Russian Fur Farms

I. Abstract

Traps laid for animals whose pelts end up as fur coats and other fashion items have become the center of a protracted trade dispute between the European Union and several fur exporting countries, notably Canada, the US and Russia

We will examine:
What "fur trade" means to Russians?
Russian Fur Farms (operations, pricing and marketing)
Steps towards the wildlife preservation

II. Findings & Analysis:

Toward a market economy

Russian wildlife for sale

Russian dependency on fur trade

Facts from Russian fur farms

Services offered to Russian fur farms

Price factors for fur pelts

III. Conclusion

Julianna Peresvetova

Abstract I

The dispute stems from a 1991 European Union Regulation 3254/91 that barred the use of jaw-type leg-hold traps in European Union member state and banned imports of 13 species of fur from countries using leg-hold traps. Under the regulation, imports would only be allowed from countries where "humane trapping standards" applied. A leg-hold trap holds an animal until a trapper arrives. The campaign against these traps was fueled in the late 1980's by pictures of animals gnawing off their limbs in a frantic effort to escape. Beavers, muskrat, foxes and other fur-bearing animals are methodically maimed and killed by a variety of lethal traps, with their dying moments captured on film.

Traps laid for animals whose pelts end up as fur coats and other fashion items have become the center of a protracted trade dispute between the European Union and several fur exporting countries, notably Canada, the US and Russia.

The EU regulation was due to take effect on January 1 1995, but agreement on the definition of a "humane" trap has proved elusive. As a result, implementation of the ban was postponed for a year to January 1996. Under pressure from fur exporters, the European Commission recommended that the ban be delayed again until the beginning of 1997. Fur exporters have pressed for a wide definition that would exclude steel-jawed leg-hold traps.

The International Standards Organization failed to agree on a definition of a "humane" trap. A 15-member committee is working on a standard covering only trap testing. The developed software will allow computer-generated traps to be tested on computer-generated animals. Fewer live animals will then be needed for the center's work. Meanwhile, the search goes on for more humane and efficient traps. Hard rubber padding has replaced steel in some leg-hold devices. If all goes well, a draft testing standard will be ready in July 1997 and a final test about a year later.

Despite all the efforts, "many environmental animal laws are being dismantled in the name of "free trade"(Leesteffy Jenkins - attorney specializing in environmental and treaty laws).

The main task of this material is to take a look inside the Russian fur market issues to be discussed include:

From observations, analysis, and collected data, I will conclude that fur trade expanded in Russia for the past six years. As we will see in findings and analysis section, any attempt to regulate it on the strictly plurelateral level have failed.

Wildlife animals and endangered species are being slaughtered with cruelty. Only Multilateral agreement can be a solution to the existing problem and put a stop to this barbaric behavior. It is up to EU to ban imports of furs from countries that over-exploited their natural resources. It is up to EU to bring animal laws under provisions of WTO. For any case there are exceptions and WTO "free trade" standard can accommodate them as well.

Recent developments with new EU compromises on leg-hold traps and adoption of tough wildlife trade laws signal a slow but sure move towards improvement in environmental situation.


II. Findings and Analysis:

  1. Toward a Market Economy
  2. Russian Wildlife for Sale
  3. Russian Dependency on Fur Trade
  4. Facts from Russian Fur Farms
  5. services offered to Russian Fur Farms
  6. price factors for fur pelts

At the end of 1991, the first environmental law in the history of Russia was adopted, and resource-use legislation began to be developed. Laws on forestry and on the use of underground resources have already been passed, and laws on water resources, wildlife, hunting, and fisheries are being drafted.(link towards the envr. projects in russia page see bookmark). According to official statistic prior to the, 15% of the country's territory, containing 20% of the total population, qualified as environmental disaster zones. Russia never had to worry about the shortage of natural resources and made no serious attempts to preserve them. Oil drilling and mining areas were simply abandoned and rivers polluted for the lack of sufficient sewage treatment plants.

Toward a Market Economy

In Russia, decentralization, especially the transfer of management functions from the center to the local level, brought great hopes for improving environmental management. This transfer was supposed to be one of the major components of the new environmental policy.

Hopes for improvement of the environmental situation on the basis of decentralization, however, have not yet been justified. On the contrary, in some cases, decentralization has aggravated environmental problems. The most important reason for this decline is that the democratization of Russia has been subject of major distortions.

The most dangerous consequence was the weakness of governmental authority in the sphere of resource use. The state is not able to exercise adequate control over the protection and renewal of natural resources, over compliance with legal norms, or over prevention of environmental violations. During recent years, the incidence of poaching has increased dramatically, and protection of wildlife has been neglected, These tendencies are expected to intensify in the near future. Experts predict serious depletion of eld, roe, wild boar, mink, beaver, otter, lynx, and strugeion stocks, as well as in stocks of the endangered species included in the national Red Book (the book of endangered species). For example, the chief game protector of a Siberian region was reported to be involved in the illegal shooting of he rapidly disappearing ussurilsk tiger. (tiger case include). Privatization process created 72,000 profit driven trappers, that earn between $28-$32 million a year from pelt exports to Europe. Remote communities in the Far East depend on trapping for as much as 60 per cent of their income.

During recent years, environmental inspection and monitoring have become more and more problematic. Because of economic and financial difficulties, about 1,519 nature reserves are unable to afford special protection and control services. Specialists and inspectors who work in such agencies are so poorly paid that, to survive financially, they are forced to turn a blind eye to poaching. The weakening of governmental control has also resulted in an increase in the illegal export of endangered species.

Russian Wildlife for Sale:

Russia once exported only Siberian elk velvet antlers and Saiga antelope horns to China for medicinal use. Today, medicinal wildlife exports also include tiger and leopard parts, bear gall bladders, musk deer glands, and snow sheep and ibex horns. In addition to China, these products also go primarily to Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Macau, as well as other countries. Walrus ivory and the skins of tiger, brown bear, polar bear, and Asian black bear are also traded. (Bear case to include).

Large predator fur and skins, as well as bear gall bladders, are reportedly the most widely sold wildlife products. Musk deer pods are traded only within the deer's range. Saiga antelope horn and walrus ivory are traded within the species' ranges and in Moscow - a huge market with many foreign customers. In all regions, most of the wild life products are purchased by dealers. The most common venues for selling wild life products are local flea markets, which exist in most towns and big cities. Advertising in the local press is another important means of retailing wildlife. In all regions, advertisements are posted on walls, usually near or at the flea markets. Most of the wildlife products are taken out of the Russian Far East by sea vessels or railway on the Chinese border.

Wildlife prices vary widely within and among the regions of the former Soviet Union. Since spring 1992, prices seem to have increased in European Russia, western and eastern Siberia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine. Prices dropped in the Russian Far East, probably because of saturation of the market for fur and medicinal wildlife products. Overall, however, wildlife prices are still highest in the Russian Far East.

Some 1996 black market prices in the Russian Far East: tiger skin: $15,000; tiger skeleton: $5,000; brown bear skin: $333; bear gall bladder: $10/g; velvet antlers: $100/kg; sable fur: $106/pelt.



Russian Dependency on Fur

Historic perspective

Russia continues to practice the use of steel-jawed leg-hold traps on land for more than a dozen species, including otter, mink, beaver ad murkrat. These traps are especially necessary to catch larger animals, such as wolves, foxes and lynx. Leg-hold trap still consider the most available, wildly used and cheaper mean for trapping wild animals.

For Russian consumers all of Siberian supplies of fur is still not enough. "New Russians" have money and fur is a favorite luxury in the cold climate. Russian buyers have become major players at international pelt auctions. The fact is, Russia is emerging as one of the three largest fur-consuming countries in the world, along with South Korea and before long, China. Russia exports as well as imports substantial numbers of finished garments from Greece, Eastern Europe and Hong Kong/China. U.S. Russian sable manufacturers complain that they can't even get their hands on top sable skins anymore, because so many people are turning to lucrative poaching and trading of wildlife. The result: today, Russia is one of the world's biggest suppliers of wildlife products to traditional Chinese medicine markets. (include deer case and Chinese medicine market case).

Findings & Analysis

Facts from Russian Fur Farms:

Services Offered to Russian Fur Farms

Price factors for fur pelts

Services offered to Russian Fur Farms

Some companies like Palms & Co sell Russian furs for its Russian customers at fur auctions in the United States and other countries, which are conducted 6 times each year. They educate Russian Fur farmers about the pelt colors and characteristics which are in demand in world market, help develop international markets for fur properly sort and grade the pelts for auction. Fur auction companies also provide necessary shipping services by any airline of private charters, provide bags for packing furs, help to obtain export licenses, clear the furs through U.S. customs upon arrival, provide when necessary some technical assistance and even buy part ownership of fur farms and become partners.

Some western and U.S. company educate Russian Fur farmers in providing the best breeding stocks and correct food and medicine. In particular, Mink Breeders Association can carefully formulate, most scientifically analyze and test of all farm animal nutrition programs.

Findings & Analysis

Proposed mink diets consist of:

Use of otherwise inedible animal by-products in the mink diet help to keep the price of products for human consumption low. Diets may very throughout the year according to the needs of the mink. There are four main types of diets:

Most mink are fed fresh feed or dry pellets daily or a combination of the two. Clean fresh water is made available usually through an automatic system. Fur Auction companies develop feeding and medical program for mink and other fur-bearing animals.

Price factors for fur pelts:

Factors effecting the price are:

  1. Is it a male or female pelt (females cost more per centimeter)
  2. What is the size of the pelt
  3. Quality of the pelt (richness and cleanness of the fur)
  4. Prestige of the label, regular Label, Unlabeled
  5. Degree of damage
  6. Color and characteristic of the pelt (the popularity of colors vary among different countries).
  7. Tanned or untanned (lower price for Russian furs if they have been tanned)
  8. Reputation of the brand name and trademark
  9. Correct color matching of pelts for a uniform color in the garment.

Findings & Analysis


All furs arriving to the auction are thoroughly inspected in 60 thousand square meters of refrigerated storage space, offices and auction room. The furs are sorted by more than 100 experts employed by the auction according to quality, color and size. All skins of the same color are put together so that a matching garment can be made. It takes several thousand skins to make 40 matching skins. When skins of one owner are matched with the skins of other owners and sold together in a "bundle" of a sufficient number of skins to make a coat, they receive higher prices then when they are sold separately.

Prices vary according to color, quality and size. Average price quoted here are amounts paid to the seller before deducting freight, import duty, customs clearance, insurance, auction commissions and expenses. As an example of pricing characteristics:


  1. (male by size in centimeters)
    • 66-71cm $15
    • 71-77cm $20
    • 77-83cm $35
  2. (female)
    • 53-59cm $10
    • 59-65cm $12
    • 65-71cm $15

    Sable $50

    Lynx $140 for 100cm

    SilverFox $25 for 100cm

    Red Fox $35 for 100cm

    Artic Blue Fox$35-55 for 100cm

Blue shadow fox sold in line with blue fox, mainly to Korea and Hong Kong/China with support from Japan and Europe. The season's first offering of silver fox sold 73%, mainly to Greece, Russia, Korea and Germany.

New mink pelt price levels were established.Scanbrown males and females advanced 25%. Males were sold to Russia and Korea, and some to Greece, females went to Hong Kong, Korea, Italy and some to Russia.Mahogany males and females advanced 30%; males went to Russia and Korea, females to Korea and Russia and some to Europe.Scanglow males and females advanced 25%; males sold to Hong Kong, Korea, Russia and Italy, while females were taken by Italy and Hong Kong and some by Korea. Scanblack males and females advanced more than 20%, with the biggest increases in large sizes and lighter colors. Russia, Korea and Hong Kong were the main buyers. Sapphire males advanced 20%, females 25%, and white males and females 15%. Russia was the main taker of sapphire males, Korea the main buyer of sapphire females and whites went to Hong Kong. Pastels sold at strong levels, but no comparison was available; the main buyers of males were Korea and Russia, while females went to Italy.

A collection of 67,000 Afghan karakul was almost 70% sold with prices advancing 5% for grays and 10-15% for the blacks. Buying was well-spread.

Finnracoon advanced as much as 40%. Buyers were primarily from Germany, Korea and Hong Kong/China, and some from Italy.

Findings & Analysis


The Russian Federation tries to regulate its fur trade industry. Several measures has been taken in the past six years. The implementation of the federal ecological programs, such as "Forest Restoration in Russia", "Land Monitoring in the Russian Federation" and most of all "Rules for the sale of Fur goods" established under the Government Decree No. 553 of May 24, 1994.

In accordance with this Decree, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural resources of the Russian Federation approved a list of rare animals and those threatened with extinction the sale of articles of whose skins is prohibited by the legislation of the Russian Federation and bring it to the notice of the executive bodies of the subjects of the Russian federation and the interested organizations. "The seller shall be obliged to be in possession of a license for the sale of fur goods which, in keeping with the legislation of the russian federation are levied with excises. It shall be impermissible to sell fur goods made from the skins of animals entered in the Red Book of the Russian Federation (the book of endangered species)". "Control over the observance of the Present Rules shall be exercised by the State Inspectorate for Trade, Goods Quality and Protection of Consumers Rights of the Trade Committee of the Russian Federation, the State Anti-Monopoly Policy and Support for New Economic Structures of the Russian Federation and other federal executive bodies within their jurisdiction and by their local bodies." ("Rules for the sale of Fur Goods", May 24, 1994).

Still no steps are taken to abandon leg-hold traps as a mean of capturing wild animals! With poor government controls and growing illegal fur trade, the implementation of the ban on leg-hold traps is achievable through global channels. All attempts of the Government of Russian Federation to impose these restrictions forces fur industries underground creating an explosion of black markets.

Only multilateral measures could put an end to this barbaric practice. As of February 25, 1997, European Union came up with new compromise to be put before Russia and Canada, on imports of the furs of animals snared in traps. It sets out: a date for phasing out of certain traps, arbitration procedures for cases where countries breach the agreement, exemptions for indigenous populations.

These latest achievements, though, slowly unfolding, at least prove to be flowing in the right direction and some multilateral measures has been taken.

Findings & Analysis

Related Topics

Fur Farms in U.S.

EC Fur Ban



Russia's Endangered Species

Russian Fur Farms



Auction results as reported in January 1997:
Item Offering % Sold Top Avg Jan
Sapphire males 9,30210099.575.5066.00
Sapphire females 5,92210066.2553.7545.25
White males 13,29710059.7550.0044.25
White females 12,67610027.7525.7521.75
Mahogany males 89,79710073.0046.2540.50
Mahogany females 72,84910034.2527.0021.00
Scanblack males 158,2929968.5047.5038.00
Scanblack females 138,1309934.2525.2521.25
Scanblack velvet males 2,18610052.0042.50
Scanbl velv. females 2,31410031.5027.50
Scanbrown males 121,50010059.7546.7539.00
Scanbrown females 142,93010029.2625.5020.75
Scanglow males 128,93910059.7546.7538.50
Scanglow females 101,60110032.7526.0022.00
Pastel males 11,23010054.2546.75
Pastel females 10,80510029.2525.50
Black cross males 4,88810044.2539.2539.00
Black cross females 3,25110025.7522.5024.50
Blue fox Total 293,672100287.25161.00140.50
Polish blue fox 22,22499157.0084.5073.50
East Europ. blue fox 23,05598106.0053.7552.75
Blue shadow fox 19,773100265.25158.25125.25
Blue shad. white fox 2,664100190.00151.2593.50
Silver fox 44,20872132.5097.00
Shadow blue frost fox 1,766100137.00121.50
Gold fox 1,6429857.5042.75
Gold cross fox 8093855.2538.00
Platinum fox 80510075.2550.50
Afghan karakul gray 25,4149717.2515.0012.25
Afghan karakul black 14,7889316.0011.5010.00
Afghan karakul brown 1,19410017.7516.2513.00
Broadtail karakul gray 17,476167.505.7513.50
Brtail karakul black 6,1261212.7511.5011.00
Brtail karakul brown 1,908228.756.75
Finnraccoon 23,10598117.2596.2566.25
Polish finnraccoon 3,2091942.0025.75
Fitch male 14,6689617.7513.7513.00
Fitch female 4,17610014.5011.509.75