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The fur industry : keeping up pretences
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Fur is back. Proof that it is making a strong comeback lies in the Canadian fur industry's claims that exports "are up by a third over the past two years". However, the conditions in which fur animals are farmed and killed for coats, bed throws and stoles should make people think twice before giving in to the desire to buy such products.

The fur trade's arguments may be convincing but they are wrong.

"These days almost all animals are farm-raised."

Even the EFBA (European Fur Breeders Association) admits that 15% of animals are taken from the wild. Worthy of note is that the French Federation of Furriers cites this figure as being 10%. The Fur Council of Canada claims that it has 80,000 trappers on its books and states that, "Around 2 million fur skins are produced each year in Canada, half of which are sourced from farms." The council's breakdown of wild furs is as follows: "muskrat (34% of total wild furs), beaver (22%) and sable (19%). Fox, coyote, squirrel and raccoon are also abundantly used".

"Trappers are good managers of nature."

Non-selective traps considerably upset the ecological balance because they indiscriminately kill females that have young to feed and hundreds of thousands of other animals are mistakenly snared (these animals are termed "waste"). And these in large quantities – twice as many rejects are snared as targeted species.

"This is an agricultural activity like any other."

Without commenting on the industrial farming of animals for meat, here are several facts about the welfare of animals raised for fur:

• Biological imperatives are in no way taken into consideration. For example, minks are solitary creatures and require a huge terrain with water. Foxes are particularly fearful of humans. Farmed foxes are constantly stressed, even when not handled, and they have nowhere to hide in their cages.

• The cages are so small that they do not even guarantee a minimum of respect for the animals. They are stored off the ground to prevent the animals from escaping. The base is built of wire mesh and the animals end up horrendously wounding the pads of their paws. Nevertheless, the animals constantly pace their cages, going quite insane in their desolately empty environment. According to a study carried out by the European Union in 2001 and entitled The welfare of animals kept for fur production, the cages do not cater to the animals' needs.

• Sick animals are not always treated for financial reasons: for example, an animal may only have a short time to live but its fur may not have deteriorated despite an eye or ear infection.

• The cages do not provide shelter from the weather and are no more than a prison in which the animals come to die. In winter the animals suffer from the wind, cold and snow. Without burrows to hide in, foxes and minks also suffer from the heat. In summer, 10% of animals farmed for their fur die of heat stroke.

"The producers' revenue is closely tied to the well-being of their animals".

The animals are slaughtered at around eight months, when they start producing their first winter coat with new long fur. There is therefore no connection between that state of post-moulting fur and how well captive animals are treated throughout their lifetime.

"Euthanasia methods are similar to those used by animal protection societies".

(FIC: Fur Institute of Canada)

Depending on the country, various methods are used to slaughter animals raised for fur:

• Electrocution: very painful - electrodes placed in the mouth and anus burn the animal when they heat - and sometimes extremely lengthy when current does not reach the brain. Furthermore, the voltage is not always sufficient to kill the animal instantly.

•Poisoning: Dithillinium, a curare poison paralyses foxes but does not kill them. They still feel pain when they are skinned. This cost-effective product is banned in Finland but is widely used in Russia because it is easier to skin the animals while they are still warm. Strychnine, or even readily available herbicides are also used.
• Other methods of slaughtering include: breaking the animal's cervical vertebrae, gassing the animals with cyanide products, asphyxiating the animals with exhaust fumes and placing them in a decompression chamber.

In the case of minks, the French Federation of Furriers states that, "Carbon monoxide is used for the slaughter. This gas is odourless, puts the animal to sleep and desensitises it (around 400 people accidentally die this way in France every year)."

You are free to make your own assessment of this quirky comparison.
Enlightening figures:

According to the Fur Free Alliance, 40 million animals are sacrificed for their fur. Europe is responsible for 70% of world fur production. Total annual production represents 4.3 million fox skins and 29.5 mink skins. Finland is the largest producer of fox skins with around 2.1 million per year. Denmark is the largest producer of mink skins with around 12.3 million per year. The Netherlands produces approximately 3 million mink skins per year and Finland 2 million. According to the EFBA, European countries account for 67% of global mink production and 70% of fox production, that is, 19 million minks and 2.8 million foxes, for a total of 625 million euros.

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