European trapped fur import ban closer––maybe

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1995:

DENVER – –The likelihood Europe
will finally implement a 1991 ban on the
import of U.S. and Canadian trapped fur––if
only as a gesture––increased October 2 when
International Standards Organization technical
committee on trap standards chair Neal
Jotham, of Canada, acknowledged that,
“There is no possibility of reaching a consensus”
on what constitutes a “humane” trap.
The ISO concession enables the
enforcement of European Council Regulation
32254/91, adopted five years ago as an ultimatim
to the fur industry to either end cruel
trapping or cease the import of trapped fur.
Under the regulation, use of leghold traps
will simultaneously be banned throughout the
EC nations, effective on January 1, 1996.
As much as 70% of all fur trapped
in the U.S. is exported to Europe. Thus the
import ban, if it sticks, could cripple the
already declining trapping industry.

However, warns Friends of
Animals’ president Priscilla Feral, “The fight
isn’t over.” The trade departments of the
U.S., Canada, and the European Union have
created a Working Group on Trilateral
Standards, in a second attempt to define
“humane” trapping. Unlike the ISO committee,
Feral says, “The Working Group is a
closed-door affair, loaded with people who
are sympathetic to the fur industry.”
To keep it that way, Feral says,
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Kantor
has excluded from the U.S. delegation anyone
associated with animal protection. “All
members are either apologists for the fur
industry or trade bureaucrats,” asserts Feral.
“FoA has repeatedly tried to meet with people
from Kantor’s office, but they have cancelled
every appointment, and now don’t
even return our calls. U.S. and Canadian
trade officials have threatened that Europe
must accept furs caught in leghold traps and
other cruel devices, or they will complain to
the World Trade Organization that the
European ban unfairly interferes with trade.”
Before the WTO tribunal, the fur
industry believes, it will prevail by terming
the fur import ban “a process standard,” governing
how a product is made, in violation of
the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs.
“But this is a moral issue,” Feral
insists. “And it’s every bit as evil to sell
goods obtained by immoral cruelty as it is to
accept the import of goods made by slave
labor, a rightful concern of U.S. trade policy.
By what measure can the U.S. try to force
Europe to accept the import of fur caught in
barbaric traps with the European Union forbids
their own citizens from using?”
To avoid a WSO confrontation,
European ISO participants several compromises.
However, the U.S. delegation, led by
Tom Krause of the National Trappers
Association, demanded that the global market
continue to accept the pelts of animals
caught in any traps now legal, including
steel-jaw leghold traps––used in the U.S. and
Canada, but banned in most other nations,
because they are considered to be unacceptably
cruel and nonselective.
The U.S. delegation also rejected
proposals to permit use of leghold traps during
a phase-out period of “another five to ten
years,” said FoA representative Bill Clark.
Some European participants unsuccessfully
offered a so-called sunset clause,
Clark said, as an amendment to the EC regulation,
which would have outlawed such
traps only after the expiry of a grace period.
Imports also down
Traditionally the U.S. is both the
world’s top exporter of trapped pelts, and the
top importer of finished fur garments. But
according to Department of Commerce statistics
released in September, U.S. fur imports
during the first six months of 1995 fell 44.5%
by unit volume, from 173,931 to 96,528,
and fell 39.2% by dollar volume, from $55.2
million to $33.5 million.
These were the sharpest six-month
dips in the 20 years the data has been officially
tracked and published––confirming A N IMAL
PEOPLE projections, a year ago, that
the retail fur market was glutted.
Ballyhooing a comeback that was
more of a leveling off after five years of steep
decline, the fur trade press in December
1994 stoked outbursts of auction fever that
brought the sale of 34 million mink pelts at
the major auctions worldwide during the next
six months. Fifteen million of the pelts were
stored leftovers that failed to sell in previous
years, at prices of up to half again higher
than the winter before.
The strong sales brought an
increase in mink breeding. The world pelt
supply increased in 1994-1995 from 19 million
to 22.6 million. But actual pelt sales
crashed to just 12.8 million.
The total volume of U.S. mink garment
imports fell 52.6%, from 37,326 in the
first half of 1994 to just 17,683 in the first
half of 1995. The dollar value of mink
imports fell 67%, from $22.9 million in the
first half of 1994 to just $7.5 million.
Non-mink fur imports fell 11%,
from $17.9 million to $15.8 million.

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