Since the beginning of the animal rights movement in nineteenth century London, many ideas about the rights and feelings of animals have been subject of many protests, riots, and demonstrations (Guither 1998). The anti-fur movement developed from the more general animal rights movement to oppose the use of animals for fur as well as hunting, trapping, whaling, or capture of animals for use in zoos.

Woman participating in an anti-fur process

When the anti-fur movement began it used many types of media campaigns to try and change the public opinion of fur. By targeting mainly middle to upper class women some organizations were able to guilt many people into removing fur from their wardrobe. The result was a very drastic decline in the use of fur resulting in a decline in the prices of hunted fur. This had an unforeseen consequence on the indigenous peoples living in Canada who’s economy depends heavily on fur production.

As I’ve studied this social movement I’ve come to see some of the impact it has had on the people of Canada. It served to bring attention to many people of some of the poor practices of hunters or fur farms. Without this movement many people would be unaware of the things that had happened to many animals in order to make a fur coat. However, by changing the publics opinion fur went from an expensive product to something much cheaper. This had a very negative impact on many native tribes living in Canada. My personal opinion is that the anti-fur movement has done some good and some bad. More laws and regulations for fur farming and hunting are now in effect because of the impact they have had. This is wonderful because I truly believe that if  humans are going to use animals it should be in a safe, and humane way. I also think that they have done bad by making many people think that fur in itself is something bad. I think that wearing fur is perfectly acceptable, so long as you are an educated consumer and support local, safe fur production. Everything in moderation is my moto for many things in life, and I think it again applies here. Fur is an important industry and if everyone turns their back on it there will be negative consequences. However, we need to remember that fur is a resource we are taking from living, breathing animals and we must respect that. Fur should only be used if the most strict laws and regulations of safe practice are followed.



Guither, Harold                                                                                                                                     1998 Animal Rights: History and Scope of a Radical Social Movement. SIU Press





Anti-Fur Movement and Protest

This blog post takes a look at how activists within the anti-fur movement feel about protesting and how they want to display their cause to the public. Within any social movement many different groups around the world assemble to discus issues, provide support for each other, and often protest for what they believe in. Protests can arise in many different forms, they can include legal forms of political activity such as attending demonstration, boycotts, or signing petitions (Roller 1996). They can also become illegal activities which in turn may be violent or non-violent. Some examples of non-violent illegal protests are occupying areas or unofficial strikes, violent illegal protests can include many things like vandalizing property or attacking people opposing you.

Any organization interesting in forming a protest must plan out what type of protest they wish to have, which can prove to be a difficult thing. Often many people will differ on their ideals and some people will always want to be more radical than others. Another concern of many people protesting is their desire to be taken seriously (Goodwin 2001). Protesters want to be heard and want media attention, but do not want their voice to be be one only saying “look at this outrageous protest” and missing the point of the protest all together. A common type of protest among many anti-fur organizations has been to parade naked, playing off PETA’s famous slogan “I’d rather go naked than wear fur”. This type of protest will most definitely turn heads, but some activists think this type of protest is getting the wrong sort of attention and fails to bring forwards the important issues they are trying to discuss (Goodwin 2001).

Protesters bearing all in anti-fur protest

Protesting is certainly a good way to generate interest in a social movement, however the type of protest that you use can say a lot about your group. Any sort of violent or illegal protest may bring unwanted attention. The anti-fur movement has received criticism for campaigns and protests that include a lot of shock value, but no real susbstance.


Roller, Edeltraud                                                                                                                          1996 Contexts of Political Protest in Western Democracies: Political Organization and Modernity. Berlin.

Goodwin, Jeff                                                                                                                                         Animal Rights and the Politics of Emotion: Folk Constructs of Emotions in The Animal Rights Movement. In Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movement pg. 212-229. University of Chicago Press.


Fashion Returns to Fur

This blog post will take a more current look at fur, and how it has recently found its way back into high fashion. It is a well known fact that fashions trends come and go. I personally remember being younger and shopping for pants with the widest flare leg possible, and know find myself in skinny jeans. Fashion is constantly changing and cycling and is always influenced by popular opinion. After the rise of the anti-fur movement the fur industry suffered greatly, and fur was seen as a cruel, unnecessary commodity. In the first few years of the 21st century fur began to slowly find its way back in to fashion as trimmings on coats and accents on accessories (Skov 2005). Slowly but surely it made its way back and by 2004 the Italian fashion scene was displaying luxurious silver fox and lynx furs (Skov 2005).

A model wears fur in the 2004-2005 Milan fashion week

From 2000-2005, the market for fur has seen huge increases, up to ten percent each year. In 1980 due to the pressure from the anti-fur movement less than 50 fashion designers used fur and in 2003 there was over 400 designers using fur (Skov 2005). This is a very clear indication of how the public opinion of fur in fashion has changed. Not long ago it was socially unacceptable to be wearing a fur coat, but it seems those opinions have begun to fade and consumers are returning to their desire to be clad in fur.

This time around the fur industry is prepared for the protesting of the anti-fur movement, with education programs and information campaigns they have set out to show that the fur industry is a responsible one. Many fur farms and auctions are open and allow visitation to send a clear message that humane practices are being followed. A very thought provoking point has been made that if handled correctly, fur is a renewable resource and is in fact more environmentally friendly than many of the oil-based synthetics used to replace fur. Personally, I’m not sure if I can agree with that statement, but it’s demonstrating a step forward in the fur industry.



Skov, Lise

2005 The Return of the Fur Coat: A Commodity Chain Perspective. Current Sociology 53:(9):10-32.




Seal Hunt

In 1967, the Canadian seal hunt was once again put under inspection and the “Save the Seals Campaign” took off in Canada (Wenzel 1987). The International Fund for Animal Welfare and Greenpeace were the main organizations involved at this time and continued on through out the 1970s. Protests at this time were focused on using media to spread their message and pressure the Canadian government to exert control over the seal hunters. Initially, this movement was intended to focus solely on the killing of harp and ringed seal in Canada. However, as this movement gained support around the world, the focus shifted to a more general concern for animal welfare.(Wenzel 1987). The main concern began to be about human exploitation of animal species. As people became concerned with animal rights they pushed the government to impose laws and regulations on the number of seals hunted, and hours allowed to be spent on the hunt.

During 1973-74, the average prices for seal skins were $16.00 for an adult, and $45.00 for a pup. By 1977 many Inuit communities were looking at seal skin prices well below $2.50. (Wenzel 1987). On top of dwindling prices for seal skins, the Inuit hunters were also faced with higher costs for the required materials for hunting.

In 1882, the European Economic Community imposed a ban on seal skin products (Wenzel 1987). It was at this point that Inuit communities began protests of their own to protect their rights and culture.


Wenzel, George

1987 “I Was Once Independent”: The Southern Seal Protest and Inuit. Anthropologica 29:2 195-210.

Fur in Canada

This post will look at how the fur trade disrupted the lives of northern hunters and began to permanently change their way of life.

Alexander Mackenzie and George Simpson both travelled to northern British Columbia during the 18th and 19th century (Brody 1981). Their personal journals reveal information of early interactions between Europeans and the Sekani and Beaver peoples. The opinions of both men show how stereotypes of “savages” living in the New World came to be. In Europe fine furs were in very high demand, and selling at very high prices. Upon arriving in northern British Columbia traders realized the peoples living there survive on hunting and trapping. It was clear that a successful fur trade would depend on the exploitation of these talents. In order to create a working relationship the European traders wanted to make the hunters dependent on the goods provided by the trade. A major way to ensure this would happen was to provide liquor, which they had not previously used (Brody 1981). By enticing the hunters with goods such as alcohol, they were ensuring a steady source of furs and a continued profit for the European trading companies without considering the negative affects of the indigenous people.

The way Europeans exerted control over the hunters in northern British Columbia helped fuel negative stereotypes. In government reports, the natives of British Columbia were depicted as “primitive..insolent…cruel…suffer extremely from drunkenness and tuberculosis” (Brody 1981:59). This unfair stereotype does not adress the fact that liquor and tuberculosis are both things brought over from European traders. The native people have been bombarded by a new culture invading their home and have yet become accustomed to it.

The Beaver and Sekani people living in northern British Columbia have lived there for a very long time, successfully living off their land. Through many years of learning and evolution they have developed an understanding of their land, it’s inhabitants and how to ensure continued life. At the onset of the fur trade, many Europeans began trapping of their own among the land of the natives. The natives had very precise ways of hunting and trapping to ensure no species was harmed, which including leaving some areas free of trapping for many years while focusing on other areas (Brody, 1981). As the European trappers began their own trapping style on the same land, there was an obvious conflict. While European trappers believed that they had sole authority over the land they were trapping on, native hunters believed in shared practices and followed their long standing traditions (Brody 1981).

This provides another example of how lack of communication and cooperation creates problems that did not exist in the first place. Without communications between natives and european trappers over hunting of specific species occurs and fuels people’s criticisms of the fur trade.


Brody, Hugh

Maps and Dreams 1981 [1988,2004]. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

Fur Trade and Cree History


This blog post will look at how the fur trade paved the way for lasting relationships between the Canadian government and Cree populations living in the James Bay area. Relationships between indigenous Canadians and government bodies have always been difficult because of very different goals and beliefs. While in some instances government involvement has been harmful, in others it has been able to benefit many people.

The James Bay area saw the beginning of the fur trade in the 1670s, mainly established by the london-based company, Hudson’s Bay Company (Feit 2004). The fur trade was established on the ground of mutual cooperation between the Cree people living in the area and traders from London representing the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC). By providing very easy to produce products to the Cree people HBC was able to make very high profits. The furs provided by the Cree people were substantially more costly to produce, however the animals that were being hunted were the main source of subsidence for the Cree people so trading their furs were a convenient to acquire new goods from HBC.

A Hudson's Bay Trading Center

This deal was beneficial because HBC was able to sell furs in Europe which developed a very high demand, by trading items comparably cheap. By providing the Cree with new types of weapons they were also able to ensure more and faster production of fur. (Feit 1899). This allowed the Cree to continue hunting based on their own organization, giving them the feeling of control over their land. To try and ensure that the Cree people would be tied in to their trade, traders often adopted Cree customs of reciprocity, providing gifts to confirm a trading relationship. It was important to the Crees that they remained in control of their land and how they hunted. “The traders records are replete with the difficulties of getting Crees to trap more than was required” (Feit 2004:99). Although the relationship between the Cree hunters and HBC were not entirely equal, it provided both sides with beneficial returns. In Cree stories the fur trade is often told as “a satisfying exchange” (Feit 2004:100), but it is also seen as being overly profitable for HBC and unfair. However it was for a long time, a system of mutual reciprocity.

The fur trade set up existing and lasting relationships with the Canadian Government for the Cree people. They were allowed to continue to run their land as they wanted, governed by their own leaders. As the anti-fur movement began and pressured governments to put limits on hunting and trapping, the Cree people were no longer allowed to govern themselves by their own belief system. This could be once source of tension between the Cree people and current government affairs.



Feit, Harvey

2004 In The Way of Development. London: Zed Books






Canadian Hunters

I now want to focus on the fur trade and it’s relationship to the hunters of Canada. Many of the people living in the far north such as the Inuit and Eskimo rely on hunting and trapping as their way of life. The fur trade is a huge part of their economy, and the anti-fur movement has had a large impact on them. This blog post will briefly explore the ways that these people rely on animals and their fur. Through out this blog post I will be referring to ‘Northern Hunters’, by this I mean the hunting societies living in the far north of Canada.

Living in such a harsh, and remote climate the people living in the Canadian north must know how to live off the land. By using the resources provided to them by their surroundings they have a very successful society. Animals that are trapped or hunted provide many uses, and very little of the animal goes to waste. (Brody 1987) Almost the entire animal is used for clothing, tools or becomes part of their diet. “Brain are rubbed into hides as a skin softener and preservative…tendons are used to make thread. Seal windpipes and intestines can serve as snow house windows.” (Brody 1987:57). Fish skins, ptarmigan bladders, fish eyes, duck feet, bones, and wings all find a way to become a useful part of these hunter’s lifestyle.  For the Inuit people, their hunting strategies require the hunter to be outside for many hours at a time. They require the use of heavy furs to be able to stay alive while hunting.

Meat is the most important part of the diet for those living in the north, because very little vegetation is able to grow. Berries are available to harvest, but most abundant is fish and mammals. Eating animals provides essential nutrients that would otherwise be unavailable. Lichens and mosses cannot be digested by the human digestive system, and therefore rely on meat and fat from animals, which can easily be digested and turned into nutrients in the human body (Brody 1987).

It is clear that people living in the north depend highly on animals to stay alive. This has given animals a very important role in the culture of these societies. Although the hunter kills the animals, the hunter is completely reliant upon these animals for his/her survival. This creates equality between the hunter and the animals he hunts. “Ultimately, no one ca be superior to that upon which he depends.”(Brody 1987:73). Athapaskan and Algonquian hunters believe that the animal is the one who agrees to be killed, by showing itself to the hunter in a dream. It once again shows its acceptance of its death by allowing the hunter to find the animal and allows itself to be caught. The Dene, Cree Naskapi, and Inuit hunters believe that animals have very important spiritual power. Their success and happiness is dependent on having harmonious relationships with the environment and the animals that they hunt. Inuit people believe that species that are not hunted will decline in numbers (Brody 1987). This reciprocal relationship between hunter and animals creates great respect for the animal for without them, the hunters would die.


When the New World was discovered by Europeans hunter’s way of life changed. For the first time there were other people hunting the same animals as them, which created a flux in population numbers and distributions. When northern hunting people became involved in the fur trade to acquire rifles and other luxuries, the population of beavers began to decline at an alarming rate (Brody 1987). An agreement between Hudson’s Bay, trappers, and the government was made and the beaver population began once again to thrive.  “Since the recovery of the beaver population, there has been no other example in the Canadian north of Inuit or Indian hunters’ and trappers’ activities threatening the stocks of any animal species” (Brody 1987:79). The hunters of the Canadian north have lived off their land and the animals on it for years and have a clear understanding how to conserve animal populations. If they did not have this knowledge they would have quickly died out when there were no more animals left to hunt. The Canadian federal government has become involved in hunting and trapping quotas to help ensure the conservation of all animal species. There has been mixed reactions to this involvement from the Inuit communities (Brody 1987).

All hunters, from the north or south, can agree that conservation is key. Hunters’ economy is still heavily reliant upon the fur trade, and the anti-fur campaign is making this difficult. Prices of fur have dropped, and a very negative stereotype of northern hunters has been created. Again, I believe that this is a problem that could be helped by people educating themselves before forming an opinion. From the small amount of research I have done it seems clear to me that all the northern hunting societies have great respect for animals and would never practice any cruel hunting techniques.

In Hugh Brody’s book “Living Arctic: Hunters of the Canadian North” he included a quote from an interview he conducted in Fort Good Hope. I want to also include this quote in my blog because I feel it really captures the attitudes of the northern Canadian Hunters.

“This land is like our blood because we live off the animals that feed off the land…We are not like the white people. We worry about our land because we make our living off our land. The white people they live on money. That’s why they worry about money.”

Lois Caesar – Fort Good Hope, 1977






Brody, Hugh

1987 Living Arctic: Hunters of the Canadian North Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.