You wake up in a filthy, cramped metal cage, surrounded by dozens of others who are all as confused and scared as you are. You don't know why you're there, but others around you keep disappearing. You don't know where they are going, but their agonized cries tell you their destination is a place of death and suffering.
One day, someone grabs you from your suffocating prison and takes you against your will. You know you are about to experience the same horrors as the others who have been taken. The air stinks of blood. You are hung from your feet, and before you can scream in protest, you feel the searing pain of a knife cutting into you.
If this disturbs you, be aware that this is the fate of thousands of animals globally, who are often skinned alive for their fur. Eighty-five percent of the fur industry's skins come from animals on fur-factory farms. We must ask ourselves: why are animals subjected to such inhumane treatment, and what can we do to put an end to such cruelty?
While it is true that humans have been wearing animal fur for millennia, what is unprecedented is the severe abuse that animals experience solely for economic and materialistic indulgence. In early human civilization, animal fur was used for sheer survival and necessity, but this is clearly no longer the case today. As human technology has progressed and created a diverse range of clothing options, there is no reason to wear animal fur other than for conspicuous consumption and monetary gain. In a capitalistic and competitive global market, fur-farming methods are designed to benefit only the bottom line. In the end, innocent animals pay the ultimate price. The true bottom line is that fur farming is a shamefully inhumane practice, and it is our responsibility to put an end to this cruelty.
What kinds of animals are killed in fur farms?
According to Born Free USA, more than 36 million animals die on fur farms around the world each year. Thirty-one million (or about 90 percent) of these animals are mink. Foxes account for another 4.5 million, while chinchillas, sable, ferrets (usually marketed as "fitch"), coypus (an aquatic mammal also known as "nutria"), and raccoon dogs (not to be confused with the North American raccoon), account for most of the remaining half-million animals. Due to the recent drop in pelt prices for mink and fox, some of U.S. fur farms have attempted to 'diversify' by raising bobcat, coyote, raccoon, and beavers, along with coypus and rabbits, all in equally abhorrent conditions.
What happens in fur farms?
When one sees the term "farmed fur," many people conjure images of a lush farm where animals are treated humanely, but the harsh reality is that this could not be further from the truth. Although animal-rights advocates have done a phenomenal job of raising awareness about the cruelties involved in fur trapping, little attention has been paid to the atrocities that take place on fur farms, sometimes also referred to euphemistically as "fur ranches." A recent study conducted for the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies indicated that most respondents objected to trapping animals to make fur products and voiced a preference for furs from fur farms (Born Free USA). It is now time for the public to realize that fur farms are just as cruel as trapping.
Animals on fur farms often spend their entire lives in tiny cages that are stacked on top of each other, with feces and urine falling down through the cages into their food and water. They have nothing to stand on but cold, hard, wire mesh. In many cases, animals must share a single cage that does not allow for full movement. Animals are left with no protection from the elements. As a result, studies have shown that up to 85 percent of these confined animals develop behavioral abnormalities, such as rocking, head-bobbing, self-mutilation, psychosis, and infanticide due to anxiety, boredom, and an inability to live in a way that meets their instinctual needs.
As cruel as life on a fur farm is, the methods of killing used in these factories of death are horrifying to say the least. On U.S. and European fur farms, one of the most frequently used methods of killing animals is electrocution. The "farmer" puts a metal clamp in an animal's mouth, a metal rod in the anus, and sends a high-voltage current surging through the body. Sometimes the power surge forces the rod out of the anus, so the procedure must be repeated to kill the animal. Other commonly-employed techniques include homemade gas chambers, such as a box hooked up to a tractor exhaust pipe; lethal injection of various chemicals that kill through paralysis, which can result in immobilized animals being skinned alive; and neck breaking (Born Free USA).
China is the world's largest fur exporter, and its fur farms have demonstrated some of the most harrowing abuses of animal rights to date. Before they are skinned, humans yank the animals from their cages, throw them to the ground, and bludgeon them. Undercover investigators from Swiss Animal Protection/EAST International found that many animals are still alive and struggling desperately when workers flip them onto their backs or hang them up by their legs or tails to skin them. Some of the animals' hearts are still beating five to 10 minutes after they are skinned. Due to the absence of regulations, many animal furs (including cat and dog) are advertised as different animals. There are currently no penalties for abusing animals on fur farms in China.
What can we do to stop fur farming?
Fur farming, like any other industry, depends on the basic economic process of supply and demand. Consequently, the best way to stop fur farming is to ensure that you do not buy any fur products, including any products using fur trim, and take extra precaution even when buying faux fur. Because there are very few countries that have regulations or laws against fur farming, we must pressure our governments to end this cruelty for the sake of fashion, economic greed, and status. International laws are diverse in strength, but a few countries have strictly regulated or completely banned fur farms (Austria, the United Kingdom and Croatia have bans; the Netherlands has a ban on fox and chinchilla farming; and New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland have strict regulations).
No federal laws regulate how the animals on the nearly 400 fur farms in operation in the U.S. are to be housed, cared for, or killed. However, recently, West Hollywood, California, became the first city to ban the sale of wearable fur in the form of any article of clothing. Let us follow in their footsteps and put pressure on our government leaders to set a global example. It is clear that no living creature deserves to be treated this way, and if we are to make any strides as a compassionate society, we must abolish fur farming.