Everyone thinks of P.E.I as the Island of Potatoes, and although that is true, the province was also made rich – quite literally – on the backs of wild animals. Foxes. Silver Foxes to be specific.
While I was there, some dude pulled a pelt out of his bag. I was horrified as he blithely flipped it around, because my first thought, as always, was what the poor animal went through, but I did notice it was the most gorgeous fur I had ever seen. The Silver Fox is not a breed of fox: foxes on the island are all the same breed. It’s just a different colour, much like there are black labs, chocolate labs, and yellow labs.
So I looked into the Fox situation on the island and this is what I learned:
In the late 1800s, many islanders were poor, and hunted for subsistence, either food or fur. They noticed the Silver Fox pelt was sold for gargantuan prices compared to the red fox pelt, and found they were very popular amongst European nobility, such as the Hapsburgs.
So a couple of bright sparks decided to catch some silvers and create a fox farm, so acquisition of the furs would be easier. You see, the silver pelt is rare, a recessive gene of red foxes, so having two silvers to mate and procreate was the only guarantee of successful silver pelt farming. The interlopers discovered foxes were monogamous and territorial and built pens a pair could live and procreate in, privately, away from other foxes.
According to The National Post, the men “sold 25 pelts in London and made $34,649 at a time when the average yearly income for a Prince Edward Island farm labourer was about $320.” They became rich. As did many who followed suit in the fox fur industry. A shocking 1 in every 10 islander owned breeding foxes!
Fortunately for the foxes, although it took many years, some farmers started to sell breeding pairs for even larger sums. However, in doing so, their market collapsed upon itself because now the countries who craved the pelts had their own farms.
Sucks to be them.
Today, there are no fox farms left in P.E.I., in large part to their greed for selling breeding pairs, but also due to the demand dropping hugely as activists made their voices heard. But fox money made the island a wealthy place, and many families are living off fox fur money to this day, although they have diversified into other business.
So here’s the thing: what is the moral difference between keeping a fur farm and trapping? Nothing, obviously. The animal still dies, and it does so after being kept in a cage all its life. So…quality of life? Nil. More humane death? Nil. Absolutely nothing marks fur farming as a better alternative to wild trapping.
So many people object to fur nowadays, anyway. Many international designers are banning fur fashion; manufacturers are perfecting faux furs so beautiful they can’t be differentiated from the real thing. We have synthetic alternatives for warmth and style more so than ever before. There is absolutely no need to wear fur in this day and age. It’s an objectionable industry, and people from all walks of life agree fur looks best on the animal, not us.
So why is factory farming not thought of in the same way as fur farming? Why is it so hard for people to recognize the truth: if keeping animals in cages to eventually kill them for their fur is abhorrent, then surely keeping animals in cages to eventually kill them for food is equally as abhorrent. Especially given the conditions in which they are kept. Especially given that we DON’T NEED MEAT to live and thrive – the same as we don’t need fur to stay warm anymore.
There is such a huge disconnect between animals as commodity and animals as pets. Society doesn’t see them as the same thing. Dogs and cats are (and rightly so) protected by laws enforced on the daily, not just by authorities but by everyday people, too. We rise up in anger at seeing a dog in a car on a hot day. People smash car windows without a thought to consequence. Then they go into the store and purchase the best looking steaks they see, feeling smug and comfortable that they saved an animal’s life.
I know, I know, I was that person once. I ate meat and I loved my pets. I’m guilty. I can’t deny it. I used to own a fur coat: farmed rabbit, which I wore while I walked my dog.
I GET IT!
But we can change! We can see and hear the truth that is being publicized more and more. We can choose not to turn away and ignore the facts because we have always done it that way; we can listen and learn. We have that capability. We did it for the fur industry – we listened, learned, and spoke up, and look! Now P.E.I. has no fur farms and people are still thriving! They changed! They did not sink into the sea, they grew and are still growing.
Their story is a real testament to people’s ability to make changes for the better. It’s do-able, peeps, we just have to keep an open mind and LISTEN, and allow ourselves to LEARN. Stop holding on to outmoded ideas and concepts and move forward with the times. Create a different way – a better way!
Millions of lives are at stake.