Finnish department store drops fur, politicians drop their jaws

The lobbying of the fur industry is pervasive in ways that are sometimes hard to see until they’ve hit you in the face – and that’s what a Finnish department store is dealing with this week after announcing they were dropping fur products.

According to Yle Uutiset (a Finnish television news program), Sokos, a department store owned by S-Group, a cooperative retail company, announced they were dropping fur last Thursday (December 8, 2016).

The original announcement was that the company was dropping fur products, because “It's important to us that our range has animal products and raw materials that meet the highest standards of animal rights and we take care of animals' welfare.”

And that’s when it got interesting. A group of parliamentarians from the Central Party denounced the decision, claiming that Finnish fur is the world’s most ethical (which is the same thing said by every country that kills animals for their fur).

“The MPs say the Sokos decision endangers domestic fur production,” Yle Uutiset reported. “They argue that if Finnish production moves overseas, then animal welfare standards will decline. They accused Sokos of populism and urged people to boycott the store over the issue.”

Setting aside the wildly ironic claim of populism and the illogical welfare standard decline theorem made in their arguments, these politicians have entered a cycle all too familiar to animal welfare advocates of all stripes: vote pandering.

Politicians of all stripes covet rural votes, and, for some of the more desperate vote panderers, any time any activity distantly associated with rural life is contested, the stage-shock and claws come out. It doesn’t matter that fur farming is about a price-fluctuating commodity rather than a resource (like virtually all other farming), or that very few people are benefiting economically from fur farms (they create part-time, seasonal, minimum wage jobs in Canada, for example), they jump to defend the well-tarnished honour of the accused industry. This creates some bemusing, but ultimately harmful, policy and rhetoric. And that’s what’s happened here.

Sokos retracted their original statement on welfare concerns, and instead said that there’s simply not enough demand in their stores to continue carrying fur. Yle Uutiset was told by a Sokos spokesperson that, “furs might just come back to the Sokos offerings, if demand picks up,” but that is unlikely because, “customer demand for fur products has been dropping for years.”

Simple facts and sound business judgement wasn’t enough for the politicians, however, who are suggesting a boycott is in order.

While the political ordeal facing our friends in Finland needs some managing, and perhaps a lesson in how populism and nepotism works for the Central Party MPs, it does have a good message: fur sales are on the steady decline.Every time a major retailer officially or unofficially stops selling fur, it’s typically either an ethical decision after seeing the truth about fur farms and trapping, or because their consumer base has learned the truth and refuses to buy the product. And every retailer that stops selling fur gets us one step closer to knowing we can #MakeFurHistory.

Photo of a fox in a Quebec fur farm

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