bellafante.
“Ms. Newkirk believes that the group has won the battle against fur,” she wrote, “even though mink has continued to turn up all over runways. … She said that starting today, it will begin a new chapter, with a battle against leather.”
“The new fur war is the leather war,” Newkirk told Bellafante. “There’s far more leather than fur on the catwalk.”
Meanwhile, PeTA fur campaign coordinator RaeLeann Smith filled in some details for the LA Times.(3) “It’s a continuing fight. Now we have the luxury of adding other campaigns,” she said, somewhat disingenuously, considering PeTA has never been shy about campaigning on any animal use issue that takes its fancy.
She also added, insultingly, that PeTA assumes consumers don’t know “what happens before a cow becomes a belt or a football.”
But the LA Times was understandably leery about PeTA’s latest headline-grabbing attempt.
“It’s significant that in 20 years, PETA hasn’t included leather in its protests,” it commented. “Smith said that’s because ‘you attack industries where the most suffering occurs.’ But by that measure, leather would have been their first target because far more people wear leather than can afford to wear fur.”
The LA Times also asked who PeTA’s new targets would be as the battle lines are redrawn. “The distinction between who gets attacked and who doesn’t is blurry. Calvin Klein, once a PETA target [for using fur], is now hailed as a good guy on PETA’s Web site … even though he still uses leather.” And what of makers of leather shoes, purses, organizers, car seats, watch straps and briefcases? The list of potential tofu targets is endless!
The NY Times, for its part, wondered what the impact would be of a new PeTA “documentary” on alleged cruelties suffered by cows in the leather-making process. “The average person will be sickened,” Newkirk was quoted as saying. “Perhaps, or he just may go on eating his hamburger,” was the Times’ retort.
But back to fur.
Was PeTA’s “last hurrah” on the catwalks for real, or was it a figment of Newkirk’s imagination fed to the interviewer to give more weight to the launch of the “skins” campaign?
RaeLeann Smith, for one, seems to have been taken by surprise – or was she just protecting her job as fur campaign coordinator? Either way, she wasn’t coordinating with her boss.
In that same LA Times interview, which appeared three days after Newkirk’s “last hurrah” announcement, Smith said PeTA “would continue to target fashion shows ‘until there is no fur on the runways’.”
The next time PeTA attends a fashion show, we’ll presumably find out who’s calling the shots. If it’s still Newkirk, the tofu pies will be reserved for leather-clad models only. But her cohorts might have a few behind their backs for fur too.
Meanwhile, speculation surrounds Newkirk’s recent relocation back to her native Britain.
One theory is that she wants to join the fight to ban fur farming there. A bill to do just that has been introduced by the government, but debate on it has stalled.
The only drawback to this theory is that Newkirk is on record as saying the bill is already law!
Referring to an American bill backed by Sen. Russ Decker that would increase penalties for releasing captive animals, Newkirk told a Wisconsin newspaper, “If this senator or anyone wants to stop the liberations, they should do what has just been done in England – ban the fur farms, make them illegal.”(4)
In summary, Newkirk believes PeTA has won the fur war, despite its spectacular comeback. And Newkirk believes fur farming has been banned in Britain, which it hasn’t.
She may also believe the New York catwalk attacks were PeTA’s “last hurrah” in the fur war. But they almost certainly weren’t!
(1) “Throwing Down the Anti-Leather Gauntlet”, New York Times, Feb. 15, 2000.
(2) See Fur Sales Up in 1999 Fur Information Council of America press release, May 31, 2000.
(3) “The Fur Fury; Is PeTA Driven by Animal Rights or Resentment of the Rich?”, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 18, 2000.
(4) “Decker bill would increase penalties for mink vandals”, Wausau Daily Herald, Feb. 11, 2000.
In Their Own Words Memorable quotes from the mouths of PeTA.
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FUR COMMISSION USA PRESS RELEASE, MARCH 14, 2000
ALF Brothers Renounce Violence
TWO BROTHERS CONVICTED for their part in the 1997 firebombing of the Fur Breeders Agricultural Co-operative in Sandy, Utah, have apologized in court for their crimes.
Douglas “Josh” Ellerman, 21, and brother Clinton, 23, were both affiliated with the Straight Edge movement and the Animal Liberation Front at the time the attack took place.
Appearing in District Court in Utah on Mar. 10, Douglas had his sentence reduced from seven years to 71 months. He has already served 20 months.
Josh confessed to breaking into the co-op, planting five bombs and lighting two fires that caused $1 million in damage.
“Since I’ve been locked down … I have realized I made a very big mistake, a very dangerous and stupid mistake,” he said.
Three days later, Clinton was sentenced for the first time, to five years, and ordered to share the $750,000 restitution with his brother. He confessed to building the bombs used in the attack.
“I would like to apologize to the Fur Breeders people for all that I did,” he told the court.
Both men could have been sentenced for up to 35 years.
FUR COMMISSION USA PRESS RELEASE, MARCH 7, 2000
NAIA Highlights Human Rights, Animal Welfare
(See below for NAIA Animal Law Conference Resolution.)
“REGARDLESS OF OUR BACKGROUNDS, we are all challenged by the rampant corruption present in today’s animal protection movement. Misinformation campaigns, eco-terrorism, legislative assaults promoting unsound public policy, etc., are symptoms of that corruption. They arise from an animal protection movement that at its worst encourages criminal acts and at its best is more proficient at fundraising than at promoting animal welfare or sound public policy.”
With these words, National Animal Interest Alliance president Patti Strand opened the organization’s ninth Animal Welfare Conference in Portland, Oregon, on Mar. 4.
VICTIMS OF THE MMPA: Violet Ford, Policy Advisor to Inuit Tapirisat of Canada; Ben Kovic, Director of Nanavut Wildlife Management Board; Okalik Eegeesiak, President of Tapirisat of Canada; Theresie Tungilik, Senior Advisor – Arts Economy, Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.
Speakers told of regulatory impacts on animal enterprises; crimes committed in the name of animal rights; emotional and misleading campaigns against animal owners; and victories in court and in the voting booth. They urged participants to tell the story of responsible animal use to the public, and to work together to preserve human rights and animal welfare.
The Law and Animal Protection
An overview of the current state of animal protectionism was provided by conference moderator Prof. Jerrold Tannenbaum, University of California at Davis. Comparing the animal protection movement to Ayn Rand’s oak tree that rotted from within, he stated that the current drive to get “personhood” for animals centers around “The Great Apes Project”. However, “most people don’t want human-and-animal equality and so must be forced to have it by courts that can override the will of the public.”
Cong. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), a champion of sustainable use, focused on the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), a law that bans imports to the US of marine mammal products in violation of trade agreements, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Nowhere are the conflicts between unsound public policy and fundraising on one side, and human-animal interaction on the other, more stark than in the story of indigenous peoples and the MMPA.
“We looked at life as a miracle and we treated it with care,” explained Inuit delegate Teresie Tungilik from Canada’s Nunavut Territory. “Our wildlife provides us with all the nutrition our bodies need. We started to hear that our way of life was wrong, but we didn’t know how to live any other way.”
Tungilik and others told of the devastation caused to sealing communities by the MMPA, which bars them from selling meat, clothing or crafts to the US even from abundant species.
Terrorism and Infiltration
Edward Taub PhD was an early victim of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Back in 1981, he recalled, PeTA used staged photos of animal abuse taken by an infiltrator to shut down his research on monkeys aimed at helping stroke patients – a modus operandi that has been repeated many times since. These days, he observed ironically, “the web of regulations … for [using] animals is more complex than regulations for working with people.”
FCUSA executive director Teresa Platt told of ongoing problems with illegal releases of mink from fur farms. Though many farmers have implemented “neighborhood watches”, too many “liberated” animals are still ending up as road kill. She also criticized the continuation of non-profit status for certain groups which support such acts. “It is ironic,” she said, “that we pay one arm of government to chase eco-terrorists while another, the IRS, gives non-profit status to groups that romanticize and promote such illegal actions.”
Successes and Plans
On a positive note, animal welfare advocates have chalked up some victories in the courts and voting booths.
Ranchers recently won a court ruling dismissing a claim that cattle were a point source of pollution in Oregon; anti-wildlife management bills and initiatives have been blocked; and the courts have been used to overturn nonsense regulations established by animal rights campaigns.
And FCUSA’s Platt was able to report on the overwhelming rejection by Beverly Hills residents of a ballot initiative to place misleading labels on furs about how the animals may have died.
Support for Human Rights
The conference ended with a recognition of human rights, and in particular those of the Inuit whose cultural traditions and economies have suffered under the MMPA. Specifically, NAIA has resolved to ask Congress to bring the MMPA into compliance with national laws and international treaties signed since its enactment in 1972 (see below).
The conference also agreed that efforts should continue to persuade the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of groups that endorse terrorism.
THE KEY OBSERVATION arising from the NAIA Animal Law Conference is that the promotion of animal-rights beliefs has produced unacceptable consequences that include ongoing violations of fundamental human rights.
The delegation of Inuit people from Arctic Canada have eloquently described how their culture, livelihoods and society are being devastated by the animal-rights inspired Marine Mammal Protection Act – a law which contradicts accepted principles of sustainable use and environmental conservation.
This outdated legislation arbitrarily bans the import of seal products from an abundant species and violates the American ideal of individual freedom and the rights of the people to self determination, including the right to use and trade abundant local resources.
We believe that the American people would be shocked and distressed to discover that the MMPA has so severely harmed so many people and cultures. This law disrupts the ecological relationship with which indigenous people have lived in harmony with the environment as active practitioners of sustainable use.
Seals are abundant in Arctic Canada and other regions and provide a vital source of food in Arctic communities, but provisions of the MMPA prevent Inuit and other people from fully utilizing animals upon which they depend for their survival, because trade is prohibited.
Therefore this assembly of the NAIA:
I) Calls for the amendment of the MMPA to allow for the import of seal products, to protect US commercial and recreational fisheries, and to bring the MMPA into accord with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as implemented by the Endangered Species Act and the Uruguay Round Agreements under the WTO; and,:
II) Resolves to work to inform the American public and legislators about the injustice which has been done by this law; and,
III) Calls upon all people and organizations that respect human rights to join us in our efforts to right the wrongs that have been done.