The chinchilla fur industry has a lengthy history in Croatia, as in neighbouring states such as Hungary, the Republic of Yugoslavia and Bosnia. In Croatia, the "Chinchillas Dakovic" company has a virtual monopoly on the market. The company leaves most of the breeding up to a host of small farms spread throughout the country.
Most often, these establishments breed the animals and raise them to nine months. "Chinchillas Dakovic" looks after collecting the rabbits, killing them and treating their skins. However, some "breeders" kill their own animals.
The breeding areas are very small but house up from 100 to 300 animals. Each animal has a 50cm long x 45 cm wide x 35 cm high cage. The floor of the cage is in sheet metal covered with sawdust. Each cage has a little raised platform and a sand pit for the animals to groom their fur in.
Captive chinchillas are most happy in temperatures ranging from 15-20° C. To achieve these temperatures, the farmers use ventilators in summer and heaters in winter. Reproductive females are the worst off. While the males are provided with tunnels so they can access the females, the females cannot leave their cages because of the plastic collars holding them. In the wild, chinchillas remain with the same partner for life.
Because of their easy-going nature, chinchillas survive relatively well in captivity. Farmers can even remove them from their cages without any fear of being bitten. While their living conditions are nowhere nearly as atrocious as those witnessed on the mink farms, the slaughtering process nevertheless engenders a lot of agony.
Our investigator used a hidden camera to film a chinchilla's last moments.
The animals are either electrocuted, gassed or have their necks broken. Although this last method is banned in the European Union, in Croatia there are no laws or regulations governing chinchilla farming. Even if there were, there would not be enough officials to enforce them.
Our investigator informed us that, "The farmer attached metal clips to one of the animal's legs and its mouth, which he then connected to a transformer. The chinchilla screamed when the electrodes were attached. It went silent as soon as the current was turned on but it was still moving after a good minute and a half. The farmer checked a couple of times to make sure the animal was dead, which was not until two minutes after it was electrocuted. Once the animal was dead, the farmer removed the clips and began cutting it up after shaking it a final time to make sure it really was dead." It takes 120 chinchillas to make a single fur coat.
Slump in the market
The Croatian fur market is currently experiencing a slump. The skins are sold at half the price they were five years ago. There are only a tenth of the farms there were two years ago (down from 2000 to 200) and the number should continue to slide. However, this does not mean that the chinchilla fur trade is in decline globally but rather that suppliers would rather source the animals in other, cheaper, countries.
The only good news about the trip to Croatia was that our investigator managed to rescue 33 chinchillas. Upon their arrival in France they were taken to the "Refuge de l'Arche" where they now roam free and happy.
Great companions … for night owls!
Contrary to what the industry would have us believe, the chinchillas raised for their fur are exactly the same as those kept as pets. This charming rodent is frequently requested as a present. If parents knew that this adorable creature lives for a good fifteen years, is strictly nocturnal and requires special food they might change their minds ...