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My View • The fur industry adheres to strict guidelines

If the animal rights community has its way, consumers no longer will be able to buy a beautiful fur coat, eat a steak dinner or support important medical research. Through dissemination of lies, threats and intimidation they will gradually wear down that most important of individual rights, freedom of choice.

Schumacher Furs & Outerwear, like all of the retailers, manufacturers and merchants working in the fur industry throughout the U.S. and internationally, respect the rights of individuals to wear what they choose, eat what they choose, buy what they choose. Open and honest discussion of the issues regarding the fur industry is welcomed.

We understand and embrace the knowledge that some will choose to wear fur and others will not. But it is critical to point out where we believe the public is being misled by inaccuracies put forward by the animal rights movement.

First, the animal rights community alleges the Chinese fur industry is brutal. But their claims are misleading. In fur, like in most other apparel and many other products produced in China, the fabric or raw product is imported into China, where the garments are manufactured, then re-exported.

The fur used in the garments primarily comes from North America or Europe, where fur production is highly regulated. In fact, consumers in the United States are guaranteed this as a result of the Fur Products Labeling Law, in effect in the U.S. since 1952, which requires that every fur garment carry a label clearly specifying the type of fur used and the country of origin of the fur.

A 'Made in China' label does not mean the products are made from furs raised in China Ñ it means the coat is assembled in China.

Second, allegations that dog and cat fur is coming into the United States also are untrue. Not only does the Fur Products Labeling Law ensure against this, but the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000, passed with the help of the fur industry, makes trading in dog and cat fur in the United States illegal.

In fact, as recently as several weeks ago on 'Larry King Live,' Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said there has not been a single reported case of dog or cat fur coming into the U.S. since enactment of this law.

Third, when it comes to video footage claiming to show 'the truth,' viewer beware. In 1999, Congress amended the U.S. Code (Title 18) specifically to address the rise in 'snuff' films, some of which are used by animal rights groups for fundraising.

And in the case of recent video viewed in Portland, the People's Government Suning County, Hebei Province, China, has issued a statement that footage presented by Swiss Animal Protection as representative of practices employed on Chinese farms is untruthful and makes unjustified claims.

The background of scenes in which animals appear to be mishandled are open-air markets, not farms, which are the subject of allegations made about animal handling. Further, repeated requests by the International Fur Trade Federation for validation of this video footage have gone unanswered by Swiss Animal Protection.

Finally, one need only apply common sense to recognize that the presented methodology (live skinning) would present serious risk of injury to the farmer through biting, clawing and thrashing. There is no logical nor economically beneficial reason to adopt the process.

Strict regulations covering fur farming and trapping do exist in North America and European countries. No endangered species are used, and Council on International Trade and Endangered Species regulations are strictly followed.

In the United States, fur farms are regulated by state departments of agriculture. Fur farms follow guidelines for care and management of animals set forth by the American Veterinary Medical Association. State departments of agriculture also monitor fur farms, and inspectors visit farms to ensure adherence to guidelines.

European farms are covered by European Union Directive 98/58 on the welfare of farm animals and Directive 93/119 covering permitted methods of euthanasia for fur animals.

European fur farmers follow the recommendation on the keeping of fur animals adopted by the Council of Europe and last revised in 1999. The recommendation provides detailed guidelines for the care and management of animals, including (but not limited to) housing, ventilation, lighting, temperature control, feeding and health management.

The fur industry has enjoyed a long period of sustained growth as the fashion world has embraced fur and consumers have made informed choices. Innovations in manufacturing and technology coupled with the unique luxury and tactile benefits of fur have made fur the fabric of choice in more than 400 designer collections.

U.S. fur retailers recorded sales of $1.81 billion in 2004, up from $1.1 billion a decade ago. American consumers have made their choice. And legitimate, valid businesses like Schumacher Furs are entitled to serve their community.

Keith Kaplan is executive director of the Fur Information Council of America, a trade organization based in Los Angeles.