NH trappers will continue fur donation to state beauty

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Rights activists targeting Miss NH’s $7,000 fur jacket

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON, Union Leader Correspondent

6/13/02

DERRY — Despite animal rights groups’ plans to demonstrate outside pageants in Derry, Kingston and the Seacoast, a trappers association plans to continue its annual donation of a fur coat to the newly crowned Miss New Hampshire.

“It is a beautiful coat,” Fred Shepherd, president of the New Hampshire Trappers Association, said of the fisher pelt stroller jacket given each year since 1992. He said that every Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Pageant winner has accepted a fur coat.

“We will keep the tradition going,” he said.

But representatives from the New Hampshire Animal Rights League and the New Hampshire Furbearer Protection Team — who are organizing their first demonstration for the June 21 Miss Greater Derry Scholarship Pageant — hope to convince pageant organizers to stop accepting the coat, which is valued at $7,000.

“We don’t think beauty should be marred with such cruelty,” said Suzanne Fournier, coordinator of the New Hampshire Furbearer Protection Team. Fournier said it is important for the pageant contestants to know they can refuse to accept the coat if they are chosen Miss New Hampshire.

Pageant organizers say the fur coat is a gift, among many others, that is happily accepted by the Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Program.

“We are grateful for all of the gifts and donations,” said Suzanne Knox, executive director of the program. Knox said she is disappointed that animal-rights activists plan to protest outside pageants, adding there are other, more professional, ways to get their point across.

“There is a time and a place for everything, and I do not think this is appropriate,” Knox said. “I don’t feel it is fair.”

Fournier said her group does not consider it fair to kill fishers, a woodland mammal in the weasel family, to create a fur coat. She said there are better alternatives to fashion than fishers, raccoons, minks and coyotes.

Shepherd, of Deerfield, said the annual gift helps promote furs and the New Hampshire Trappers Association. Currently, there are fewer than 400 licensed trappers in the state, he said, explaining the coat represents the hard work and commitment made by the few trappers who remain in New Hampshire. Donations of fishers are accepted from Granite State trappers for the average of 25 animals required to make the pageant coat, he said.

Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Pageant winners get to keep the coats and sometimes wear them during parades and other events.

There is a well-balanced population of fishers in New Hampshire, according to Shepherd. He said some fishers are even caught and transported to Pennsylvania to help that state improve its fisher population.

Fournier has applied for a sidewalk permit to demonstrate outside the Adams Memorial Opera House on Broadway next Friday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The pageant is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

The town council has not yet accepted the permit, but the Derry Police Department has given the group permission to protest as long as the demonstration does not block the sidewalk and the group of protesters is limited. Between five and 10 protesters will hand out pamphlets that explain what the group describes as the cruelty of trapping; one is expected to be dressed in a beaver costume to draw attention to the display, Fournier said.

If a sidewalk permit is granted when the Derry council meets Tuesday, the group can have a table and will play a video titled “Call of the Wild: The Truth Behind Trapping.” They will also have a petition that citizens can sign calling for a ban on lethal trapping.

Knox said the Miss New Hampshire Scholarship Program is designed to give young women an educational scholarship and allow them to give back to their state through community service.

She said protesters should send letters to each contestant voicing their opinions rather than demonstrating outside events that take months to organize.

“We really do want this to be educational, not ugly,” said Fournier. “We know that these are nice events, and we support the pageants, but we just want the girls to know that they have a choice to reject the fur coat.”

Following the Miss Greater Derry pageant next week, the groups said they will be demonstrating July 7 at the Miss Kingston and Miss Seacoast pageants.
 

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