Alberta trapper says California's fur ban misses the mark

An Alberta trapper says California’s move to ban the sale of new fur products is an uninformed decision based on animal rights activists who don’t understand the environmental role played by trappers throughout North America. 

“The narrative of the animal rights lobby is that trapping is inhumane and it’s torturing animals and threatening wildlife,” Bill Abercrombie, president of the Alberta Trappers Association, told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM on Thursday.

“That really is not what trapping is about at all. It’s much more about conservation and sustainable use … [and] in modern times, the humaneness of it is not even an issue. It’s completely humane.”

Under a bill signed into law earlier this month, California will be the first state to ban the sale and manufacture of new fur products. The ban will come into effect in January 2023.

The law prohibits the sale of clothing, handbags, shoes, slippers, hats and key chains that contain fur. The ban won’t apply to used products or those used for religious or tribal purposes.

It also won’t apply to leather, dog and cat fur, cowhides, deer, sheep and goat skin and anything preserved through taxidermy.

Abercrombie said people already have the opportunity to choose whether or not to wear fur. He called the legislation “a little bit off the wall to me.”

The law doesn’t differentiate between wild and farmed or “ranch” fur, but Abercrombie said there is a big difference in the way the animals are regarded by the trapping culture of people that “live on the land and care very much about conservation and sustainability.

“And that speaks to that wild fur product. Because even in death, you know the pelt of that animal and the meat and other parts are revered and respected.”

Bill Abercrombie, president of the Alberta Trappers Association, doesn’t expect the California ban on new fur will have much impact on Alberta trappers. (Bushman Inc.)

Of the more than 50,000 active trappers in Canada, about 3,500 are in Alberta.

All trappers and lines must be registered with the provincial or territorial government and no endangered species are trapped or used in the fur industry, according to the Fur Institute of Canada.

Fur trapping has been part of the Canadian economy since the 1700s. Today, trappers and fur farm owners early more than $320 million annually in pelt sales, with exports to Europe, Asia and the United States.

Abercrombie, who has a registered trapline two hours west of Edmonton, doesn’t expect the California law will have much impact on trappers in Alberta. He pointed out that harvesting fur for sale is only one part of what they do.

The wildlife management that occurs through trapping is helpful for disease control, public safety and wildlife research, he said. As well, urban areas have increasingly encroached on animal habitat, which has created “super-habitats” that have high populations of animals close to urban centres.

“Trapping is the main tool to manage those animals so that the population is healthy and disease-free and to reduce the amount of conflict with people,” Abercrombie said.

“Trapping is still going to take place but instead of the animal being regarded as a valued fur-bearer to be revered and respected, now they’re going to be reduced to the status of a pest.”

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