Eighty-five percent of the fur industry's skins come from animals living captive in fur factory farms. These farms can hold thousands of animals, and their farming practices are remarkably uniform around the globe. As with other intensive-confinement animal farms, the methods used in fur factory farms are designed to maximize profits, always at the expense of the animals.
Painful and Short Lives
The most commonly farmed fur-bearing animals are minks, followed by foxes. Chinchillas, lynxes, and even hamsters are also farmed for their fur. Seventy-three percent of fur farms are in Europe, 12 percent are in North America, and the rest are dispersed throughout the world, in countries such as Argentina, China, and Russia.
Mink farmers usually breed female minks once a year. There are about three or four surviving kittens in each litter, and they are killed when they are about 6 months old, depending on what country they are in, after the first hard freeze. Minks used for breeding are kept for four to five years. The animals-who are housed in unbearably small cages-live with fear, stress, disease, parasites, and other physical and psychological hardships, all for the sake of an unnecessary global industry that makes billions of dollars annually.
Rabbits are slaughtered by the millions for meat, particularly in China, Italy, and Spain. Once considered a mere byproduct of this consumption, the rabbit-fur industry demands the thicker pelt of an older animal (rabbits raised for meat are killed at the age of 10 to 12 weeks). The United Nations reports that countries such as France are killing as many as 70 million rabbits a year for fur, which is used in clothing, as lures in flyfishing, and for trim on craft items.
Life on the ‘Ranch'
To cut costs, fur farmers pack animals into small cages, preventing them from taking more than a few steps back and forth. This crowding and confinement is especially distressing to minks - solitary animals who may occupy up to 2,500 acres of wetland habitat in the wild. The anguish and frustration of life in a cage leads minks to self-mutilate - biting at their skin, tails, and feet - and frantically pace and circle endlessly. Zoologists at Oxford University who studied captive minks found that despite generations of being bred for fur, minks have not been domesticated and suffer greatly in captivity, especially if they are not given the opportunity to swim. Foxes, raccoons, and other animals suffer just as much and have been found to cannibalize their cagemates in response to their crowded confinement.
Animals in fur factory farms are fed meat byproducts considered unfit for human consumption. Water is provided by a nipple system, which often freezes in the winter or might fail because of human error.
Poison and Pain
No humane slaughter law protects animals in fur factory farms, and killing methods are gruesome. Because fur farmers care only about preserving the quality of the fur, they use slaughter methods that keep the pelts intact but that can result in extreme suffering for the animals. Small animals may be crammed into boxes and poisoned with hot, unfiltered engine exhaust from a truck. Engine exhaust is not always lethal, and some animals wake up while they are being skinned. Larger animals have clamps attached to or rods forced into their mouths and rods are forced into their anuses, and they are painfully electrocuted. Other animals are poisoned with strychnine, which suffocates them by paralyzing their muscles with painful, rigid cramps. Gassing, decompression chambers, and neck-breaking are other common slaughter methods in fur factory farms.
The fur industry refuses to condemn even blatantly cruel killing methods. Genital electrocution-deemed "unacceptable" by the American Veterinary Medical Association in its "2000 Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia" - causes animals to suffer from cardiac arrest while they are still conscious. The chinchilla fur industry considers electrocution and neck-breaking "acceptable."
Contrary to fur-industry propaganda, fur production destroys the environment. The amount of energy needed to produce a real fur coat from ranch-raised animal skins is approximately 15 times that needed to produce a fake fur garment. Nor is fur biodegradable, thanks to the chemical treatment applied to stop the fur from rotting. The process of using these chemicals is also dangerous because it can cause water contamination.
Each mink skinned by fur farmers produces about 44 pounds of faeces. Based on the total number of minks skinned in the United States in 2004, which was 2.56 million, mink factory farms generate tens of thousands of tons of manure annually. One result is nearly 1,000 tons of phosphorus, which wreaks havoc on water ecosystems.
Although the majority of animals slaughtered for their fur come from notoriously cruel fur factory farms, trappers worldwide kill millions of raccoons, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, opossums, nutria, beavers, otters, and other fur-bearing animals every year for the clothing industry.
How a Trapped Animal Dies
There are various types of traps, including snares, underwater traps, and Conibear traps, but the steel-jaw trap is the most widely used. This simple but barbaric device has been banned or is restricted in a growing number of states across the United States, including Arizona, Colorado, California, and Washington. The European Union has banned both the use of the trap and the importation of furs from countries "that catch [wild animals] by means of leghold traps or trapping methods which do not meet international humane trapping standards."
When an animal steps on the spring of a steel-jaw trap, the trap's jaws slam on the animal's limb. The animal frantically struggles in excruciating pain as the trap cuts into his or her flesh, often down to the bone, mutilating the animal's foot or leg. Some animals, especially mothers desperate to get back to their young, fight so vigorously that they attempt to chew or twist off their trapped limbs. This struggle may last for hours. Eventually, the animal succumbs to exhaustion and often exposure, frostbite, shock, and death.
If trapped animals do not die from blood loss, infection, or gangrene, they might be killed by predators. To prevent this, pole traps are often used. A pole trap is a form of steel-jaw trap that is set in a tree or on a pole. Animals caught in these traps are hoisted into the air and left to hang by the caught appendage until they die or the trapper arrives to kill them.
Conibear traps crush animals' necks, applying 90 pounds of pressure per square inch. It takes animals three to eight minutes to suffocate in these traps. Victims of water-set traps, including beavers and muskrats, can take more than nine agonizing minutes to drown.
Every year, dogs, cats, birds, and other animals, including endangered species, are crippled or killed by traps. Trappers call these animals "trash kills" because they have no economic value. State regulations on how often trappers must check their traps vary from 24 hours to one week. Some states have no regulations at all.
In one case, a dog named Delilah was trapped for 48 hours in Pennsylvania after a steel-jaw trap snapped down on her leg; the local paper said she "used her free legs to scrape a hole to sleep in and gnawed on bark, hoping for nourishment." Her leg had to be amputated. Another dog suffered for at least five days in Nebraska, where trappers are legally supposed to check traps daily.
During a four-month period, 12 dogs were reportedly caught in traps in western Montana; three of them died. In Middleboro, Massachusetts, the body of a skinned dog was found with his front paw missing. Evidence led the investigating officer to conclude that a trapper caught the dog in a trap and then shot and skinned him.
Animal Populations Self-Regulate
Contrary to fur-industry propaganda, there is no ecologically sound reason to trap animals for "wildlife management." In fact, trapping disrupts wildlife populations by killing healthy animals needed to keep their species strong, and populations are further damaged when the parents of young animals are killed. Left alone, animal populations can and do regulate their own numbers. Even if human intervention or an unusual natural occurrence caused an animal population to rise temporarily, the group would soon stabilize through natural processes no more cruel, even at their worst, than the pain and trauma of being trapped and slaughtered by humans.
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