White House kills EU fur ban

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1998:

BRUSSELS––Hope that the European Union would finally enforce
a ban promised since 1991 on imports of furs possibly taken by leghold trapping
died on December 1, 1997, when 12 hours after the EU threatened to
impose the ban against U.S. wild-caught furs within a week, it accepted a
non-binding deal that allows continued imports of leghold-trapped furs for at
least six more years while individual states set their own schedules for phasing
out or modifying leghold traps to meet so-called international standards developed
by the trapping industry.
The USDA is meanwhile spending $350,000 this year in experiments
to develop alternative trapping methods. Largely replicative of work
done in Canada for nearly 40 years without finding anything acceptable to
both trappers and humanitarians, the experiments call for trapping at least 186
foxes, 186 coyotes, and 1,080 raccoons.

“The EU was strong-armed by the Clinton/Gore administration,
who threatened a trade dispute,” charged Cathy Liss of the Animal Welfare
Institute, who was one of two humane organization representatives on a panel
appointed to develop U.S. trapping standards. When the panel failed to reach
agreement, it was reconstituted by the USDA and the International
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, without humane representation.
“The U.S. proposal,” Liss added, “is substantially weaker than a
proposal presented to and rejected by the EU in early October. The earlier
proposal stated that trapping practices would change in four years, rather than
six. Apparently the Europeans were duped.”
The October deal actually would have required muskrat and ermine
trappers to switch to body-gripping traps within four years, but would have
given trappers of other species eight years to change, to unspecified methods.
“Until the U.S. gives up the leghold trap,” predicted Camilla Fox of
the Animal Protection Institute, “voters in more and more states will ban it.”
California petitioners for a partial trap ban entered January needing
an estimated 250,000 more signatures to reach the target 650,000-750,000
believed necessary to qualify the measure for the next state ballot. The proposed
California ban, weaker than those already passed by voters in Arizona,
Massachusetts, and Colorado, would allow continued use of leghold traps by
so-called nuisance trappers.
Canada and the EU on December 15 signed a deal similar to the one
involving the U.S., drafted last May and approved by the EU two months
later. Russia is expected to sign the same agreement in January.
Washington D.C. federal district judge Ricardo N. Urbina o n
December 4, 1997 rejected without comment a petition from the A n i m a l
Legal Defense Fund and Humane Society of the U.S. which sought to bar
the export of pelts from river otters trapped in Missouri, just two days after
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stayed issuance of permits for the exports
until January 1, pending the federal court ruling. Of the 1,054 otters trapped
in Missouri during 1996-1997, the first winter of legal otter trapping in the
state since 1937, 1,024 were tagged for export. The Missouri otter trapping
season this winter runs to January 20, 1998.
Trying to boost nutria trapping, the Louisiana Department of
Wildlife and Fisheries is spending more than $2 million this winter to push
nutria as food. If U.S. sales don’t develop, the department hopes to find markets
abroad––but seafood dealer Elton J. Bernard, of Marrero, Louisiana,
gave up on that prospect back in 1995 after trying to export 500 tons of nutria
meat to China. “I figured I could make more money doing something else,”
he told Stephanie Grace of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Fur industry promoters tried to improve their image during the
early 1990s by giving trade-in fur garments to the homeless, but the tactic
backfired when many homeless people refused gift coats to avoid being mistaken
for prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers––and to avoid being mugged
by junkies who thought they might have drugs. This winter People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals gave furs to the homeless, at soup kitchens in
Atlantic City, New York, and Pittsburgh during December and January.
“Homeless people are the only ones left with an excuse for wearing fur,”
explained PETA spokesperson Debbie Chissell. Former fur-wearers donated
the furs to PETA for use in anti-fur protests.

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