Sable fur has been a highly valued item in the fur trade since the Early Middle Ages. Sable is unique: soft, thick, silky, shiny, and lightweight, it retains its smoothness in whatever direction it is stroked.
Sable only inhabits the Asian part of Russia; the farming of it began in the early 1930s. Around 687,000 sable skins are produced today, of which 92,000 are farmed. Sable skins are sold at auction and most of them (more than 90%) are later exported around the world.
Because of its high value, sable fur is often integrated into various quality garments, and, therefore is in demand among a range of high fashion brands worldwide.
Sable farming is currently regulated by the Russian Federal Law on Veterinary medicine and several standards are in place focusing specifically on farms. Compliance with the rules and regulations is frequently checked by the state regulatory authorities.
Moscow State Veterinary Academy has recently developed science-based regulations for keeping and breeding fur-farmed animals in Russia that meet European standards. These regulations cover all types of fur animals bred in Russia, as well as sable.
The regulations have been developed in accordance with the ‘Terms of Reference’ for the implementation of scientific research projects and the development of scientifically grounded rules for keeping and breeding farm-raised animals in Russia.
The most recent sable monitoring report (published in 2020) included a range of new evidence and important conclusions.
Notably, the report found: that the sable population in Russia is stable and is not a cause of concern over the next monitoring period (10 years); that current harvesting is being carried out in accordance with production limits and quotas; current methods of harvesting comply with international humane trapping standards (AIHTS); and, crucially, that that the overall numbers of fur-bearing animals in the study area are stable and that in some areas numbers have increased.
The sable monitoring report also found that quotas in some constituent entities of the Russian Federation are currently under-utilised. Going forward, regions will be carrying out ongoing (annual) monitoring of their sable populations and an independent assessment of the traceability system for wild sable sold at auctions is being carried out.
Sable trapping is regulated under the control of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation and its regional branches.
Russia follows the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards (AIHTS). In 2017, the Russian Center for Certification of Traps was established on the basis of the state institution Centrohotcontrol. In July 2017, a memorandum was signed between Centrohotcontrol and the Canadian Fur Institute on cooperation in the certification of humane traps. Work is now underway to certify new models of humane traps.
Hunting and trapping territories are granted for long-term rent and it is in the interest of the owner of the land to preserve and potentially increase the number of animals. Typically, the landowner carries out measures around improvement, feeding, monitoring and compliance within the rules of hunting in their territory. They count the population of each species and report it to the Hunting Administration.
For the production of a sable, each hunter is required to issue a license and to obtain only the allowed number of sables in accordance with the limit in this region.
Rules for trapping and for the hunting season are strictly enforced.
Upon completion of the skin harvesting, a veterinary certificate is issued by the state body. Before issuing a certificate, the state body checks the availability of trapping permits and checks the skins for disease. Sable skins are supplied with tags from the state veterinary administration.
Compliance with the rules and timing of hunting, as well as bag limits in the regions, are monitored by state hunting inspectors and if there are any violations, hunters are liable to fines and even criminal prosecution.
The Russian fur auctions keeps track of all goods coming to auction and ensures that they have all the necessary documents confirming the legality and the humanity of trapping. Each sable skin is supplied with an individual code for registration in the automated goods tracking system. This system makes it possible to determine the supplier of products, and veterinarian tags help to identify a trapping region. Since December 2016, the auction issues a special certificate of conformity for sold sable lots.
The trade of farm-raised and wild sable in Russia is transparent. With the help of an auction tracking system of the goods it is possible to trace the origin of each sable skin and ensure all the necessary documentation is available.