Portlands no place for fur

My View • Protesters use their passion to inform consumers

The owners of Schumacher Furs &Outerwear have sheared, shaved and dyed the truth regarding recent demonstrations outside their business to the point where, like some of the fur coats they sell, it hardly resembles the animal from whence it came.

Gregg and Linda Schumacher have been crying wolf to reporters and Portland police, making headlines with their claims that protesters are running them out of town with death threats.

Across the AM talk show dial, the furriers have complained that city leaders, instead of protecting their business, are showing them the door.

In all the media hoopla, hardly a word has been uttered about the real victims, the millions of beavers, foxes, mink and other animals killed for fur in the U.S. alone, and the untold numbers of critters in China, the source of much of the fur sold in the U.S.

I have attended most of the demonstrations where, every Saturday since Thanksgiving, animal advocates have gathered at 12:30 p.m. on the public sidewalk outside of 811 S.W. Morrison St. to speak up for the original owners of the coats hanging on Schumacher's racks.

With protests originally scheduled to last only through Christmas, In Defense of Animals' objective always has been to educate people about the inherent cruelty of the fur industry, not to put Schumacher out of business.

The strategy is simple: Portlanders are compassionate, and most will make humane consumer choices when given accurate information.

I don't claim that all of the protesters have always been perfectly well-mannered. These events attract diverse crowds with many present who do not represent IDA. However, by and large, participants have been peaceful Ñ albeit passionate Ñ respectful, and well within the law and the First Amendment.

Now more than four months later, the message is getting lost in the drama in which the Schumachers have been playing a leading role.

The Schumachers and their employees have taunted and threatened many protesters. They put up a sign stating, 'All protesters should be beaten, strangled, skinned alive, anally electrocuted.'

People may assume the conflict is no longer about fur, but they're dead wrong. Animal advocates are driven not by sophomoric drama, but by knowing that Schumacher is buying furs from China, a country with absolutely no animal-protection laws.

Recent investigations in China revealed that dogs and cats are being brutalized by the thousands for their fur. Video evidence shows they are sometimes skinned alive while fully conscious. Activists' passion comes from knowing that the Schumachers hide how these animals live and die and that the public deserves to know the truth.

Buying 'ranched' fur from animals raised in the U.S. does not ensure humane treatment, either. I worked on an Illinois fur farm and witnessed the tragic mistreatment endured by these wild animals who are denied everything nature intended for them. Confined to tiny cages and exposed to harsh weather extremes, they run back and forth across their wire prisons desperate to escape, going mad, sometimes even cannibalizing one another.

I personally witnessed the callous indifference of a fur farmer who denied water to foxes dying of dehydration. His rationale: 'That's one less fox I have to kill.'

The fur industry's standard method of killing foxes is anal electrocution. Other fur bearers don't fare any better, being painfully trapped, clubbed, crudely gassed or having their necks broken. Rather than the exception, this treatment is the norm throughout the fur industry.

I have witnessed this cruelty firsthand, but seeing is believing at www.furkills.org, where you can view a public service announcement of recent investigations into the Chinese fur industry. I respectfully ask that you take 30 seconds to see for yourself.

All genuine fur garments, even those bits of trim around collars and hoods, represent untold and unnecessary suffering. But compassionate consumers are making a big difference. A 1940s Portland phone book reveals 25 furriers. With only two fur stores left, clearly this town is showing little desire for such vicious vanity.

Matt Rossell, who lives in Northeast Portland, is the Northwest outreach coordinator for In Defense of Animals.