The international trade in fur is highly lucrative, with an estimated global value of £10 billion per year. Conservative estimates suggest that each year 40 million animals are killed. Over 85% are bred and killed on fur farms and the rest are trapped in the wild exclusively for their fur. This figure does not include the thousands of millions of rabbits killed for the fur trade.
The most commonly bred animals on fur farms are mink and fox, but the industry also breeds and kills polecats, raccoons, and chinchillas. It is estimated that two million cats and dogs are also killed for their fur. There are 6,500 fur farms in the EU. The European Union is the world’s largest producer of factory farmed fur. Around 30 million mink, 2 million fox and 100,000 raccoon dogs are killed each year in EU fur factory farms. Europe is responsible for 70% of global mink fur production, and 63% of fox fur production. The countries that farm the most animals for their fur are Denmark, China, and Finland.
The fur industry makes its huge profits by keeping production costs down to the bare minimum. This is through fur farms keeping their animals in appalling conditions, crammed into row after row of tiny barren cages, and left to stand on metal bars for their entire lives. For species such as mink and fox, these conditions are especially appalling, as they are wild animals and would naturally travel many miles each day. Being caged in huge sheds, where thousands of other animals are also imprisoned, drives them insane with anxiety and fear, alongside increasing transmission of disease. Repetitive movements, such as head-bobbing and circling, are commonplace.
Even the method of slaughter is chosen purely with profit in mind. Animals on fur farms are killed by electrocution (through the use of electrodes in the mouth and anus), gassing, lethal injection or neck breaking. These crude methods are employed to ensure that the pelts (the animals’ skins and fur) are not damaged. These methods are designed only to protect the valuable pelts, without any consideration for the animal’s suffering. However, the barbaric fur industry continues to thrive, fuelled by the increasing consumer demand. The renewed popularity of fur undoubtedly owes much to the expensive propaganda campaign the international fur industry has waged in recent years. Their PR campaign has been very well coordinated and funded, aimed at dispelling the moral stigma attached to wearing fur.
China is the world’s largest exporter of fur clothing and according to industry sources, the biggest fur trade production and processing base in the world.
Supporters of the fur industry often claim that trapping is a tool for wildlife management and conservation. This is untrue. Many species of wild cats such as ocelots, margays and lynx are being driven to the verge of extinction by hunting and trapping. There are under 4,000 snow leopards left in the world. Sea otters were driven to the very edge of extinction and despite protection, their numbers remain very low. The sea mink paid the ultimate price for having a beautiful fur coat – extinction.
Fur farmers try to insist that the animals are looked after very well and that they do not suffer when they are killed. Yet undercover footage shows time and time again that the animals are going insane from their confinement, endlessly weaving and pacing in their desperation to be free. When they are killed, it often takes a few attempts to break the animals’ necks, as they try to squirm their way out of their executioner’s grip; or, if they are electrocuted, the terror as the electrodes are shoved into their mouth and anus is clear. They cry out whilst their bodies convulse - there can be no doubt that these animals are dying in agony.