The fur farming industry is booming, much to the detriment of our animal friends. People still want to wear and flaunt “real fur,” so there’s sufficient demand for fur to keep companies that harvest it in business.
Foxes and minks are among the most in-demand animals for farmable fur. Additionally, thousands of other animals are killed in the wild for their hides.
For centuries, furs have been named status symbols among the richest populations of various cultures around the world. Coats, blankets, rugs, and wraps come from fur.
There’s no reason for such status symbols, however, and we often forget about how fur farming impacts our friends in the non-human animal kingdom.
What Is Fur Farming?
Fur farming is the practice of industrially breeding specific animals into existence and raising them to be slaughtered for their fur. Some of the most exploited animals in the fur trade include minks, chinchillas, rabbits, foxes, and coyotes.
In the Stone Age, people skinned animals for their fur so they could stave off hypothermia during the frigid winter months. They didn’t have synthetic fabrics back then, and most of the pelts came from animals they killed for food and other purposes.
However, fur farming actually brings young animals into the world so they can later be slaughtered for nothing more than their pelts. In some cases, the slaughtered animals are sent out as food for zoo and companion animals.
What Animals Are Used in Fur Farming?
While mink and fox are often considered the most common animals sourced for their furs, fur farming can include a variety of other animals. Chinchillas and rabbits, for instance, are frequently sought for their fur. Indeed, these animals are often cross-bred to create new colors of fur to delight human consumers.
What you might not know is that dogs and cats are also used in fur farming. This practice is particularly prevalent in China. Animals we consider companions are tortured and beaten until they are finally killed for their pelts.
Beavers, raccoons, seals, and bears are other animals frequently tied to the fur industry. The larger animals, such as bears, have much larger pelts, so they provide more bang for the farmer’s buck. However, when it comes to seals, raccoons, and bears, as well as beavers, most of the fur used is so-called “wild fur,” which means that the animals are hunted rather than farmed.
It’s bad enough to hunt down an innocent animal to simply harvest its fur and leave its carcass to rot, which most of us wouldn’t have the stomach for, but it’s quite another to cage and breed animals for the sole purpose of creating new furs. These animals endure unbelievable torture from the moment they’re born.
The Plight of a Fur-Farmed Animal
Several organizations, including PETA, have conducted undercover investigations in the fur farming industry to bring horrific truths to light. The animals involved in the fur farming trade are kept in tight cages, often crammed against each other, without adequate food, water, or fresh hair. They live and die in their own filth until they’re ready for slaughter.
When the animals are caged together, they frequently turn on one another out of fear, starvation, or a combination of the two. The animals wind up dying of their injuries or of subsequent disease.
Certain fur-farmed animals, such as minks, are denied the very things that make them who they are. Minks, for instance, love to swim and can be found in the water just as much as on land. When they’re not able to swim, they become discontent and depressed.
Foxes are extremely social creatures, often living in harmony with one another. Female foxes even help take care of one another’s kits. The young foxes learn about their world through exploration and play, and they’re extremely close with their families, often living with them throughout their lives.
Fur farming denies foxes their social, playful instincts and forces them into human servitude. Humans are foxes’ sole predators, and farming them for furs only makes them more at risk.
Fur Farming Statistics
Nearly 90 percent of the furs on the open market come from fur farming rather than wild fur. There are 275 mink farms in the United States alone, all of which together produce around $200 million in annual revenue.
Canada boasts 210 mink farms. In 2017, the U.S.-based mink farms produced over 3,300 pelts.
Minks, when left alone in their natural habitats, roam an area of approximately 741 acres. On fur farms, they’re confined to a cage that measures a maximum of 12” by 18” and never allowed to explore beyond them.
Meanwhile, foxes in Utah find themselves in outdoor structures, unprotected from the elements. Many of them become psychotic due to captivity and despair. They are seen bouncing themselves around their cages, seemingly at random, and bashing their own heads against the cage walls.
Millions of dogs and cats in China are skinned and sold to other countries with incorrect labels. It’s a systemic problem that starts with consumerism.
How Are Farmed Animals Killed for Fur?
The slaughtering of animals on fur farming operations is often horrific. In some cases, animals are even skinned alive. The machines used to separate the pelt from the rest of the animal involves complicated moving parts.
Animals who aren’t skinned alive are often electrocuted or gassed. Those are perhaps the most humane methods used. Others have their necks snapped or their throats cut — neither of wish ensures a fast death.
In the United States and elsewhere, some fur farming operations use probes in the mouth and anus to cause cardiac arrest through electrocution. It’s a painful and extremely demoralizing process, and it can cause humans to feel less connected to animals as a result.
Having to Block Out the Gruesome Reality
Imagine the emotions you have to shut down to be able to execute an animal at all, let alone in such a grim fashion. It’s dangerous not only to nonhuman animals but to humans themselves.
Poisoning is another common way to kill animals prior to harvesting their furs. Substances like strychnine don’t put the animal to sleep but create a chain of horrific symptoms that ultimately culminate in organ failure.
The priority in fur farming, of course, is the protection of the pelt. Imperfections in the fur can result in lost profits, so animals are either crammed so close together that they can’t move or are separated into individual cages that prevent them from socializing.
Animals and their babies are separated immediately at birth. Some of these animals die prematurely from the diseases that run rampant through fur farming operations, many of which are preventable through sanitation.
Whether the animals die soon after birth or a few months down the road, they face an inhumane slaughter — not so people can eat, which is bad enough, but so that people can wear them like baubles on a Christmas tree.
What Role Does Stress Play in Fur Farming?
Farmed animals, such as foxes and minks, aren’t domesticated creatures. They live by their instincts, which makes them unsuitable for captivity.
These animals undergo extreme stress because they aren’t allowed to express their ingrained behaviors. Consequently, they sometimes devolve as species into behaviors like cannibalism, fighting, and self-mutilation. These animals are unhealthy mentally because of how they’re raised.
Human beings often talk about phenomena like “cabin fever.” You might be cooped up in your house for a few days because you’re sick or because a snowstorm has made the roads impassable.
Let’s say that you live in a 900-square-foot apartment. Imagine shrinking that down to a cage that’s so tight you can’t even turn around. Further compound your stress by adding hundreds of other cages on all sides, each containing another captive human being. Imagine eating food as it’s dropped through the top of your cage and gagging on the odors of human waste.
That’s the life of a farmed animal in a fur farming operation. These creatures endure tremendous stress during their short lives.
What About Fur Bans?
Fur bans exist all around the world. These laws attempt to stem the fur farming industry and to keep animals safe, but the laws aren’t nearly comprehensive enough or sufficiently applied.
In the United States, for instance, it’s up to the states whether to ban some or all fur banning or to protect certain species. Fur farming has become prohibitive in California thanks to the laws requiring adequate space for captive mink and foxes.
Other countries have taken fur bans much farther. Fox fur farming is banned completely in Denmark, for example, and both India and New Zealand ban mink fur imports.
Fur bans that expand to include as many species as possible can help destroy the fur industry. If companies can’t earn sufficient money by slaughtering animals for their pelts, they’ll go out of business and find other ways to make money.
How Can We Prevent Fur Farming?
To stop fur farming, we need to take a closer look at consumer behaviors and our thoughts on animal abuse, animal cruelty, and animal welfare. What has gone so wrong that millions of animals have to die just to give up their fur?
Consumers can help stop fur farming by refusing to buy furs in any form. Maybe you love the soft tactile feeling of touching fur. There are plenty of synthetic options available that offer the same pleasure without your having to contribute to animal cruelty.
Animal rights activists are battling fur farming in all directions. You can join them by lending your voice and spreading awareness about the fur industry and its deleterious impacts on our animal friends.
Write letters to your legislators, protest animal farming in any way, and learn as much as you can about factory farming and its impact on the environment.
Stopping fur farming isn’t just about saving helpless animals’ lives. It’s also about reducing our carbon footprint, putting more plant-based resources toward feeding human beings and stopping the systemic destruction of our natural habitats.
What About Animals That Don’t Die From Fur Removal?
Fur farming generally refers to the practice of removing an animal’s pelt after it’s slaughtered. However, we also harvest other types of fur from animals without killing them.
Sheep, alpacas, and other animals can have their wool shorn without giving their lives. But does that make the practice humane? These animals are wild, which means they don’t understand what’s happening to them. They have no meaningful connection with the shearers.
Additionally, accidents frequently happen during sheep shearing. Because speed matters, a shearer might accidentally clip off an ear, gouge out an eye, or otherwise mutilate the animal. During the shearing process, the animal is thrown onto tables and other equipment to maximize wool yield, which can cause injury.
Don’t forget that sheep grow full, thick coats for a reason. They need their coats to protect them from the elements and to regulate their body temperatures. The same goes for alpacas, llamas, and similar animals whose coats are often shorn for wool.
You also have to remember that sheep aren’t safe in a fur-obsessed world. Yes, sheepskin is produced by removing the entire pelt from the animal, either before or after death. The same goes for calfskin, pigskin, and other materials that enjoy popularity
Do Other Animals Lose Their Hides?
If you have a pair of alligator skin boots, you know that an alligator had to die to prepare those boots for you — and probably more than one. Many animals, from mammals to reptiles, are held captive for their skin, fur, or coats.
The difference, however, is that these activities usually take place outside of fur farming operations. Instead, the animals are caught wild and skinned right on the spot — often alive. Zebras, bulls, and other animals whose pelts make desirable rugs lose their lives in the world, then rot as carcasses or attract carrion eaters.
It should go without saying that no animal should lose its fur, skin, and other body parts for human amusement. We have no need for animal fur or skin, so why do we continue to harvest it?
Part of the problem is cultural. Certain parts of the country celebrate these items as symbols of economic status and even as part of royal tradition.
Fur Farming Versus Wild Fur
In some ways, wild fur is obtained just as inhumanely as farmed fur. Hunters go out into the wild and set traps, which can leave animals suffering for hours or even days. Some animals will do everything in their power to get themselves free of these traps, including chewing off their own limbs.
Many wild furs are considered exotic, and some hunters use extra-legal means to obtain these furs and then sell them on the black market or export them to other parts of the world. The insatiable greed for furs in certain countries provides a consistent profit for people who are willing to go out and kill and skin wild animals.
However, when it comes to the differences between fur farming and killing for wild fur, the results are the same: intense animal suffering.
These animals are either bred and raised in cages or taken out in their own habitats. There’s no reason to do either one, which is why it’s essential to battle fur farming at every opportunity.
Fur farming is an industry that combines animal abuse, neglect, and torture for no decent reason whatsoever. These animals suffer at the hands of human beings only to die in the end.
We live in a world where synthetic alternatives exist to almost every organic substance on the planet. There’s no reason to skin animals for their furs, especially in the developed world.
Yet it still happens. If you’re shocked and appalled by what you’ve read here, you might consider joining an animal rights group to help the fight against fur farming. The more people who speak up, the faster we’ll be able to put an end to such a barbaric industry.
Most importantly, though, don’t buy fur. You don’t need it. Stand up for animals all over the world by keeping your wardrobe and home free of all animal by-products, including supposedly “humanely-sourced” wool and similar products.
It’s easy to find things to wear and decor for your house that doesn’t require an animal to suffer in the process.
What do you think about fur farming?
Grant is the co-founder of Sentient Media. He currently lives in Brazil and has traveled across dozens of countries on assignment.