High style at Paul’s Furs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1996:
NEW YORK, N.Y.––Quick as ever, former Beatle
Paul McCartney stung the fur trade on October 14 with a New
Yorker ad for “Paul’s Furs,” offering would-be customers a
“Free Fur Video.” Suggested the text, “Before you buy, let us
show you our lively collection of fox, mink, and raccoon.
You’ll be astounded and could save thousands.”
The video, produced by PETA, showed how fox,
mink, and raccoon are killed on fur farms and in traps.
The New Yorker ad upstaged the Los Angeles debut of
a new ad for Johnny Walker Red. “There is a large photo of a
glass of scotch on a draped piece of leopard ‘fur,’” reported
activist Igor Tomcej. “The copy reads, ‘Relax. The fur is fake.
But, the drink is real.’”
Release of the live-action remake of the 1959 animated
classic 101 Dalmatians could “put the nail in the coffin of fur,”
predicted Friends of Animals staffer Bill Dollinger. “I saw the
preview,” he continued. “Glenn Close dragging her fur as
Cruella DeVil is the epitome of evil.”
U.S. retail fur sales staggered with each release, rerelease,
and home video release of the original.
PRICES UP, SALES DOWN
The revamped glossy edition of Fur Age, formerly Fur
Age Weekly, went into the 1996-1997 fur sales season ballyhooing
an average mink pelt price rise of nearly 50%, worldwide,
during the 1995-1996 auction season, to $41.40. The average
U.S. price jumped to $53.10, the highest ever, because a disproportionate
share of remaining U.S. mink production, down to 2.7
million pelts per year, is at the top end of the price scale.
But business isn’t really that good, as the Chicagobased
Evans fur chain learned, posting first quarter losses of
$791,000 and a revenue decline of 22% from 1995. U.S. retail
fur sales for 1995 blipped up just nine tenths of a percent, a loss
after correcting for inflation. The number of U.S. mink farms,
now 446, fell 3%, continuing a 15-year decline. The number of
mink bred fell 4%, indicating no hope of growth. Just two of the
88 ads in the fall edition of the New York Times s u p p l e m e n t
Fashions of The Times depicted fur in any form: one furtrimmed
garment, and a shearling jacket.
The pelt price surge was actually an aftershock of the
1993-1994 auction frenzy, sparked when fur flaks planted several
major media articles just before the first international auctions,
asserting that fur was back in vogue in New York and Chicago,
the chief American markets.
Bidders believing their own hype drove the average
raw pelt price from $20.49 to $29.91 in a matter of days.
Wholesale demand surged to 34 million pelts over the whole
auction season, 15 million more than actual 1993 global production.
That cleared out unsold supply from past years.
When commensurate retail demand didn’t materialize,
furriers were stuck with a glut. Only 12.8 million ranched mink
pelts sold at the major international auctions in 1994-1995.
This discouraged breeding. Just 11.9 million ranched mink
pelts turned over at the same auctions in 1995-1996, according
to preliminary figures, but since demand remained constant at
around 20 million pelts per year, where it has been for about five
years now (including when 1993 and 1994 pelt sales are averaged),
prices again soared.
As in all retailing, higher costs must be passed to consumers
if manufacturers and retailers are to profit. Yet due to
discounting to dump stock, the average advertised price of a fur
coat in the New York metropolitan area during 1995-1996 fell to
$2,041, the lowest ever in inflation-adjusted dollars.
U.S. mink ranchers enjoyed temporary windfall prices
due to the global pelt shortage, but by this coming auction season,
foreign mink breeders are expected to be back undercutting
competition—and if not, continued high prices are likely to be
accompanied by continued falling demand.
Wild pelt prices show a similar trend. Of the six
species most often sold at auction, only beaver and wild mink go
for more than the average price during the 1976-1986 fur boom,
and only beavers are offered in greater numbers. Wild mink volume
is down 69%, coyote volume is down 53%, raccoon volume
is down 78%, and muskrat volume is down 94%. Revenue
from the six species has fallen 45%, from $294 million in 1976
to $162 million in 1996; the inflation-adjusted drop is 71%.
Antifur activism is sharply up this year, largely
through the campus-based work of the Coalition Against the Fur
Trade, formed by Memphis janitor J.P. Goodwin. Traditional
antifur protest hits major fur and media markets through the winter,
but Goodwin and CAFT emphasize off-season actions,
often outside the snow belt. CAFT’s biggest campaign, the July
27-28 “War Weekend Against Federated Department Stores,”
included protests in two New York City suburbs but apparently
not New York City itself; four southern cities; and Los Angeles,
where three participants staged a 15-day hunger strike after getting
90-day jail sentences for civil disobedience.
Like PETA protests, CAFT actions tend to produce
lots of arrests, and much as PETA distributed communiques for
the 1980s laboratory-raiding version of the Animal Liberation
Front, CAFT distributes communiques for a fur-farm-raiding
incarnation of ALF, which also paint-bombs furriers’ homes,
glues locks, and breaks fur store windows.
On October 25, ALF claimed to have conducted 21 fur
farm raids in a series begun on October 26, 1995, at Chilliwack,
British Columbia. ALF claims about 13,000 mink and foxes
have been released from their cages, at least temporarily. The
fur ranchers usually claim to have recovered the animals, but
after one upstate New York raid many pregnant mink apparently
died from adverse weather and lack of food.
Ranched mink usually don’t fare well after escape or
release into the wild, but can prosper under favorable conditions,
as in England, where feral mink are blamed for cutting the
Thames water vole population–– already hurt by habitat loss––by
two-thirds since 1990. Vincent Wildlife Trust zoologist Don
Jeffries reported recently in The Naturalist that water voles are
the staple of the feral minks’ diet, but suggested habitat restoration
would help the voles far more than trying to kill the mink.