In the United States, attitudes towards the wearing of fur have been changing over the past several decades.
As more information has become available to consumers, more and more Americans have become aware of the cruelty associated with fur products.
Despite this awareness, the global sales of fur exceed $15 billion, and claim the lives of over 50 million wild animals each year.
China, Russia, and South Korea top the list of countries that purchase fur products. Russia alone purchases $3 billion of fur products annually.
Where do the animals used in fur products come from?
- Fur Farming
85% of fur used for clothing comes from animals in factory fur farms.
China produces as much as 80% of the world’s fur while Denmark, The United States, Canada and Russia also produce substantial amounts of fur in fur farms.
The most commonly farmed animals in these facilities are foxes, minks, chinchillas, lynxes, ferrets, sables, rabbits and raccoons.
Fur farms in the U.S. are the only sector of animal agriculture unregulated by the federal government. Unlike facilities that house animals used for food, fur farms have no laws to abide by regarding living conditions, treatment, and killing methods of their animals.
In fur farms animals are kept in tiny cages, sometimes crammed in with many other animals. These bare wire cages are stacked on top of each other in open sheds providing almost no protection from wind, cold, or heat.
In the wild minks spend more than 70% of their time in the water, particularly in the summertime to cool off. The only water available to minks on fur farms are from crude water bottles.
Animals in fur farms are fed a diet of disgusting items deemed unfit even for the pet food industry like cow lungs, fish heads, cow udders, rotten eggs and expired cheese. Consumption of this food greatly increases the risk of spreadable bacterial infections.
None of these farms are required to staff veterinarians so most facilities have no one with experience to take care of the animals.
Wild animals that are not used to confinement of any kind do especially bad in such small cages. Studies have found that over 85% of animals in fur farms develop severe behavioral abnormalities, anxiety, and tendencies towards self mutilation. Some animals gnaw off entire limbs while others cannibalize their cagemates; some mothers even eat their own young.
Unlike animals slaughtered for food, fur farm animals must be killed in a way that does not ruin their pelts with blood.
Because there are no federal laws protecting animals in fur farms, gruesome killing methods are chosen to keep down costs with no consideration given to the suffering of the animal:
Smaller animals like minks are stuffed into boxes and poisoned with engine exhaust from a truck or tractor. The exhaust is not always lethal and minks being water-diving animals can hold their breath for a long time, resulting in many of them still being alive while they are skinned.
For larger animals like foxes, electrodes are forced into the mouth or rectum, internally electrocuting them.
Other common methods of killing include: decompression chambers, neck breaking, and poisoning with strychnine or cyanide. These methods result in a slow and very painful death for the animal.
- Fur Trapping
10 million animals are trapped in the wild for their fur every year, making up one third of all fur sold in the US.
Leghold traps have been banned in close to 100 countries but are still legal in 43 US States.
The trap clamps down on an animal’s leg, leaving it in horrible pain with no choice but to wait for the hunter to return to finish it off. Some trapped animals suffer for days because certain states have no required time limits for checking traps.
Animals will bite off their own limbs out of desperation, leaving them to bleed to death or starve.
Other types of traps are designed to crush vital organs, snap necks, or drown the animal. Traps that are placed underwater to catch animals like minks and beavers can take up to ten excruciating minutes to drown these animals that are very good at holding their breath.
Animal traps also pose a danger to children and pets. Dogs are easily maimed and killed by traps as well as “non-target” animals which includes endangered species.
In China over 2 million cats and dogs are killed for their fur and skin every year.
These cats and dogs are crammed into tiny cages and endure horrible living conditions. Many of them have been documented to have collars on indicating that they were someone’s pet; likely stolen from their home or yard.
Undercover video has captured images of cats and dogs being kicked or beaten with clubs. In many instances the animals are beaten until they can no longer fight back, at which point they are skinned alive.
The US banned the import and sale of products made from cat and dog fur in 2000. The fur industry, however, is so unregulated that there is a high probability that cat and dog fur is mixed into most Chinese fur products sold in the US.
Most animals that are killed for fur do not taste good to humans.
All of this suffering and death is 100% for their pelts; the rest of their bodies discarded. The bodies are discarded, or become pet food, compost, cosmetics, or feed for zoo and aquarium animals.
The practice of fur farming also has a detrimental effect on the environment causing pollution, land destruction, and energy waste. Mink farms in the US alone produce 1 million pounds of feces each year, polluting nearby water supplies. Many harmful and toxic chemicals are needed to treat fur coats to make them more durable.
- Seal Hunting
Approximately 900,000 seals are killed annually for their fur, Canada alone killing up to 400,000 seals each year.
Over the past five years, studies have found that 97% of the seals killed in Canada were under three months old; many less than one month old. Baby seals are targeted because their pristine coats fetch the highest price.
Sealers find baby seals on the ice and bludgeon them with clubs or shoot them with rifles. Sealers are supposed to confirm that the seal is dead before it is skinned.
A study in 2007 by international experts found that in 66% of cases, sealers failed to ensure that the seal was dead.
Another independent study in 2001 conducted post-mortems on seal carcasses and concluded that 42% did not show enough evidence of damage to the head to suggest that they were unconscious when they were skinned.
Once the seal is skinned, the body is left to rot on the ice because there is no market for seal meat.
34 countries now ban the import of seal products including the US, Russia, Mexico, Taiwan, and recently the European Union on the basis of “moral concerns.”
These bans have come from the recognition that seal hunting is an inhumane and unsustainable practice, yet every year hundreds of thousands of seals are still slaughtered.
It is important to note that the ban on seal products would not affect the native Inuit population.
The native people of Canada kill less than 10,000 seals each year, almost all of them adults. The native people use the entire animal and eat their meat. They do not rely on selling furs for profit. The seal pelts that they take account for less than 3% of the fur trade in Canada.