A group of Canadians who believed in peacefully co-existing with wild animals, and wanted to reduce the suffering of these animals, formed a group in 1944 which still shares the same goals.
The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals (also known as the Fur-Bearer Defenders) exposes the cruelty involved in trapping and on fur farms, as well as the import of dog and cat fur.
Based in Burnaby, British Columbia, the organization tries to help wildlife wherever possible.
Lesley Fox, executive director of the association, said that the campaigns currently being stressed the most are abolishing the commercial fur trade (through education, public service announcements/advertising, and asking companies to go fur-free) banning dog and cat fur in Canada, and creating opportunities to co-exist with wildlife (mainly through education, outreach, and working with municipal governments).
"When working to protect animals, the biggest obstacles are in trying to change people's perceptions of animals," she explained. "Many people simply regard animals as playthings, commodities, or in many cases, a "nuisance". Working to encourage people to develop empathy for animals is never easy.
"Also, money. The fur industry is a billion dollar industry and they spend a great deal of funds on marketing. Trying to combat those images of fur as a fashion can be difficult on a shoestring budget."
Fur Bearer Defenders
Lynx in trap
Despite the obstacles, the association has been able to influence the European Parliament to ban the import of fur coming from any country still using the leg-hold trap (although Canada, the USA and Russia would later be exempt from this ban), publish more than 250 newsletters exposing all aspects of fur industry cruelty, launch many advertising campaigns, speak out publicly about cruelty, expose cruelty through videos and photos, influencing Members of Parliament to bring the issue into the House of Commons, offer humane solutions to beaver-related conflicts, and develop the first “Living With Wildlife” Canadian conference.
"I become involved because I have always had a natural love for animals, even as a child," said Fox. "From a very young age, I have been taking various actions to help animals, all animals, every way I can. Working for an organization such as the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals was a natural step."
She added that the most helpful thing people can do to stop the cruelty animals suffer because of the fur trade is to simply not buy or wear fur or fur trim.
She also encourages people to help spread awareness by sharing the organization's website, posting their videos on social media networks and by becoming a member or volunteer. Lobbying government is another helpful step people can take, and the group's website currently has a petition to end the import of cat and dog fur in Canada.
She finds that when it comes to wild animals an unreasonable fear sometimes creates problems.
"While I believe that a reasonable level of fear of wildlife is healthy - it helps keep wildlife away from us and us away from wildlife - all too often people are too quick to panic," she explained. "Whether it is the fault of the media, or growing up with fables about "the big bad wolf" - when people spot a coyote or bear, people tend to sound the alarm unnecessarily. In many cases an animal is just passing through and is posing no immediate threat. We should be thankful that we were even lucky enough to see the animal in the first place!"
The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals works closely with the Critter Care Wildlife Society, who provides the hands-on care for injured and orphaned wildlife. One of the animals helped through this partnership is Rosie, a mink who ended up in a BC home in December. Because she was unusually friendly, being carried into the centre in the arms of a young girl, it is believed that she had been a captive animal. The centre hopes to help her learn to hunt and release her in the wild in the spring.
Two other animals who were taken to the centre are Lenny and Lucy, young beavers who were found on the exit ramp of a highway.
"Critter Care's investigation showed that road workers dismantled a beaver dam a few days before the two beavers were found," said Fox. "Unfortunately we were not able to find their family or any signs of a new beaver dam in the area. At their arrival in June the baby beavers were about eight weeks old, too young to be on their own, so Critter Care took them into care."
About one million animals are trapped for their fur and another million are killed on fur farms in Canada every year. Many of these animals suffer for long periods before they are killed.
"I think we have a duty to protect animals," added Fox. "We are all interconnected. When thinking about animals, there tends to be this attitude of "us" and "them". But really, it's all part of a whole ecosystem. We rely on animals, these fragile ecosystems for our vary survival. We need to learn to be gentle, tolerate and humble."