Fifty years ago, Russia was one of the largest exporters of fur but the Russian fur trade has declined. The USA and Canada both export fur pelts and import fur products. China has become the largest importer of fur pelts and the largest exporter of fur products.
China is the world’s largest exporter of fur products and more than half of finished fur garments are sold in the United States. China is also the centre of the cat and dog fur trade. It is estimated that over 2 million domestic cats and dogs are killed every year in China alone, to make fur-trimmed clothing and accessories. Their fur is often exported falsely labelled as ‘faux fur’ to North America and Europe, where dog and cat fur is banned. There are no regulations governing fur farms resulting in shocking levels of animal welfare and abuse.
In 2014, for the first time in Canadian history, a Quebec fur farmer by the name of Jean-Luc Rodier was charged with animal cruelty following an investigation by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (S.P.C.A.). Fox and mink at the fur farm were seized by animal welfare organisations and some were in such poor condition that they had to be euthanised. Following the S.P.C.A. investigation, this Quebec Fur Farm was raided by anonymous activists who set free thousands of animals.
Video footage taken at Fur Farms in 2014 in British Columbia by the A.P.F.A. was described by the S.P.C.A. as "inherently inhumane". Animal rights activists in the city of Vancouver have been using legal and illegal actions to protest selling fur such as vandalism, home demonstrations of fur shop owners, and organising public protests.
Canadian fur farms in the Province of Ontario have been repeatedly targeted by an underground group called Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Thousands of mink were freed from farms across the province during 2013, 2014 and 2015.The mink breeders association of Ontario responded by offering $100,000 dollar reward leading to a conviction of the persons responsible. Undercover footage was also released by the ALF in 2015 of several mink farms, in the Ontario area, it shows injured animals and mink cages covered in faeces and maggots. Animal rights organisations across the province have taken a wide array of actions to stop the fur trade, such as public protests and disruptions of fur fashion shows.
More than 85% of pelts used in the world’s fur trade come from the USA. Approximately 275 mink farms in 23 states across the USA produce about 3 million pelts annually, with a value of more than $300 million USD (2013). Wisconsin is the leading mink-producing state, generating well over 1 million pelts. The other States with Mink Farms are Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Minnesota.
The US also has around 60 fox fur farms producing around 5000 pelts per annum.
For many years Russia produced about a 40 % of the world's fur. The Soviet Union was the main global supplier of mink, sable and fox. Most of the furs were exported and fur was an important source of hard currency.
Sable (a small member of the marten family) was the most prized fur. Pelts from wild animals are regarded as more valuable than farm-raised ones. Russia has a range of bred fox colour mutations, including blue and white fox from the Arctic region, and the platinum and silver fox from North America.
The fur farm industry in Russia produces mostly minks and polar foxes. There are some for sable farms but the fur from these animals is regarded as much lower quality than that of wild sable. Farmed Sable is fed ‘by-products’ of the meat industry, in the 1950s and 60s, they were often fed whale meat. Fur animals have traditionally been slaughtered in the middle of the winter when their coats are the thickest.
Demand for fur coats has declined significantly in Russia and around the world—with the exception of China—after the anti-fur and animal rights movements took hold. The decline in demand for furs caused the price of furs to drop so low the cost of feeding the animals exceeded the money that could be earned from selling the furs.
A significant portion of Russian fur is ‘wild’ from hunters and trappers that range the wilderness trapping and shooting. Lynx, Beaver, Marten, Fox and other animals are caught in foot traps that often leave them writhing in pain until they die of hunger or are clubbed by a hunter.