Fur auction fun

14 03 2013

To have fun at a fur auction may sound weird, but every year some of us from the Animal Behaviour and Welfare group visit it, and are bowled over by the experience (including being shocked: it’s not all fun). First, there is the sheer number and diversity of pelts, including huge, tragic ones from carnivores like polar bears and mountain lions (the millions of skins also give the place a strong, strange smell). It’s easy to just hate it… but also hard to ignore that, just as to the first European colonizers of what was to become Canada, trapping and skinning wild animals is really important to First Nations people (a group historically abused and even today somewhat disenfranchised). The farmed mink are least upsetting (to me anyway), and their fur the most beautiful: no wonder it’s in such demand. And it’s the demand that’s the other amazing thing to see at this auction – hundred of buyers from all over the world, a myriad foreign tongues being spoken, but above all the Chinese: buying in force as their economy, and the demand for luxury products, continues to escalate. The third element is the farmers: watching the auction progress with anxiety or elation as a huge chunk of their annual income is determined on a single day. This time, the average mink pelt brought in a staggering $100, which bodes well for mink welfare (since it’ll encourage farmers to invest in enrichments and infrastructure). The beaming faces pictured here are, L to R, Lena Levison, who has just finished her MSc with Trevor de Vries; Gary Hazlewood, Executive Director of the Canada Mink Breeders (a very nice guy, and tireless champion for modernizing the industry & improving animal welfare); Agata, the PhD student visiting me from Poland; and my PhD student Maria, who’s currently writing up her thesis on super-enrichment for mink, using them as a model carnivore.

Fur auction fun


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