Saving the Canadian Fur Industry’s Hide
Saving the Canadian Fur Industry’s Hide: Government’s strategic use of private authority to constrain radical activism
We examine the relationship between private and public regulatory authority in contexts characterized by radical transnational activist contestation against industry practices. Employing a comparative case design, we study government responses to similar activist campaigns calling for a trade ban on Canada’s sealing and fur industries. Relying on conventional public authority, the Canadian government was unable to prevent a European ban on seal skin products, leading to the collapse of its sealing industry. In contrast, its response to anti-fur trapping activists successfully employed private authority in the form of a standard-setting multi-stakeholder initiative (MSI). Doing so not only averted a ban but effectively shut down international debate over restrictions concerning the sale of products using trapped fur. Drawing from social movement theory on activist heterogeneity and political opportunity structure, we introduce a novel conceptualization of standard-setting MSIs as strategic instruments employed by governments to constrain the political opportunities for radical transnational activists. Our findings contribute to the literatures examining interactions between private and public regulatory authority, instruments of government repression and the political dynamics surrounding MSIs.
Keywords animal rights movement, comparative case study, fur industry, government, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), political opportunity structure, sealing industry, transnational activism