Sandy Parker Reports
Volume 36, Issue 46
February 11, 2013
As expected, mink prices resumed their upward movement as the new auction season got into full swing at Kopenhagen Fur last week amid signs the trend is likely to continue at the sales elsewhere in the weeks ahead. Hong Kong/China, to no one’s surprise and with even greater representation than before, took the lead from the outset and set the pace virtually throughout the auction. Although this actually was Kopenhagen’s second sale of the season – the small December event intended mainly to meet the trade’s immediate needs – the buying now reflects planning for the year ahead.
The Chinese fur trade, aided by one of the coldest winters in that country’s history, has been enjoying a banner season and has been steadily expanding at all levels. There are no official figures but, according to sources close to that market, the past year has witnessed sizable increases in the ranks of manufacturers not only in the established production centers, but elsewhere in the country as well. Similarly, new retail operations have been blossoming out around the country to cater to the increased demand from a newly-monied population that now can afford what previous generations could not. And, while the bulk of China’s domestic fur business is still in hats, trimmings and inexpensive garments, there also is growing demand for jackets and coats of mink and other fine furs. That mink prices are still rising despite the recent increase in world production – and the emergence of China as the largest producer – can be attributed to its huge increase in consumption.
The steady expansion of its industry has been accompanied by an increased Chinese presence at the major auctions. Not only do they now occupy most of the seats in the salesroom, but there are said to be an increasing number of manufacturers and retailers doing their own bidding, rather than through dealers or brokers as they formerly did. Kopenhagen’s training programs apparently are bringing results.
As to how big China’s fur industry has already grown, there are no official government figures. According to data gathered by the China Leather Association, fur sales rose 22.4% from the previous year and are expected to reach 16.42 billion yuan ($2.64 billion U.S. at the current rate of exchange) in the next two years.
This week’s sale attracted almost 800 buyers, Kopenhagen reported, with Hong Kong/China accounting for about 500 and dominating throughout. The 5.7 million mink were all sold at prices as much as 14% over December levels in Danish kroner.
MONTREAL — It can be difficult to walk a city block in Montreal these days without coming across a coyote, lynx, fox or raccoon.
Fur seems to be everywhere, as vintage coats get rejigged into stylish hats or even ear muffs and brand name jackets feature it on their collars.
The renewed popularity may be welcome among manufacturers and fashion lovers, but it has some animal rights activists concerned.
“This is something we’ve noticed that we take very seriously,” Thurston Sayara of the Humane Society said of the craze for fur accessories.
People aren’t always aware their parkas or hats are outfitted with real fur, she said, or may believe it comes from the scraps of animals already used to make coats.
“They don’t realize that most animals are killed for it,” she said.
Still, what was once most common among the affluent and the elderly has caught on with a young, hip crowd. This winter, collars, hats and other fur accessories flew from the shelves as soon as the first snow flakes fell.
Stephanie Bingham, co-owner of the Montreal shop La Founderie, said the fur revival began five or six years ago and has really taken off in the last two.
The rise in popularity is hard to explain, Bingham said, but the fact that many people are using vintage fur eliminates the ethical problem.
“I think it’s easier to incorporate a little bit of fur in your wardrobe rather than wearing a full coat,” Bingham said.
Sayara said the Humane Society considers the fur industry “particularly cruel” because it sells a luxury product that is no longer necessary, since artificial replacements are just as hot on the market.
For its part, the fur industry argues it plays a role in controlling the population of some species.
Alan Herscovici of the Fur Council of Canada said the coyote, whose fur is often used to decorate caps, is superfluous in some parts of the country, to the point that it causes problems for livestock producers.
“There are some who do not like the idea that we’re going to trap or hunt,” he said, but “we need to make a certain amount of trappings to keep a balance with wildlife populations and nature in the ecosystem. ”
The vast majority of fur comes from fur farms, however.
Teresa Eloy, also with the Fur Council, argues that animals at fur farms have to be treated well in order for their fur to be beautiful and lush.
These arguments don’t convince Danielle Katz of the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She argues animals suffer and emphasizes that many celebrities refuse to wear fur for ethical reasons, hoping that their young fans will follow suit.
Many clients, however, are more concerned with appearance than where the fur comes from, Bingham said.
Noemie Archambault, a 20-year-old wearing a coat with a fur-lined hood at a bus stop, said she didn’t even check whether it was real before buying it. Turns out it’s made with raccoon fur.
“It definitely bothers me, but at the same time it’s good quality and it will stay nice for a long time and it’s warm,” she said.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New regulations will protect the environment while supporting jobs and exports
New regulations introduced by the provincial government will ensure that lakes and watercourses are protected while allowing Nova Scotia mink farmers to respond to growing international demand for their products.
“Nova Scotia produces some of the finest mink in the world, and with the revival of fur in fashion and the emergence of important new markets in Russia and Asia, we expect continued strong growth over the coming years,” said Dan Mullen, president of the Nova Scotia Fur Breeders Association.
“These regulations will ensure that we will can continuing growing while protecting nature, which is as important to farmers as it is to anyone living in this beautiful province,” said Mullen
The new regulations announced by Agriculture Minister John MacDonell (January 11) will apply to farms with more than 100 mink or fox in their breeding herds. They establish procedures for the safe storage, treatment and disposal of manure, waste feed and carcasses. Some of the requirements include the development of a management plan by a professional engineer, surface water and soil monitoring, minimum distances for locating facilities away from property lines and water courses, and concrete pads for storing compost and solid manure.
“The new regulations will certainly involve additional responsibilities and costs for Nova Scotia mink farmers, but we fully support the need to ensure that we can continue growing without harming the environment,” said Mullen.
Fur farming is one of the fastest growing, rural-based industries in Nova Scotia, generating $140 million annually for the provincial economy and supporting more than 1,000 jobs. About one-half of the farmed mink produced in Canada are now raised in Nova Scotia.
For more information:
The European Court of Human Rights has banned the “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign by the animal rights group PETA. The campaign compares Holocaust victims to animals slaughtered for the food industry. The campaign was launched in Germany over a decade ago, and immediately antagonized the Jewish community, which initiated legal actions against it.
“The growth in inland China is really what’s driving growth at the moment and we think for the next 10 years or so that will continue to rise,” IFTF Chief Executive Mark Oaten said. “There are 90 cities in China that buy as much fur as New York.” Sales in North America were $1.3 billion last year, a third more than when anti-fur protest movements were at their height in the 1990s, according to IFTF figures.
The Velvet Underground: The threat of farm raids forced many of the state’s mink farmers into hiding. But the industry is still there – and thriving.
BY KRISTINE HANSEN – Milwaukee Magazine (December Issue)
In the fall of 1997, Peter Daniel Young and Justin Clayton Samuel drove around the state of Wisconsin in a red Geo Metro toting a list of fur farms, ski masks and bolt cutters – which the pair used to open wire fences and cages, and free thousands of mink. They then drove past Zimbal Minkery in Oostburg. Linda Zimbal, the wife of third-generation farm owner Bob Zimbal, recognized the car from a trade group list and called 911. The men were later arrested and became the first to be charged with animal-enterprise terrorism. They served two years in prison and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution.
That raid would have been the third on the Zimbal farm. The first happened in January 1996, when 400 mink were released into the night. In 1999, Gerry Krieger, who owns Krieger Farms in Bristol, was a target when 3,000 of his mink were released. “These animals are domestic,” says Michael Whelan, spokesperson for Fur Commission USA, a trade group representing mink farmers nationwide. “Within 24 hours, they die of dehydration. They die in the road because they confuse the sound of cars with feeding.”
Soon after the raids, many mink farmers went underground, so to speak, rarely talking to reporters and keeping a low profile in their communities. Few have a Web presence, and some opt for no signage outside of their farms.
But the industry remains, and it’s thriving. The price of mink pelts is at an all-time high, and the number of pelts produced each year has been steadily increasing. What’s more, a strong demand from China and other Eastern countries is reinforcing the foundation of this largely family-owned industry with strong (albeit hidden) roots in the community.
John Pagel, who owns Pagel Mink Ranch in Campbellsport, remembers hundreds of mink ranches existing when he was a child. “But a guy would have 50, maybe 100, mink,” he says, calling his farm a “bigger-small ranch,” producing 10,000 pelts annually. “The ones that are still here today, they really had to know what they are doing.”
Wisconsin’s mink-farming roots go back to the frontier days and are intertwined with other industries (meat packing, for example), similar to other mink pelt-producing states such as Utah and Idaho. “Wisconsin’s heritage with meat manufacturing creates a lot of scraps that are not fit for human consumption,” Whelan says. But they’re perfect for feed.
Every day, Krieger makes about 15,000 pounds of mink food (containing chicken, eggs, beef and chicken livers, cereal and cheese) and stores it in freezers until mealtime. He jokes his mink get fed better than his three children. High-quality scraps, Whelan says, yield mink pelts of a similarly high quality.
The Zimbals are a prime example. Third-generation farmers, theirs is the largest farm in North America, and their products are highly coveted. “The Zimbals have always produced the top quality in the world,” Whelan says. “People come to them to buy breeding stock.”
The mink are bred in March, and 40-50 days later, litters are born. In December or January, the mink are killed, and the pelts are removed, cleaned and shipped. All told, according to Pagel and Krieger, it costs about $35 to raise a mink. With the average price of a pelt hovering above $90, the profit potential is huge. The value of Krieger’s 33,000 pelts last year, for instance, would’ve been more than $3 million.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the average price of a mink pelt shot to $94.30 last year. It was $41.60 in 2008 and as low as $23.80 in 1992. The total value of mink pelts produced in the U.S. last year was $292 million, and Wisconsin produced a third of them. “The economic ramifications for Wisconsin are huge, probably close to $100 million last year alone,” Whelan says. “The people that work in the local Wal-Mart get a piece of that.” And the impact could get bigger. As the price per pelt increases, so does the number of pelts produced – up 19 percent in Wisconsin between 2010 and 2011.
When Krieger bought Krieger Farms from his father seven years ago, the farm had a mink herd of just over 12,000. Krieger has almost tripled that number. “Back when I was a teen, working on the farm, there were thousands of mink farms all over the U.S.,” Krieger says. Today there are 268. “The smaller farms are becoming larger. The growth is within the industry.”
Support for the farms remains strong from the surrounding communities, where they’re stitched into the fabric of rural areas as vital components of the economy. Whelan recalls chatting with a hardware-store owner in Medford who said if it weren’t for neighboring mink farms, he’d have gone out of business 10 years ago. The state’s mink farms cluster near Medford and Sheboygan, and others are scattered in places like Spring Green and Kenosha County.
Bob Zimbal experienced that care first hand after one of the raids on his farm. “It’s surprising the support you get from the community,” he says. “When we had the releases, neighbors came to catch them.”
Still, the threats of animal-rights groups and raids are ever-present, despite farmers’ attempts to stay hidden. The opposition to the fur industry comes from a belief that the animals are treated poorly and that wearing fur is morally wrong. “Animals are simply not ours to wear,” says Laura Wilson, a campaign manager at the Norfolk, Va., headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
But the farms have remained for decades, passed down through generations. Unlike many agriculture industries, mink farms are largely family-owned. Farmers are born into it. And Whelan maintains that’s why farmers stay in it. “They don’t do this to get rich,” he says. “They do it because it’s always been done.”
But could the end of the inherited farm be near? “As one generation passes on, other generations don’t want to continue the family business,” Whelan says. Although Krieger has three kids, no child has shown interest in continuing the tradition his grandfather started in 1946. Krieger says he’ll probably sell to an employee when he retires.
Pagel doesn’t have children but continues what his parents started in 1955. His father died in 2005, and Pagel took over. “He had left home and worked with mink from the time he was 15,” Pagel says of his father. “It was interrupted only by World War II. He was a prisoner of war. He never wanted to work in a factory.”
And even when times were tough, his parents would vow to hang on for “one more year,” Pagel says. They never gave up. Shortly after his father’s death, Pagel remarked, “If we don’t make this place bigger and better, we didn’t do anything at all.”
From runway to reality, Supermodels are admired for their statuesque style and striking beauty. Their wardrobes run the gamut from polished and sophisticated, to wild and fantastical. One constant that many of these GLAMAZONS can attest to is that fur fashion plays a big part of their story both on and off duty….
Every so often the misguided souls that call themselves ALF — short for the Animal Liberation Front — resurface and announce their latest “accomplishment” in an email or on the Internet. They “free” a few pheasants, chickens or ducks by trespassing and vandalizing a farm. They vandalize a fur or leather store. They go to a fish farm and free some salmon.
American counterterrorism officials consider those who commit violent acts in the name of the environment and animal rights a serious threat to homeland security. Senator James Inhofe noted that radical actors affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front had caused more than $110 million in damage between approximately 1995 and 2005.
No matter how original we think our style, we can’t help but concede the fact that those glossy print mags have given us a nudge, or two, down the right fashion path. So, here is a compilation of just some of the fur coverage we are seeing, hot off the August pages of the biggest fashion magazines.