For Bernie Halloran, owner of Always in Vogue furriers, the problem isn’t finding people who want to buy seal fur, it’s finding countries who want to let him sell it.
“The seal industry for years has been bullied,” Halloran told reporters Wednesday.
Halloran will take his sealskin wares to Montreal at the end of this month for an international fur show, with some help from the provincial government.
Fisheries Minister Darin King was at Vogue to try on a sealskin coat and announce the government will put up more than $17,000 to help Halloran get to the show.
“This is intended to be another clear, strong message that government is fully supportive of the industry,” King said. “We recognize the value to the province and the value to the many communities where the work takes place and originates from.”
Halloran said he’s not having any trouble in Newfoundland; for people who come into the store on Water Street, the No. 1 seller is sealskin products.
“People in Newfoundland and Labrador support it. They’re not just supporting it because they’re patriotic — that’s part of it — but the bottom line is it’s a gorgeous product,” he said.
“The world just doesn’t know it yet.”
But it’s a bleak time for selling seal products internationally.
In the government’s news release, it noted that, “Last year the (Montreal fur show) attracted 3,473 buyers from the United States, Canada, Russia, Germany, Austria, Italy and Belgium.”
Activists with the International Fund for Animal Welfare were quick to point out that — except for Canada — all of those markets are closed to seal products due to trade bans.
Halloran said he’s looking elsewhere, though.
“If China comes aboard and starts taking our product, there won’t be enough seals in the ocean. There’ll be a fight for the quota,” he said.
“It’s selling in China, and they do love the product.
“I’ve dealt with a lady that’s in Beijing that wants to open up a Vogue Beijing.”
King dismissed the idea put forward by some animal rights groups the sealing industry can’t survive without government help.
King said helping local business go to trade shows is something the government does all the time and, more broadly, the government is constantly supporting businesses.
“There’s always been bumps in the road, whether it’s the sealing industry or the fishery or mining or megaprojects,” he said.
“There’s always bumps in the road when people come to government looking for support.”