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November
WeHo fur ban debate pulled from airing on the radio
November 7, 2011
A letter from Alan Herscovici


Dear Mr. Mayor and WeHo City Council,

I am the executive vice-president of the Fur Council of Canada, a national non-profit association with members representing all sectors of the fur trade, including aboriginal and other trappers, family fur farms and skilled craftspeople. I am writing you because I think you should be aware of how your city is being represented and perceived.

I was asked last Friday to participate in a debate about the proposed WeHo fur-sales ban, on "Q", a radio program broadcast nationally by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), as well as on NPR and internationally on cbc.ca. I was pleased to learn that the spokesperson defending the proposed ban would be John D'Amico, who i understand is the councilman most actively promoting this initiative. The debate was taped last Friday afternoon (for broadcast this morning), and the program alloted a full 30 minutes to ensure there would be adequate time for an intelligent exchange of ideas -- the ideal media format for a serious ethical discussion. Unfortunately, despite repeated prompting from the host, Mr. d'Amico failed to provide any reasonable justification for the proposed WeHo ban. In fact, he failed so completely to provide credible arguments that the producers of the program decided they could not run the segment at all!

In the time i was alloted, I told Mr. d'Amico that i was happy to speak with him because so much misinformation has been diseminated by activists. I explained that the modern fur trade is a responsible, sustainable and well-regulated industry: the furs we use are abundant; species are not endangered; more than $20 million has been spent to research humane trapping methods -- providing the scientific foundation for the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS), signed by Canada, Russia and the European Union (the USA signed a similar agreement.) I pointed out that every serious conservation organization (IUCN, WWF, UNEP) now supports the sustainable use of wildlife and other renewable natural resources. The International Fur Trade Federation's "Origin Assured" program identifies furs produced in countries where responsible production standards are in place. Not least important, the fur trade supports the livelihoods and cultures of hundreds of North American family farms, and thousands of aborginal and other trappers, many of whom live in remote regions where little alternative employment is available. These people do not need lessons from urban activist about respecting nature. If we care about protecting nature, we would do better to listen to the people who still choose to live close to the land. Finally, I questioned the moral justification for this initiative: i.e., if most people agree that we shouldn't wear fur, you don't have to ban it; if people aren't buying fur, stores will simply stop selling it! But apparently many people do not agree with Mr. D'Amico, so where is the moral justification for a ban --- especially in West Hollywood which, I understand, was created as a place of tolerance and respect for different lifestyle choices? Is this your brave new morality -- banning things that some people happen to not agree with? A slippery slope indeed!

I was looking forward to hearing how Mr. D'Amico would answer these concerns. Unfortunately, despite much rambling, he didn't. In fact, he spent much of his time basically agreeing with much of what i said. He acknowledged that the production side may be well regulated, but said he simply wanted to regulate the retail side (sic!) The host intervened to ask him to provide some justification for the ban he was proposing. Finally, the best Mr. D'Amico could offer was that we shouldn't wear the skins of other animals. I asked if that meant it was OK to wear fur pelts if we scrapped off the hair and wore them as leather. He didn't answer that either. (Of course, I understand that the activists pushing this campaign are actually against any use of animals, including for leather, wool or meat....but I don't think the councilman is being very open about that agenda.)

A half-hour after we finished taping, the producers called to say they would not run segment, because they felt that Mr. D'Amico had failed to provide any coherent arguments in favour of a ban. I said that the public had a right to hear him speak, since he has been the leader of this initiative. They responded that, with his failure to explain the moral justification for this proposal, they no longer believed that he was the leader, but rather a puppet being run by others. (Please note: Mr. D'Amico has suggested that the program was pulled because Canadians have different ideas about fur. In fact, if the CBC had wanted to help the fur trade, they would have run this segment in its entirety!)

In summary, this initiative is certainly putting a spotlight on West Hollywood, but I am not sure it is the sort of image you were hoping to project. I thought you should know.

Sincerely,

Alan Herscovici
Executive Vice President
Fur Council of Canada