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Activists demand end to fur farming

Fur farm north of Guelph among those targeted by demonstrators

A coalition of animal rights groups, including the Guelph Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (GSETA), will stage a series of demonstrations at a number of Ontario fur farms over the weekend.

One of those, Ted Parkinson Fur Farm, is about 20 minutes north of Guelph on Fourth Line. The longstanding family business raises mink and harvests the furs, marketing them internationally.

Activists will congregate there on Sunday beginning at noon. A number of the demonstrators will camp overnight Saturday at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area.

The #EndFurFarming campaign is demanding that the Government of Ontario ban fur farming, calling it a business based on animal cruelty.

Groups from the Greater Toronto Area and Kitchener-Waterloo will stage protests at five fur related businesses, most of them fur farms including ones in Norwich, Niagara Falls, Wilmot, Toronto and Guelph-Eramosa. The demonstrations have been scheduled such that those wishing to can attend all five of them.

Ted Parkinson Fur Farm was contacted for comment on the protest but directed to International Fur Federation vice-president and spokesperson Nancy Daigneault.

Reached by telephone, she said the demonstrators represent “a small, vocal minority of people who feel this way.” The fur industry, she said, is well regulated in Canada.

Federation members, she said, produce a high quality fur product, and adhere to strict production conditions. She said a mink code of practice has been developed to ensure a standard of best practice across the industry. A certification process is underway, one that will involve inspections by independent experts to ensure compliance.

“Canada was founded on the fur trade, and we have a lot to be proud of,” she said. “And I think it’s just a small minority of people who are wanting everyone to give up meat, and the wearing of leather and fur.”

Malcolm Klimowicz speaks for the activists. He said fur farm animals like fox, mink and chinchillas spend their entire lives in confinement, in foul and filthy conditions. There is a lack of inspection and accountability, and no protection for the animals.

Klimowicz knew only a few details about the Parkinson farm, calling it a “large factory farm,” and one that enlists University of Guelph researchers.  

According to a video about the business found on Youtube, U of G animal science graduate studies have conducted research there related to animal behaviour and welfare. In the video, farm owner Ted Parkinson, who has been in the business for 30 years, said odourless carbon monoxide gas is used to quickly kill the animals for harvest, calling the process “easy on the mink” and the operators.

Klimowicz said there is no undercover video showing conditions at Ted Parkinson Fur Farm, but there is footage of other Ontario fur farms that shows cages that have not been cleaned, no access to water for the animals, and “piles of excrement filled with maggots.”

“There is a lot of scientific evidence now that shows that the current housing systems aren’t taking care of the animals’ basic needs,” Klimowicz said. He added the Ontario SPCA has not conducted any fur farm investigations for a number of years.

“These animals are killed essentially for decoration,” he said. “We think that’s cruel.”

According to numbers provided by the International Fur Federation, mink is raised on more than 200 family-run farms across Canada. The value of Canadian fur exports was over $300 million in 2015, with more than 60,000 Canadians working in various sectors of the fur trade - as trappers, fur farmers, craftspeople, and other support sectors.

The fur trade worldwide is now valued at more than $40 billion, according to the International Fur Federation.