No sign of comeback in new fur trade data

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2012:


ROME, OTTAWA, BEIJING– Furriers and sealers have again
pinned their hopes of an industry revival to trends in China, but
actual Chinese sales data and the rapid rise of animal advocacy in
China suggest they will be disappointed.
The International Fur Trade Fede-ration opened the 2012-2013
winter “fur season” by claiming record global retail fur sales, but
offered data showing a continuing decline. The IFTF predicted that
world fur sales would exceed $15 billion in 2012, the same total the
IFTF claimed annually since 2008, up from $9.1 billion in 2000 and
$13 billion in 2005.

Adjusting for inflation, the current IFTF estimate is
actually down 2% from 2005.
U.S. fur sales alone peaked at $1.85 billion in 1987-1988,
according to the Fur Information Council of America, but fell to
half as much by 1991. Taking inflation into account, U.S. fur sales
in 2011 came to just 36% of the 1987-1988 peak.

Chinese demand

“Growth in inland China is really what’s driving growth at
the moment,” IFTF chief executive Mark Oaten told media. “There are
90 cities in China that buy as much fur as New York. In Asia,
certainly in China,” Oaten explained, “there is less of a tradition
of animal welfare.”
About 75% of global fur production enters Hong Kong,
according to the Hong Kong Fur Federation. The federation represents
about 150 fur garment manufacturers, dealers scattered throughout
southern China, which have captured most of the fur garment
manufacturing industry that 25 years ago centered on New York City,
Montreal, Toronto, Oslo, and Milan. Only about a third of the
imported fur remains in China. Oaten put Chinese fur garment sales
at $6 billion per year, while total sales for all of North America,
he said, came to $1.3 billion in 2011. About half of all North
American fur sales are believed to occur in the the New York City
metropolitan area–which means there might at most be nine cities in
China that buy as much fur as New York, not 90.
“A one-time candidate for the Liberal Democrat party
leadership [in the United Kingdom],” recalled Emma Charlton of
Agence France-Presse. “Oaten resigned as its home affairs spokesman
in 2006 after a tabloid revealed he had paid for sex with a male
prostitute. He stood down at the 2010 general election.”

Sealing prospects

Also seeking potential Chinese sales, a Canadian Senate
committee headed by Fabian Manning of Newfoundland on October 23,
2012 recommended that to help the recovery of cod stocks, the
Canadian government should pay hunters to kill 70,000 gray seals off
the Atlantic Coast this winter and next spring.
This would be in addition to the annual harp seal quota, set
at 400,000 in 2012.
Manning admitted to Michael MacDonald of Canadian Press that
“no really solid research” supports the culling proposal.
“Seals are being used as a scapegoat, just like whales were
once blamed for fishery declines,” Dalhousie University marine
biologist Hal Whitehead told Guardian Canadian correspondent Stephen
Canadian sealers actually killed just 38,000 harp seals and
fewer than 2,000 grey seals in 2012, due to lack of global demand
for the pelts.
But Carino Processing Ltd., chief executive Dion Dakins
predicted that the Canadian government would win a pending appeal to
the World Trade Organization against the 2010 European Union ban on
imports of seal products, although a similar appeal from Canadian
native sealers was rejected in 2011, and that Canada would soon win
approval from China to sell seal meat there.
Blake Deppe, writing for the People’s World science section,
and Alicia Graef, writing for, published parallel
summaries of a response to the Canadian Senate from 50 Chinese
environmental and animal welfare organizations.
“We are writing to the Senate because we are disappointed in
the Canadian government,” opened Capital Animal Welfare Association
founder Qin Xiaona, of Beijing. “We want Canadian senators to
realize that Ottawa’s promotion of seal products in China is unwise
and short-sighted; it has caused irreparable damage to Canada’s
reputation in China. Our campaign against the seal product trade
will continue,” Qin Xiaona pledged, “until the Canadian government
ceases its efforts to promote these products of cruelty in China.”
Statements by Canadian politicians that “Chinese people will
eat anything” are “offensive to say the least, and highly
misleading,” Qin Xiaona continued. “In China, seals are a
protected species, and seal meat is not a part of our tradition.
Despite the massive subsidies invested by unwilling Canadian
taxpayers for over three decades to promote seal fur and meat in
China, significant markets have never emerged,” Qin Xiaona reminded.
“Chinese consumers care about animal welfare,” Qin Xiona
finished. “Please be assured that China will never become a dumping
ground for products that the rest of the world has so overtly

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