Why is it important to buy local fur products?
The “shopping local initiative” in Canada has been a savior for many struggling businesses due to COVID‐19 social‐distancing restrictions and supply chain disruptions. In this article, we will talk about the reasons why it is also important to shop fur products locally with the example of Canadian Seal Fur Products.
Support communities that have few alternatives
Canada was built based on the fur trade. Since the 1600s, Canadian fur supplied European demand for natural pelts from furbearers such as beaver and seal. Today, the fur industry is still an important part of Canada’s natural resource-based industries and one of Canada’s most historically significant economies. The most important players in the early stage of the Canadian fur trade were Indigenous peoples.
The fur trade was based on mutually beneficial relationships between the Indigenous people and the European traders. Indigenous peoples traded seal skins to exchange their daily necessities such as textile and iron tools, which they couldn’t make on their own. Consequently, seal hunting has become a vital economic activity for many Arctic and coastal areas where the natural environment did not allow them to develop agriculture.
Today, seal hunting still remains an important source of income for over 6,000 individuals and their families for Atlantic Canada coastal communities during the time when employment opportunities are extremely limited. In some coastal communities, over 25% of households participate in hunting, and it can account for 25-35% of their annual income.
However, since 2009, the European Union banned seal products for reasons of animal welfare, the number of seal pelts sold has been reduced by 90%. In the meantime, the price of seal pelts dropped drastically. As a result, coastal communities that depended heavily on the ocean and on seal harvest were struggling to maintain their economy.
Increasing local demand for seal products not only helps the seal fur industry within remote communities but also directly supports Arctic communities in Canada. The positive effect of buying Canadian seal fur is pretty simple to understand. Each sale can make a huge difference to a coastal family. It can financially support a child to go to school or provide a decent meal for lunch.
Some responsible seal fur and leather products brands have already taken action to support those communities. For example, Bill Worb Furs Inc. in Manitoba donates to the Indian Residential School Survivor Association and encourages all Manitoba businesses to do the same.
Another seal fur product brand BW Seal Style donates $8 from each sale of their Orange Shirt sealskin Brooch to the Orange Shirt Society which educates people about the residential school history of Canada. Buying from those brands that donate to charity can empower those socially responsive brands to raise awareness of coastal communities to the public.
Culture and livelihood
Indigenous communities are thriving with their tradition of seal hunting. Seal meat is their traditional food and seal oil is used for heat, light, and food. On the Proudly Indigenous Crafts & Designs website, you can find handmade sealskin crafted by indigenous artists and designers. Besides, seal hunting is of great significance for Indigenous communities because it is part of who they are.
The collapse of the seal fur and skin market is gradually detaching them from their tradition. Fortunately, the young generation of Indigenous is being taught on how to preserve this traditional practice and to be proud of it. For Indigenous people, seal hunting is not only a hunting practice, it’s a cultural heritage where their language, traditions, stories, music, and art are rooted.
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One of the top reasons to shop for Canadian Seal Products is that it helps to improve awareness of the Indigenous community of Canada. We are in a society that values cultural heritage and celebrates diversity. Buying local seal products allows you to speak to the people who made them and understand the culture behind their products. Buying and wearing seal fur products also helps to support learning, communicate Canadian Indigenous history and support the continuation of the Indigenous arts for the next generation.
Sustainable and high quality
Another major advantage of buying locally produced seal fur is that it is more eco-friendly. First of all, all the transportation of fur products from one country to another is eliminated, which helps to reduce your carbon footprint. That is already a major win for the environment. You can feel good about your purchase because locally produced and sourced Canadian fur is sustainable and good for the planet.
Canada has stringent quality control standards for each fur product. In Canada, from the sealers harvesting on the ocean to the dressers and dyers, buyers, wholesalers, auction houses, importers, and exporters, every single step of the trade is strictly controlled by the government to ensure every process meets the standards of traceability, sustainability.
Moreover, many seal fur products in the market are handmade. Handmade products are great for the environment because most of them do not require large production facilities or noisy factories. Most seal fur crafts are made in small art studios or crafter’s own places.
Those small-scale productions pass through fewer processes than big manufacturers, creating a smaller carbon footprint. Local crafters also know their customers better so they can easily adjust their inventories and there are rarely wasteful overproduction.
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In addition, handmade products are often much better quality than mass-produced products. Crafters of handmade items care greatly about the quality of the materials they use. They spend time looking for ethically sourced materials or eco-friendly suppliers. You can easily find that handmade products offer higher quality and pay more attention to detail.
The crafters have spent much effort in learning a skill and pouring their passion into what they make. They are also more willing to go the extra mile to help you and to ensure you’re a satisfied customer.
For example, the owner of the Phocal Stone Designs, a sealskin accessory brand in St. John’s Newfoundland, always makes sure to send a photo of purchase before shipping, just to ensure it meets customers’ expectations.
Last but not least, the Canadian seal population is very abundant. Seal populations are at the highest we’ve ever seen! Out of the 33 species of seal found worldwide, 6 of them can be found in Canada, and none are endangered. In fact, Canada’s total seal population is estimated at more than 10 million, the largest number ever observed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The Canadian seal industry is the true guardian of our ecosystem. If you value eco-friendly initiatives and want to support coastal and Indigenous communities, then please consider buying local seal fur products. Canadian seal fur businesses try to incorporate local materials into their products, making your purchase a sustainable and responsible choice.