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Canada's Government Needs To Stop Providing Subsidies for Fur

01/09/2015 06:03 EST | Updated 03/11/2015 05:59 EDT

Recent polling shows more than two-thirds of Canadians are in favour of a national ban on keeping wild animals in cages their whole lives, only to kill them for their fur. Yet government policy has yet to catch up with public opinion, as both provincial and federal governments continue to not only allow fur farming, but actually go so far as to waste taxpayer dollars promoting and subsidizing this cruel, environmentally damaging and economically unsustainable industry.

Global fur prices have plummeted over the past year by as much as 60 per cent. As a result, fur farmers in Nova Scotia have been applying en masse for government bailouts, leading to the recent approval of $20 million in federal and provincial emergency funds to keep this dying industry afloat. All but three of the 96 fur farms in the province are vying to get a piece of this new pot of public cash.

To understand the 60 per cent dip in fur prices, one must first look to China, the world's largest purchaser of Canadian fur. Chinese authorities have recently set strict regulations cracking down on the spending of lavish, unnecessary luxury products such as shark fins and fur for government officials, thus drastically lowering demand for these products. Meanwhile, growing public awareness of the inherent cruelty of factory fur farms and trapping has contributed to a general decline in demand for animal fur in a number of other countries, including the U.S. There is no reason to believe the demand will come back.

This is not just a matter of governments being out of touch with the ethics and concerns of the majority of Canadians who want an end to fur farming. It's also a blatant misspending of the hard-earned taxpayer dollars the provincial and federal governments are entrusted to manage. It would be far more prudent and reflective of Canadian values to use this money to invest in new, sustainable entrepreneurial initiatives and retraining for struggling fur farmers, rather than handouts to keep the industry on artificial life support.

Keeping wild animals trapped in cages and killing them by gassing or anal electrocution is inherently inhumane, and the toxic runoff from fur farms and the chemicals used to treat fur are extraordinarily harmful to the environment. This is why Humane Society International/Canada and thousands of Canadians are calling for a federal ban on fur farming. Such a prohibition might be unnecessary if it weren't for subsidies. The industry would probably come to an end on its own if the flow of guaranteed tax dollars going straight into its coffers were suddenly halted.

According to recent news reports, it takes about $50 to produce a single mink pelt, but now the industry cannot sell those pelts for any more than $40, meaning that each pelt costs fur farmers $10 rather than providing a profit. Canadian taxpayers are forced to make up the difference, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

Subsidies can sometimes be justified to support industries supplying essential products and services such as food, shelter, transportation and energy, but they are completely inappropriate for a useless luxury product such as fur.

One does not have to be an expert in animal welfare nor economics to recognize that it is bad policy to use public funds to pay for an industry that relies on cruelty to animals on a massive scale, only to create a product that nobody needs, and fewer people than ever want. The markets and the public have already said "no" to fur. It's time for the government to match pace and move towards an end to fur farming in Canada -- starting with an end to subsidies.

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