Fur

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1995:

Fur sales skidded––again––this past winter. “This
was the single worst season since the 1930s,” said Robert
Meltzer of Evans Inc. Sales at the 12 Evans stores fell by $6.2
million during the third quarter of 1994. At the Danish Fur Sales
auction of December 15, an industry barometer, the average
mink pelt price fell from $29.91 in 1993––the highest in
years––to $20.15. Yet clearance dropped to 78%. At the retail
level, the average advertised price of a basic mink coat in the
New York City area plunged to $2,282 by Valentine’s Day, close
to last winter’s all-time low in inflation-adjusted dollars of $2,174.
Cruelty charges filed in August 1994 against chin-
chilla breeder Jose LaCalle of Freestone, California, were
dropped on February 10 when LaCalle agreed to cease killing
chinchillas by genital electrocution––at least within California
––and announced he’d moved his firm, Bella Chinchilla
International, “to an undisclosed country south of the U.S. bor-
der.” Filed by the Sonoma County Humane Society based on
evidence obtained by PETA, the case was reportedly PETA’s
fifth attempt to win a precedent-setting cruelty conviction against
a chinchilla breeder, based on the American Veterinary Medical
Association’s determination that genital electrocution is inhu-
mane. So far, none of the cases have gone to trial. Chinchilla
ranching has been a bit more profitable lately than mink and fox
ranching. The average pelt price fell from $31.08 in 1990 to
$26.61 in 1994, but profits rose because the price drop increased
demand. Fur-trimmed cloth and leather garments are the only
growth sector of the industry and furriers find that chinchilla trim
brings a higher markup than mink, fox, or most trapped furs.

A sexual harassment suit filed by former Flemington
Fur Co. employee Rosemary Phillips, of New Hope,
Pennsyvlania, made headlines March 1 around Newark, New
Jersey, where the multi-store firm is based. Phillips alleged that
from June 1991 through July 1994, Flemington Fur board chair-
man S. Rogers Benjamin and president Robert E. Benjamin
ignored her complaints that her supervisor, Lawrence Hilzer,
“rubbed against her, put his arms around her, and made lewd ref-
erences to the female anatomy…discussed his sex life while at
work and on several occasions used his middle finger to signal
Mrs. Phillips to follow him,” as Hunterdon County Democrat
reporter Christine Sokoloski summarized. Added Jean Brandes
of the Newark Star-Ledger, “In another instance, Phillips con-
tends that Hilzer told her she would be fired if she ever told any-
one that the firm accepted a special order to make a jacket from
dog pelts.” She further alleged that she was twice assaulted by
another male employee, once in a fur vault and once in front of a
customer. Hilzer is son of Joseph Hilzer, co-chair of the firm.
Robert Benjamin in a prepared statement said, “We shall vigor-
ously fight to retain our unblemished reputation and disprove the
spurious charges.”
On March 3, hours before the scheduled start of a
day of protest against the sale of coyote fur garments by the 300-
store Eddie Bauer chain was to begin, the firm announced that,
“Due to declining customer interest in this style, we will no
longer carry it. We have no further plans at this time to carry fur-
trimmed garments.” The demonstrations were to be coordinated
by PETA and the Sea Wolf Alliance.
Model Claudia Schiffer, who wore Fendi furs in the
1994 and 1995 Milan fall and winter fashion shows, on March 8
joined fellow supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford,
Linda Evangelista, and Kate Moss in signing the PETA “Models
for Compassion” pledge not to wear fur.
Concerned that Friends of Animals’ video of wolves
suffering in snares set by state trappers may harm the $5-mil-
lion-a-year Alaskan fur traffic as well as forcing a halt to wolf
control, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is reportedly
spending $200,000 on a pro-trapping video to be shown to school
children. The project is to be supervised by David “Machine
Gun” Kelleyhouse––the architect of the wolf control program.
Warned Nova Scotia environmentalist David Orton
in the February/March edition of the journal C a n a d i a n
Dimension, “Just as there is government and corporate ‘green-
speak’ or ‘greenwash,’ there is ‘Native-speak,’ using seemingly
progressive or spiritual rhetoric as a cover to advance a narrow
self-interest which is anti-Earth.” For example, Orton cited “sup-
port for the fur industry and commercial trapping,” which were
“imposed on First Nations by European colonial powers, and rest
on a ‘resourcist’ human-centered view of our relationship to
wildlife and the natural world.”
A newly released “Furbearer Management
A n a l y s i s prepared for the Colorado Division of Wildlife by
University of Northern Colorado biologist Dr. James P. Fitzgerald
recommends a shorter muskrat season, restrictions on coyote
killing, and closing the swift fox and hognosed skunk seasons.
Fitzgerald also indicates that Colorado has insufficient biological
data to support trapping seasons on 11 of the 12 native furbearers;
beavers are the sole exception. “Although recreational trappers
may reduce some agricultural losses,” Fitzgerald adds, “it is
questionable whether control efforts are biologically effective vs.
psychologically effective.” He also suggests that coyotes and
foxes have more economic value alive than dead. “It does pose an
interesting dilemma,” Fitzgerald muses in passing, “to explain to
scientific groups why sportsmen are allowed to use traps and
techniques which are less humane than methods the scientific
community must use to work with the same species.”
Both houses of the Russian Parliament on December
23 approved a wildlife conservation bill that included a ban
on use of any trap that doesn’t kill outright––but under pressure
from both the Russian fur industry and the Canadian government,
prime minister Boris Yeltsin vetoed the bill on January 19,
expressly because of the anti-trapping language.
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