Trapping is an inherently violent practice that is as unnecessary as it is cruel. APFA is committed to showing the public that there is no need to wear an animal's fur, and that educational coexistence approaches to managing human-wildlife interactions are not only compassionate, they are the most effective for dealing with so-called 'nuisance' wildlife.
Below are a few more reasons that APFA is opposed to trapping.
1. It is cruel. Wild animals don't want to be trapped.
Traps are designed to hold or kill a wild animal who does not want to be caught. As such, many animals die trying to free themselves, as well as from dehydration, blood loss and hypothermia. Many animals become so desperate, they resort to chewing or wringing off their own trapped limb in order to escape, breaking teeth and bones in the process. When the trapper finally returns, to avoid damaging the pelt, the animal is bludgeoned, choked, or stomped to death.
In Canada, regulations for trap checking vary depending on whether or not the trap is a 'restraining trap' (leg-hold) or a 'killing trap' (Conibear, snare). Generally speaking, trap checking times range from once every 24 hours to once every 14 days. As if this isn't haunting enough, these regulations are largely unenforceable, which means untold amounts of animal suffering goes undocumented and uninvestigated.
Our film, Crying Shame, contains video taken by a licensed trapper on a registered trapline during trapping season. The traps depicted in this video are all legal in Canada, and all cameras were automatic (no humans approached the trapped animals).
No modification or cosmetic alteration can change the reality: all traps are weapons intended to hold or kill an animal who did not want to die. Additionally, traps are indiscriminate and will capture and/or kill 'non-target' animals, including endangered species, birds, deer, and even our dogs and cats.
2. Trapping disrupts our ecosystems.
More than 730,000 animals are trapped and killed in Canada each year. Some of these animals include: badgers, bears, beavers, bobcats, cougars, coyotes, ermines, fishers, foxes, lynx, martens, mink, muskrats, otters, rabbits, raccooons, seals, skunks, squirrels, wolves and wolverines. Despite industry claims, these animals are not 'harvested' because they are surplus, weak or diseased, but rather because they happen to be one of the 20 species in Canada (out of an estimated 140,000) who has soft, thick fur.
There are several critical dimensions that must be considered when discussing the impact trapping has on the environment. To begin, it is becoming more widely understood just how vital a role furbearing animals play in our ecosystems. For example, 50% of North America's threatened or endangered species rely on beaver wetlands for their survival. We cannot reasonably expect to deliberately (and unnecessarily) interfere with their population dynamics without expecting far reaching and potentially serious consequences.
There is perhaps no better example of these consequences than a New York Times article ("Hunting Habits of Wolves Change Ecological Balance in Yellowstone"), which revealed that when wolves were exterminated in Yellowstone Park in the United States in the early 20th century, it resulted in a soaring elk population. The larger elk population led to the decline of aspen, cottonwood and willow trees that were crucial components of natural habitat for birds, beavers, and other animals. Additionally, the coyote population skyrocketed, dramatically reducing the population of deer and ground squirrels, which then negatively impacted the mid-level predators like foxes, hawks, owls and pine martens. The downward spiral of the ecological balance within Yellowstone Park persisted until the successful reintroduction of Canadian gray wolves in 1995.
While the Fur Council of Canada pitches its members as "practicing conservationists," the reality is that the fur industry kills as many animals as they can sell. Anyone familiar with the fur trade knows it has a long track record of helping turn so-called "renewable" species into threatened, endangered and/or extinct ones. These species include the North American Sea Mink, now extinct as a result of relentless trapping, and the Newfoundland Marten, of which only 300-600 remain. Closer to the border, Canadian trappers are being credited with driving the U.S. wolverine population close to extinction, thanks in large part to the fact that wolverine pelts fetch an average of $400 per pelt.
As if this isn't problematic enough, because traps are indiscriminate, millions of "non-target" animals are also caught and killed, including dogs, cats, and numerous endangered species. For example, in January 2011, a Manitoba trapper found a dead, full grown male cougar in his trap (which was meant for coyotes). The cougar is listed as a protected species, so under the law the trapper had to report it to Manitoba Conservation. The cougar was only the fourth found in the province since 1973.
Lastly, the majority of trapping in Canada occurs on registered traplines (on federally owned land) with some as big as 500 square miles. In order for trappers to travel to, and patrol their traplines in the woods, as well as to transport dead animals and trapping equipment, automobiles and/or snowmobiles are routinely used. In fact, many traplines actually run along makeshift roads so that trappers can drive along from trap to trap. While the industry likes to hark back to the history of trapping, modern trapping relies heavily on fossil fuels.
3. Trapping regulations/enforcement/monitoring is weak.
Trapping regulations are weak and extremely difficult to enforce, particularly because the number of enforcement officers assigned to this responsibility is disturbingly inadequate.
For example, according to 2013 documents provided to us by the province of British Columbia, there are only 87 field officers in the BC Conservation Officer Service. British Columbia's land area is 944,735 square kilometres (364,800 sq mi). That averages 1 Conservation Officer per 11,000 km2.
As stated in a 2007 survey of environmental law enforcement and compliance in the province of British Columbia by West Coast Environmental Law, “[t]he new policy on deregulation, together with lack of staffing capacity meant that enforcement actions plummeted [in 2007] by more than half”.
At the federal level, spending on wildlife protection and ecosystem monitoring has also been slashed.
4. Trapping kills our dogs and cats.
Traps are indiscriminate, which means that any person or animal (including pets and endangered species), young or old, can and do get caught in traps. The reported numbers are consistently disturbing. For example, the American Veterinary Medical Association reports that 'non-target animals' can account for up to 67% of total catch.
On November 22, 2012, Rob Shura and his six-year-old dog, Pippin, were in the middle of a jointly adored routine. First, they went to get the mail from the post office, and then they headed to a popular hiking trail in Grand Bend Provincial Park, Manitoba. About 75 metres in, Pippin let out a yelp, and Rob ran towards the sound of her voice. To his horror, he found she had been caught by a Conibear trap placed within 30 feet of the trail (a completely legal act). He fought relentlessly to free her, but could not release the springs. She died in his arms after several minutes of struggle. A few weeks later, an 11-year-old lab named Niki was killed by a trap in B.C. And only weeks before this, a dog named Sophie narrowly escaped with her life after encountering a trap in the same region.
There is almost no incentive for trappers to report non-target catches, especially if they are endangered species (which could result in penalization) and there is virtually no way to enforce the laws that make it illegal to catch endangered species. And because traps literally don't have the capacity to discriminate, there is no way to prevent non-target catches. For a more list of reported non-target animals who have been caught in traps, click here.