NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

War Against Fur Canada Hastens Decline of Environment

February 6, 2003

The unintended consequences of the war against fur have hurt the livelihoods of thousands of Canadian Indians, and have enticed them to replace their lost incomes by welcoming into unspoiled areas the oil, gas and mining interests they once opposed.

The collapse of the fur trade was a disaster for people who are guardians of the environment, say observers.

  • Trappers who once used to report to environmental groups when logging companies were clear-cutting forests or to the Canadian military when low-flying jets were disrupting caribou herds are no longer in a position to perform those custodial roles.
  • Populations of wolves, once killed by trappers to protect the skins of animals caught in their traps, have soared to the detriment of buffalo and caribou herds.
  • An explosion in the population of beavers, which were almost extinct a century ago but now number an estimated 20 million in Canada, has caused the flooding of farmland as the animals eagerly pursue their dam-building.

"I'm still bitter about what was done to us," said Stephen Kakfwi, the premier of the Northwest Territories. "We pleaded with Greenpeace and the others. We told them we will have to turn to oil and gas and mining for jobs if they took such a hard stance against the import of wild furs to Europe."

Hunting seals was central to a way of life for the 45,000 Inuit who used blubber for fuel and skins for clothing and tents and insulation for their igloos and wooden huts. That way of life is now almost gone, replaced by an emerging urban landscape on the tundra. Seal meat has been replaced largely by a modern diet high in unsaturated fats and sugar, raising local rates of diabetes.

Source: Clifford Krauss, "The War Against the Fur Trade Backfires, Endangering a Way of Life," New York Times, February 4, 2003.


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