Hong Kong fur fair facing more protests as Russian financial crisis hits trade

As world's largest fur fashion exhibition opens, animal rights activists slam 'cruel and bloody' trade while firms fear dip in orders from Russia

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 February, 2015, 1:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2015, 9:21am

Hong Kong furriers welcomed the opening of the world's largest fur fashion event yesterday as local animal rights activists upped their fight against the trade and sales to largest market Russia looked set to stumble.

The annual Hong Kong International Fur and Fashion Fair is one aspect of the city's position as a global fur hub - which brought HK$1.8 billion in exports in 2014, with 75 per cent of the world's fur and fur garments re-exported through the city, according to the Hong Kong Fur Federation.

Animal rights group Centre of God's Love for Animals stepped up their campaign against the trade yesterday with a full-page advertisement in Apple Daily displaying a 175-strong petition against the trade. "We pledged to love animals and be anti-fur because we think fur is a cruel and bloody product," said Carmen Chan Wai-man, the group's executive officer.

Animal rights groups plan to stage a second annual protest against the industry on the final day of the fair on Saturday.

The Hong Kong Fur Federation said 95 per cent of the fur used by its members comes from European and North American farms that are subject to strict welfare standards.

"Because of the nature of the industry, if the animal is mistreated, if they become sick, the first thing that happens is they have scars or they have skin illness and this is detrimental to the price of the fur," said federation director Fritz Chen Tsun-ni.

The federation has passed an animal welfare charter which states that the organisation is opposed to cruelty towards animals bred for fur.

Stands at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai display pelts and clothing in rainbow colours, while others hide their fur coat designs behind curtains and high partition walls.

Exhibitor William Sun, assistant manager of the Hong Kong Fur Factory, said his company sources goods from auctions in Europe which buy from farms that are subject to strict welfare standards.

"All their furs are from very strictly controlled farms, so they do their annual check-up on their farms to make sure the welfare and the health of the animals are maintained," Sun said.

His company, which has been in business from 1957, employs 80 people in its Hong Kong factory and sees 98 per cent of its products exported to countries such as Russia and China.

"This year it's difficult because of the Russian [financial] crisis. Russia is the No1 export market and they are having a tough time," Sun said. "We'll be happy if we can maintain the same sales as last year."

However, the federation is cautiously optimistic that the weak rouble will be offset by Western sanctions, forcing Russian traders to buy from Hong Kong.


HK animal activists welcome move to ban ivory trade on mainland

Hong Kong conservationists and animal activists have welcomed a proposal for a total ban on the ivory trade on the mainland, which is set to be discussed at a sitting of the National People's Congress in Beijing next month.

"It is great that the Hong Kong delegates to the congress are joining a global chorus by calling for the ban. If it comes off, it will be a huge victory for elephants," said Alex Hofford, a campaigner with WildAid. "The fact that 90 per cent of the ivory on the mainland comes from illegal sources means that banning the trade is highly significant."

The proposal follows intensive lobbying by pro-establishment legislator Elizabeth Quat, who spent two weeks in Kenya last year investigating the illegal ivory trade. Quat said such a ban would be easier to implement on the mainland than in Hong Kong, which has hundreds of licensed ivory traders.

"I do not think there will be a lot of objection on the mainland," said Quat, of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

Quat said local NPC delegates had been very supportive. Besides her own party colleagues, she had pledges of support from Fanny Law Chiu-fun, Ma Fung-kwok, Herman Hu, Ng Leung-sing and Michael Tien Puk-sun.

Bryan Harris