The vast majority of the general public objects to the consumption of fur based products and the mistreatment of animals. However, currently only Austria, Croatia, England, Great Britain, Wales, Scotland, Switzerland and Northern Ireland have fur farm bans, or legislation. Other countries like Italy and New Zealand have partial bans on the trade of fur, delegating standards of care for specific species.
Each year an estimated one billion animals are bred, raised and killed on fur farms around the world for their pelt. Foxes and mink are two of the most popular fur-bearing animals bred on farms, while other animals like the chinchilla, rabbit, bobcat and lynx are also victims of the fur farm trade.
The United States Fur Trade
While many would like to think the U.S. has high standards for animal welfare, when it comes to the fur industry, our own standards and regulations fall shockingly flat.
Many don’t associate the United States with the Fur Trade because so many fur farms are able to operate and remain concealed from the general public. In recent years, however, organizations like the Coalition Against Fur Farms have uncovered a number of operating fur farms, at least 400 of them. To make matters worse, fur farms aren’t required to comply with animal welfare regulations because there are no federal laws in place to monitor how the animals are housed, cared for, or killed.
Common euthanasia alternatives on fur farms include (but are not limited to) electrocution or gas chambers. Secondary euthanasia often entails breaking the neck of the animal. The form of euthanasia varies greatly depending on the location of the farm and the species.
The Fur Commission, a U.S.-based non-profit that represents mink farmers affirms that fur farms, specifically mink farms, adhere to the methods recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association: euthanasia by gas chamber.
Speaking from experience, anyone who has witnessed an animal in a gas chamber knows that they are neither quick nor humane.
Fur Trade: International Standards
China, the world’s largest exporter of fur, is notorious for their lax-to-nonexistent animal welfare standards. Chinese fur farms are among some of the most deplorable facilities for captive animals. An undercover investigation by PETA into fur farms in China’s Hebei Province found evidence of animals being bludgeoned with metal rods and hammers before being skinned alive.
In addition to the wild animals killed for their fur, an estimated two million domestic dogs and cats are killed in China to become fur based products.
What is even more shocking about the state of Chinese fur farms is that they supply around 50 percent of the fur found in the U.S market. While the United States passed the Fur Products Labeling Act to mandate that clothes be properly labeled and the Dog and Cat Fur Protection Act was passed to assure that no garments made from dog or cat fur are imported into the United States, these regulations are often difficult to enforce.
The state of fur farms in China is unsettling, but they’re hardly the only major player in the international fur trade. The situation for factory farmed fur animals is the same in the European Union. China is the largest exporter of fur, but the European Union ranks as the largest producer of factory farmed fur, according to Humane Society International. There is no specific legislation in place in the European Union that details animal welfare regulations for operating fur farms.
How You Can Help
Animal welfare more often than not takes a backseat as fur farms – like any business – will always strive to maximize profit while cutting costs and labor wherever possible. Regardless of the industry, this often means poor conditions and cruel treatment.
Always be certain to check clothing labels carefully to discern where the garment is from (faux fur from China has been mislabeled and sold in the U.S.) and to see if any animal products were used to make the clothing.
When all else fails, shop cruelty-free.