The Fur Trade

A Living Nightmare

On fur farms, animals suffer from the moment they are born until the moment they die. They spend their entire lives trapped in tiny wire cages, crammed by the thousands into squalid sheds, unable to take more than a few steps in any direction.

Wild animals like minks and foxes are deprived of every natural act that is important to them – running, digging, making nests, finding mates, and for the semi-aquatic mink, swimming and diving. They never see direct sunlight, or feel the earth beneath their feet. In the anguish and frustration of extreme confinement, they self-mutilate, frantically pace, gnaw on cage bars, endlessly repeat stereotypic behaviors, and cannibalize cagemates.

The dark, dismal sheds on fur farms are often so filthy with urine and feces that ammonia stings the eyes. Some fox farmers do not use sheds, keeping the foxes in outdoor cages totally exposed to freezing cold, driving rain, and sweltering heat. Parasites and disease are rampant, and along with wounds, infections, swelling, and deformities, are rarely treated.

Breeding animals spend years trapped in this unbearable reality, having generation after generation of their children stolen from them. Their children live for less than a year before they are killed.

In the United States, not a single federal law exists to protect animals on fur farms.

Dying in Despair

For animals on fur farms, the only escape from their lives of misery comes in death. The gruesome killing methods chosen by fur farmers preserve the quality of the pelt at the cost of extreme suffering for the animals.

Gassing is the most “humane” method of slaughter, according to the fur industry’s United States trade group. Within sight and smell of their mothers, minks are shoved into crowded miniature gas chambers to suffer the horrors of poisoning by hot machine exhaust. The minks – whose lungs have special aquatic adaptations to hold their breath for long periods of time – scream, convulse, collapse in paralysis from bleeding in their brains, and ultimately suffocate. It is well-documented that a significant percentage are removed prior to death, and end up being skinned alive.

On fox farms, the killing method of choice is often anal electrocution. Workers tighten a catch pole around the foxes’ necks, and then force metal rods into their anuses and mouths to electrocute them while fully conscious.

Other methods include neck-breaking and the injection of poisons like strychnine, which suffocates the animals by paralyzing their muscles with painful cramps. In China, the world’s largest exporter of fur products, many farms have been documented slamming animals against the ground or bludgeoning them to death.

Trapping

Every year, millions of animals endure the horrors of trapping, approximately ten percent of fur sold in the global trade.

The most widely used trap is the steel-jaw trap, which slams shut on an animal’s limb. While this causes immediate injury, it is the animal’s frantic attempts to escape that cause the most severe mutilation – ripped flesh, fractured bones, severed muscles and tendons, and broken teeth from biting the trap. Roughly one in four animals attempts to chew off their own trapped limb, often a mother desperate to return to her babies, who are ultimately left to fend for themselves. These struggles can last for days before a trapper returns to bludgeon or suffocate the animal – if they haven’t succumbed to exhaustion, exposure, blood loss, shock, or predation first.

Other common traps include pole traps – steel-jaw traps set in trees or on poles to prevent predation, which hoist animals in the air and leave them to hang by their caught appendage. Victims of water-set traps, such as beavers, can take fifteen minutes to drown, with half suffering broken bones. Conibear traps apply 90 pounds of pressure per square inch to animals’ necks, suffocating some, while others’ brains fill with blood until their vascular system ruptures. The grotesquely swollen heads of these animals have spawned an industry term – “jellyheads.”

Trapping is not only cruel, but also indiscriminate, crippling or killing dogs, cats, birds, and other animals – including endangered species. A coat made of wild mink fur equates to an average of 60 mink, 180 non-target animals, and 3,600 hours spent in traps. Trapping takes a heavy toll on species equilibrium and riparian ecology.

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