A campaign by anti-fur lobbyists to ban the import of wild fur into Europe could have “devastating socio-economic impacts” on thousands of aboriginal families in Canada, says the Assembly of First Nations.

At a press conference in Brussels on January 13, animal-rights lobbyists slammed the practice of trapping and ongoing efforts to establish humane guidelines for the activity. Much criticism was levied at the International Standards Organization, which will set recommended trapping guidelines at a meeting in Ottawa in mid-February.

The guidelines will be submitted to the United Nations and are intended to convince the European Community to lift a ban on wild fur imports that is scheduled to come into effect Jan. 1995. The guidelines will be used both for trapping and wildlife population control measures.

Animal-rights lobbyists have blasted the International Standards Organization meeting in Ottawa because they fear it will send a signal that trapping is okay. The Assembly of First Nations, for its part, is worried about losing the wild fur market in Europe because 70 to 75 per cent of native-harvested fur is exported to Europe. “Similar to the seal ban in the mid-1980s, the ban will have devastating socio-economic impacts on thousands of families,” says the Assembly of First Nations in a press release.

“The practice of harvesting wild fur by Indigenous peoples in Canada has provided a sustainable and ecologically sound livelihood for our people for thousands of years,” said Bill Erasmus, National Chief of the Dene Nation. Ysabel Trujillo, spokeswoman for the Montreal-based Fur Council of Canada, agreed. “Trapping is more than a tradition. It’s a whole way of life.”

In an effort to promote fur sales, the fur council has invited Canadian fashion designers to enter its 1994 Canada Fur and Fashion Design Competition. Finalists are competing for $30,000 in prizes and will have their work showcased at the North American Fur and Fashion Exposition to be held in May in Montreal, which is expected to attract 5,000 buyers and visitors.