Fur

fox in cage

Introduction

Fur has long-been considered a luxury clothing item. In the 1970s it peaked as a sign of wealth, and even today, although public opinion is largely against the use of fur, it remains a status symbol for those who care more about high-end fashion than the ethics of their clothing.

When our prehistoric ancestors dressed in animal skins and fur, it was a necessity for survival, but today, with so many alternative cruelty-free clothing items, it is utterly and inexcusably cruel. Viva! believes the fur trade should be consigned to the history books.

The Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act

After much campaigning by animal rights groups and due to public opposition, the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act was passed in 2000, banning fur farming in England and Wales in 2000 and Scotland and NI in 2002.1Legislation.gov.uk. 2000. Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000. Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/33/contents [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Fur farms were banned on the grounds they were unethical and immoral, yet hypocritically, the UK outsources its cruelty, still allowing fur to be imported from abroad. Most of the fur the UK imports comes from European countries, notably Denmark and Poland.2House of Commons. 2018. Fur trade in the UK: Seventh Report of Session 2017–19. Available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvfru/823/823.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Before the ban came into effect there were 11 fur farms in the UK, producing up to 100,000 mink skins each year.3BBC News. 2000. ‘Campaigners hail fur ban bill’. BBC News. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1034562.stm [Accessed 4 December 2020]. Although the UK can’t farm animals for fur, in 2017, the UK imported £63 million worth of fur and articles with fur.2House of Commons. 2018. Fur trade in the UK: Seventh Report of Session 2017–19. Available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvfru/823/823.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Although the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act makes it illegal for animals to be farmed specifically for fur, their skins can still be sold as a byproduct of the meat industry. Rabbits in particular fall victim to this loophole, which means the UK is, in effect, still fur farming.4Animal Aid. 2021. Help Ban Fur Sales in the UK! Available: https://www.animalaid.org.uk/ban-fur-sales/ [Accessed 6 July 2021].

Fur in the fashion industry

fur coats

Although largely shunned by the British public, fur is still available on British high streets, usually in high-end fashion retailers such as Harrods and specialist boutiques.5Abnet, K. 2015. ‘Inside the Growing Global Fur Industry’. Business of Fashion. Available at: https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/inside-the-growing-global-fur-industry [Accessed 4 December 2020]. Due to successful pressure campaigns by animal rights groups, many fashion designers and brands have stopped using fur but it is still an all-too-common sight in the clothing industry.

Canada Goose is one of the most famous brands to still use coyote fur as the trim of their parka hoods, although they claimed in their Sustainability Report that from 2022 they would stop killing animals for their fur and only use reclaimed fur that already exists in the supply chain.6Canada Goose. 2019. Sustainability Report 2019. Available at: https://www.canadagoose.com/on/demandware.static/-/Library-Sites-CG-Global/default/dw1f2c4bc8/pages/sustainability/CG_2019_CSR_Report_PDF_030620.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020]. In June 2021, this decision was followed by a stronger promise to remove all fur from their products by the end of 2022.7Cochrane, L. 2021. Canada Goose Fashion Brand to Stop Using Fur by End of 2022. The Guardian. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/24/canada-goose-fashion-brand-to-stop-using-fur-by-end-of-2022 [Accessed 6 July 2021]. Canada Goose have always argued that their fur is sustainable and ethical, yet their decision to first stop trapping wild coyotes and then abandon fur altogether, shows that even they could no longer dismiss the abhorrent reality of the fur trade.

Fur often makes an unwelcome annual appearance on Christmas markets in the UK and Europe, as rabbit fur baubles on bags, shoes and scarves.

References:
  1. Legislation.gov.uk. 2000. Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000. Available at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/33/contents [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  2. House of Commons. 2018. Fur trade in the UK: Seventh Report of Session 2017–19. Available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvfru/823/823.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  3. BBC News. 2000. ‘Campaigners hail fur ban bill’. BBC News. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1034562.stm [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  4. Animal Aid. 2021. Help Ban Fur Sales in the UK! Available: https://www.animalaid.org.uk/ban-fur-sales/ [Accessed 6 July 2021].
  5. Abnet, K. 2015. ‘Inside the Growing Global Fur Industry’. Business of Fashion. Available at: https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/news-analysis/inside-the-growing-global-fur-industry [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  6. Canada Goose. 2019. Sustainability Report 2019. Available at: https://www.canadagoose.com/on/demandware.static/-/Library-Sites-CG-Global/default/dw1f2c4bc8/pages/sustainability/CG_2019_CSR_Report_PDF_030620.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  7. Cochrane, L. 2021. Canada Goose Fashion Brand to Stop Using Fur by End of 2022. The Guardian. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/24/canada-goose-fashion-brand-to-stop-using-fur-by-end-of-2022 [Accessed 6 July 2021].

Who does fur come from?

Every year, around 100 million animals are raised and killed for their fur.1Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Fur Farming’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/fur-farming/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].

The vast majority of fur used in the fashion industry comes from mink. Mink belong to the family Mustelidae which also includes weasels, otters, chinchillas and ferrets. They are small, semi-aquatic carnivorous mammals. After mink, the second most common animals killed for their fur are foxes, racoons and rabbits and then wild-trapped animals such as coyote, lynx, beavers and otter.2Humane Society International. Political Briefing Paper One: The case for a ban on the UK fur trade. Available at: https://www.furfreebritain.uk/resources/HSI-Political-Briefing-One-The-case-for-a-ban-on-the-UK-fur-trade.pdf    [Accessed 4 December 2020].

arctic fox
mink
rabbits

How the animals are farmed and killed

arctic fox with injured leg
Credit: Viva!Poland

Fur comes from either animals on fur farms or from those wild-trapped. Fur farms supply 85% to 95% of the fur with the rest coming from animals trapped in the wild.2Humane Society International. Political Briefing Paper One: The case for a ban on the UK fur trade. Available at: https://www.furfreebritain.uk/resources/HSI-Political-Briefing-One-The-case-for-a-ban-on-the-UK-fur-trade.pdf  [Accessed 4 December 2020].3Peterson, L. A. 2010. Detailed Discussion of Fur Animals and Fur Production. Animal Legal & Historical Center. Available at: https://www.animallaw.info/article/detailed-discussion-fur-animals-and-fur-production [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Fur Farms

Fur from mink, foxes and rabbits usually comes from a fur farm.

Mink and foxes spend their short lives imprisoned in crowded wire mesh cages deprived of any means to carry out their natural behaviours. The barren cages occasionally have a nest box but very little else. Keeping carnivorous animals in such close quarters often results in fighting, wounds and infection.2Humane Society International. Political Briefing Paper One: The case for a ban on the UK fur trade. Available at: https://www.furfreebritain.uk/resources/HSI-Political-Briefing-One-The-case-for-a-ban-on-the-UK-fur-trade.pdf  [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Animals on fur farms often display abnormal behaviour due to the unnatural conditions. Mink and foxes have been shown to chew their fur and bite their tails out of desperation. According to the Pickett and Harris, mink and foxes often “display locomotor stereotypies which typically involve pacing along the cage wall, vertical rearing in a cage corner, repetitive circling or nodding of the head/front half of the body, and/or repeatedly entering and leaving the nest-box.”4Pickett, H. & Harris, S. 2015. The Case Against Fur Factory Farming: A Scientific Review of Animal Welfare Standards and ‘WelFur’. Respect for Animals. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Case-against-fur-farming.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020]. These behaviours are not witnessed in the wild, or even zoos, but speak to the wholly unnatural and stressful conditions on fur farms.

In its report ‘The Fur Trade in the UK’, the House of Commons noted that: “fur farms routinely lead to animals enduring physical suffering, and denial of animals’ key behavioural needs and positive social interactions leads to psychological suffering.”5House of Commons. 2018. Fur trade in the UK: Seventh Report of Session 2017–19. Available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvfru/823/823.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].

minks in crowded cage
Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurrattsalliansen
mink farm in sweden
Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurrattsalliansen
mink in dirty cage
Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory

How the animals are killed on fur farms

Mink are usually callously killed by gassing with carbon dioxide (CO2) or carbon monoxide (CO). A mobile killing box is usually wheeled alongside the cages and the victims are dragged from their cage by the neck, shoved into the box and gassed.4Pickett, H. & Harris, S. 2015. The Case Against Fur Factory Farming: A Scientific Review of Animal Welfare Standards and ‘WelFur’. Respect for Animals. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Case-against-fur-farming.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020]. Because mink are semi-aquatic animals, they can hold their breath for up to 36 minutes.6Bagniewska, J.M., Harrington, L.A., Hart, T. et al. 2015. Persistence in diving American mink. Anim Biotelemetry 3, 18. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40317-015-0057-4 [Accessed 22 December 2020]. This means their deaths are cruelly prolonged and far from instant, with a second gassing sometimes needed to kill them.7Carstensen, T. and Kevany, S. 2020. Danish Covid mink cull and future disease fears will kill fur trade, say farmers. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/06/danish-covid-mink-cull-and-future-disease-fears-will-kill-fur-trade-say-farmers [Accessed 22 December 2020].

Foxes have it no better and are usually killed by electrocution. Each animal is restrained in neck tongues while electrodes are attached to their mouth and rectum. “A minimum current of 0.3 amperes and a minimum voltage of 110 volts” passes through the animal’s poor body for at least three seconds. As the foxes are not sedated prior to electrocution, they often struggle for their lives, making their death longer and more painful than is deemed ‘acceptable’.4Pickett, H. & Harris, S. 2015. The Case Against Fur Factory Farming: A Scientific Review of Animal Welfare Standards and ‘WelFur’. Respect for Animals. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Case-against-fur-farming.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].

dead fox
Credit: Viva!Poland
dead cubs
Credit: Viva!Poland

Trapping

The five million animals who are wild-trapped each year8Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Trapping’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/trapping/ [Accessed 4 December 2020]. face a different kind of torture.

Most of this torture takes place in the US, Canada and Russia. Animals are trapped in either: leghold traps, steel jaws which lock around the animal’s ankle; conibear traps, which clamp around the animal’s neck, crushing and strangling them; and neck snares, which tighten around the animal’s neck. The trappers target most animals at the beginning of winter when their fur is the thickest, and attract the animals to their deaths using baited, concealed traps.9Peterson, L. A. 2010. Detailed Discussion of Fur Animals and Fur Production. Animal Legal & Historical Center. Available at: https://www.animallaw.info/article/detailed-discussion-fur-animals-and-fur-production [Accessed 4 December 2020].

These traps rarely kill the animals outright so they are left writhing and struggling for days trying to free themselves. If they are not attacked and ripped apart by another predator, they often bleed to death trying to escape the trap. Many even resort to chewing their foot off to free themselves.9Born Free USA. 2020. ‘Trapping’. Available at: https://www.bornfreeusa.org/campaigns/trapping/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Of course, the trap can’t control who gets caught in it so often other unintended animals are killed and discarded by the trappers. “Each year, traps in the United States injure and kill millions of “nontarget” animals—domestic dogs and cats, rabbits, deer, songbirds, raptors, livestock, and even endangered species.”8Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Trapping’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/trapping/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].

coyote in canada
References:
  1. Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Fur Farming’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/fur-farming/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  2. Humane Society International. Political Briefing Paper One: The case for a ban on the UK fur trade. Available at: https://www.furfreebritain.uk/resources/HSI-Political-Briefing-One-The-case-for-a-ban-on-the-UK-fur-trade.pdf    [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  3. Peterson, L. A. 2010. Detailed Discussion of Fur Animals and Fur Production. Animal Legal & Historical Center. Available at: https://www.animallaw.info/article/detailed-discussion-fur-animals-and-fur-production [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  4. Pickett, H. & Harris, S. 2015. The Case Against Fur Factory Farming: A Scientific Review of Animal Welfare Standards and ‘WelFur’. Respect for Animals. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Case-against-fur-farming.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  5. House of Commons. 2018. Fur trade in the UK: Seventh Report of Session 2017–19. Available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvfru/823/823.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  6. Bagniewska, J.M., Harrington, L.A., Hart, T. et al. 2015. Persistence in diving American mink. Anim Biotelemetry 3, 18. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40317-015-0057-4 [Accessed 22 December 2020].
  7. Carstensen, T. and Kevany, S. 2020. Danish Covid mink cull and future disease fears will kill fur trade, say farmers. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/06/danish-covid-mink-cull-and-future-disease-fears-will-kill-fur-trade-say-farmers [Accessed 22 December 2020].
  8. Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Trapping’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/trapping/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  9. Born Free USA. 2020. ‘Trapping’. Available at: https://www.bornfreeusa.org/campaigns/trapping/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Viva! Poland investigation photos

Find out more about Viva! Poland's fur campaign here

Is fur humane?

There is no humane way to forcibly remove the skin from an animal who doesn’t want to die.

As you can see from the methods used on fur farms and to trap wild animals, the welfare of the animals carries no consideration. Even Mike Moser, the former CEO of the British Fur Trade Association, wants fur banned after witnessing the cruelty on fur farms.1Farhoud, N. 2020. “Ex-boss of British Fur Trade pleads ‘ban it’ after cruelty reduced him to tears”. The Mirror. Available at: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ex-boss-british-fur-trade-22650898 [Accessed 4 December 2020].

caged rabbits
Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality
dead rabbits
Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality
skinned rabbits
Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Animal Equality

Is fur sustainable?

fur farm in canada
Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory

The fur industry often claims that as fur has natural origins, it is a sustainable, environmentally friendly product.2British Fur Association. ‘Sustainability’. Available at: http://britishfur.co.uk/sustainability/ [Accessed 4 December 2020]. This is pure greenwashing.

Pollution and climate impact

Just like any intensive animal farm, be it pigs, cows or mink, fur farms are terrible for the environment:

“Intensive fur farms produce tons of manure, producing greenhouse emissions, nutrients flows, loss of biodiversity and attracting armies of flies. Waste runoff from intensive fur factory farms is a major pollution problem, contaminating soil and waterways.”3Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Local Pollution’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/local-pollution/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].

From the fuel used by trappers, to the running of the farm, the storage of the furs and the transportation of the skins around the world, the fur industry is highly energy intensive.4Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Climate impact’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/climate-impact/ [Accessed 4 December 2020]. Even Jesper Lauge Christensen, CEO of Kopenhagen Fur admits the fur industry needs to find a way to emit less CO2.5Biondi, A. 2019. ‘The Fur Industry is Fighting Back’. Vogue Business. Available at: https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/materials-fur-industry-faux-vegan-prada-chanel-yoox-net-a-porter-burberry [Accessed 4 December 2020]. Faux fur, on the other hand, uses 20 percent less energy than real fur to produce.6Hoskins, T. 2013. ‘Is the fur trade sustainable?’. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/is-fur-trade-sustainable [Accessed 4 December 2020].

 

Toxic fur

Fur doesn’t just come directly from the animal to the clothes rail. Like denim and leather, it undergoes various chemical treatments to preserve it from decay and make it suitable for clothing.

Carcinogenic chemicals such as formaldehyde, chromium and ammonia are used, posing a health risk to the workers and to the wearers of the clothes.7The Humane Society of the United States. 2009. TOXIC FUR: The Impacts of Fur Production on the Environment and the Risks to Human Health. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/HSUS_EN_Toxic-fur-Report-2009.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020]. Six studies of fur across Europe, carried out between 2011 and 2015 found that: “All results indicated some presence of chemicals dangerous to human health, in many cases at alarming levels which exceeded legal limits.”8ACT Asia. 2018. Toxic Fur: A global issue. Available at: https://www.actasia.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Toxic-Fur_6.1.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020]. The World Bank found that “This hazardous process has led to fur dressing being ranked as one of the world’s five worst industries for toxic-metal pollution.”6Hoskins, T. 2013. ‘Is the fur trade sustainable?’. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/is-fur-trade-sustainable [Accessed 4 December 2020].

 

Biodiversity and wildlife loss

The fur industry also has a direct negative impact on biodiversity and wildlife loss.

Firstly, traps kill indiscriminately, claiming the lives of local wildlife, referred to as “trash” by the trappers. The gray wolf is just one example of an endangered animal frequently caught in coyote snares. Other victims include the lynx and bald eagle.7The Humane Society of the United States. 2009. TOXIC FUR: The Impacts of Fur Production on the Environment and the Risks to Human Health. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/HSUS_EN_Toxic-fur-Report-2009.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Fur farms also upset the natural equilibrium of local ecosystems when animals escape and establish themselves in the wild, as is the case with the American mink in Europe. The European mink and polecats struggle to compete with the more generalist and aggressive American counterpart, which also decimates local bird populations.9European Environment Agency. 2012. The impacts of invasive alien species in Europe. EEA. Available at: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/impacts-of-invasive-alien-species [Accessed 4 December 2020].10Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Impact on Biodiversity’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/impact-on-biodiversity/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].

References:
  1. Farhoud, N. 2020. “Ex-boss of British Fur Trade pleads ‘ban it’ after cruelty reduced him to tears”. The Mirror. Available at: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ex-boss-british-fur-trade-22650898 [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  2. British Fur Association. ‘Sustainability’. Available at: http://britishfur.co.uk/sustainability/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  3. Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Local Pollution’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/local-pollution/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  4. Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Climate impact’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/climate-impact/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  5. Biondi, A. 2019. ‘The Fur Industry is Fighting Back’. Vogue Business. Available at: https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/materials-fur-industry-faux-vegan-prada-chanel-yoox-net-a-porter-burberry [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  6. Hoskins, T. 2013. ‘Is the fur trade sustainable?’. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/is-fur-trade-sustainable [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  7. The Humane Society of the United States. 2009. TOXIC FUR: The Impacts of Fur Production on the Environment and the Risks to Human Health. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/HSUS_EN_Toxic-fur-Report-2009.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  8. ACT Asia. 2018. Toxic Fur: A global issue. Available at: https://www.actasia.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Toxic-Fur_6.1.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  9. European Environment Agency. 2012. The impacts of invasive alien species in Europe. EEA. Available at: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/impacts-of-invasive-alien-species [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  10. Fur Free Alliance. 2020. ‘Impact on Biodiversity’. Available at: https://www.furfreealliance.com/impact-on-biodiversity/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Zoonotic diseases on fur farms

piles of dead mink
Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurrattsalliansen

Anywhere that houses large quantities of animals in cramped and unsanitary conditions is going to risk spreading disease, to both animals and humans.

In 2020, Denmark’s fur farms hit the headlines when a unique strain of Covid-19 was detected in mink populations and found to have directly infected 12 people. Denmark immediately started culling 17 million of the animals.1World Health Organization. 2020. SARS-CoV-2 mink-associated variant strain – Denmark. Available at: https://www.who.int/csr/don/06-november-2020-mink-associated-sars-cov2-denmark/en/ [Accessed 22 December 2020]. The fear was that as the coronavirus jumps from humans to mink and then back to humans, it could mutate making any vaccine ineffective. However, in a rushed effort to control the outbreak the dead mink were not buried safely so needed to be exhumed and incinerated as “corporate waste”.2Buttler, M. 2020. Denmark to dig up millions of dead mink after rushed cull. Bloomberg. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-20/denmark-to-dig-up-millions-of-dead-mink-after-botched-cull [Accessed 22 December 2020]. These are not “corporate waste” they are the bodies of millions of murdered sentient beings.

What makes a Covid-19 outbreak on a mink farm even more concerning than if it had happened anywhere else, is that, unlike pigs and cows for example, mink are adept escape artists. Over the years, many mink have absconded their cruel prisons and established themselves in the wild. Should an infected animal do this, coronavirus could continue mutating in wild mink populations potentially becoming more virulent, undetected for years, until one day it finds a human host and a new, even deadlier, pandemic begins. In fact, in mid December 2020, the International Society for Infectious Diseases issued an alert as SARS-Cov-2 had been detected in a wild mink in Utah, in the vicinity of a fur farm.3DeLiberto, T. 2020. CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 UPDATE (536): ANIMAL, USA (UTAH) WILD MINK, FIRST CASE. Pro-MED. Available at: https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=8015608 [Accessed 31 December 2020]. Judging by how difficult the coronavirus has been to control in human populations, we can assume it will be even harder to contain in wild animals, who have no concept of social distancing.

But Denmark was not alone. Fur farms across the globe were facing the same problem. Coronavirus outbreaks were detected in mink farms in the US (Utah, Wisconsin and an ever-increasing number of states), Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Greece and Lithuania.4Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. 2020. ‘COVID-19 and Animals’. CDC. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html [Accessed 4 December 2020].4Schlanger, Z. 2020. The Mink Pandemic Is No Joke. The Atlantic. Available at: https://theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/12/minks-pandemic/617476/ [Accessed 29 December2020].

As of the beginning of December 2020, 644 people linked to mink farms had contracted Covid-19 and 338 more, who work with mink skins, had also tested positive. The strain of Covid-19 that first appeared in mink has infected over 300 people in Denmark.5Schlanger, Z. 2020. The Mink Pandemic Is No Joke. The Atlantic. Available at: https://theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/12/minks-pandemic/617476/ [Accessed 29 December2020].

References:
  1. World Health Organization. 2020. SARS-CoV-2 mink-associated variant strain – Denmark. Available at: https://www.who.int/csr/don/06-november-2020-mink-associated-sars-cov2-denmark/en/ [Accessed 22 December 2020].
  2. Buttler, M. 2020. Denmark to dig up millions of dead mink after rushed cull. Bloomberg. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-20/denmark-to-dig-up-millions-of-dead-mink-after-botched-cull [Accessed 22 December 2020].
  3. DeLiberto, T. 2020. CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 UPDATE (536): ANIMAL, USA (UTAH) WILD MINK, FIRST CASE. Pro-MED. Available at: https://promedmail.org/promed-post/?id=8015608 [Accessed 31 December 2020].
  4. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. 2020. ‘COVID-19 and Animals’. CDC. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  5. Schlanger, Z. 2020. The Mink Pandemic Is No Joke. The Atlantic. Available at: https://theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/12/minks-pandemic/617476/ [Accessed 29 December2020].

The future of the fur trade

arctic fox

Despite the fur industry’s attempts to reinvent itself as sustainable and remain relevant to the more eco-conscious consumer, there is no doubt the fur trade is a dying industry in the UK and the rest of Europe.1Guy, J. 2020. ‘Coronavirus could drive the last nail into the mink fur trade’. CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/18/world/mink-fur-farms-coronavirus-scli-intl/index.html [Accessed 4 December 2020].2Wiltowska, B. 2020. ‘The Polish fur industry is in crisis’. Anima International. Available at: https://animainternational.org/blog/the-polish-fur-industry-is-in-crisis [Accessed 4 December 2020]. This is marked by the many fashion designers disavowing fur and the public’s perception of it as “an inappropriate material”.3Biondi, A. 2019. ‘The Fur Industry is Fighting Back’. Vogue Business. Available at: https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/materials-fur-industry-faux-vegan-prada-chanel-yoox-net-a-porter-burberry [Accessed 4 December 2020].

These are just some of the fashion houses that have scrapped fur:

NordstromPradaBurberry
VersaceGucciMichael Kors
ArmaniTom FordStella McCartney
Vivienne WestwoodTommy HilfigerRalph Lauren
Calvin KleinDKNYJimmy Choo
The KooplesCoachKate Spade
FurlaLacosteMaison Margiela

 

Across the globe, legislation is coming into force or being considered to end fur farming:

“…fur farming has been banned in Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands (fox farm ban 1995, chinchilla 1997, mink 2024), Northern Ireland, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, United Kingdom. Brazil’s State of Sao Paolo introduced a fur farming ban in 2014. In addition, fur farming has been/is being phased out in Denmark and Japan. In Germany (effective 2022), Sweden and Switzerland the welfare requirements on fur farms have been made so high as to effectively make fur farming economically unviable. In New Zealand, the import of mink is prohibited, which effectively bans mink farming. Ireland, Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine are currently considering fur farm ban legislation. India, Sao Paolo in Brazil, and West Hollywood and Berkley in the United States have all banned fur import or sale.”4Humane Society International. 2020. ‘The Fur Trade’. Available at: https://www.hsi.org/news-media/fur-trade/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].

France is the latest country to join the list of those forsaking fur. Mink farming will be banned by 2025.5Boring, N. 2020. France: French Government Announces Ban on Wild Animal Performances and Mink Farming. Library of Congress. Available at: https://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/france-french-government-announces-ban-on-wild-animal-performances-and-mink-farming/ [Accessed 30 December 2020].

Alternatives to fur

choosing fur coat

Many people still like the look and soft feel of fur, even if they don’t want to wear what belongs to an animal. Luckily today there are plenty of faux furs available. Biondi tells us “…across the UK and US, ‘vegan’ products in stock have increased by 258 per cent year-on-year, most prominently in the footwear, accessories and outerwear categories.”3Biondi, A. 2019. ‘The Fur Industry is Fighting Back’. Vogue Business. Available at: https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/materials-fur-industry-faux-vegan-prada-chanel-yoox-net-a-porter-burberry [Accessed 4 December 2020].

And just as lab grown meats may offer an alternative to farming animals, there is also hope for lab grown fur. Gambrell et al argue that “the benefits such technology could bring to animals in the fur industry are too great to be ignored.”6Gambrell, R., Javanaud, K. and Sanghani, H. 2018. The Case for Ethical Fur: Is In Vitro Fur a Viable Alternative? Journal of Animal Ethics 8(2) pp. 229–235. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5406/janimalethics.8.2.0229 [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Be careful though – retailers including Amazon and TK Maxx have been found selling real fur as faux fur7Kentish, B. 2017. ‘Major UK retailers exposed for selling real animal fur advertised as fake’. Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-retailers-selling-fur-faux-fox-rabbit-shoes-coat-amazon-groupon-boohoo-tk-maxx-a8121241.html [Accessed 4 December 2020]. as fur traders try to sneak their product onto the market under the radar.8House of Commons. 2018. Fur trade in the UK: Seventh Report of Session 2017–19. Available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvfru/823/823.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Here’s how to spot real fur:

Examine the tipsThe tips of natural hairs are tapered and pointed whereas faux fur tens to be blunt. Real fur also moves slightly differently in the wind – imagine a magnificent arctic fox’s coat being blown by the breeze.
Burn itOne of the easiest ways to tell the difference is to burn a strand of the hair. Real hair singes and gives off a distinctive ‘burning hair’ smell. Faux fur usually melts and solidifies again, often giving of a plastic-smelling scent.
Look for skinReal fur is attached to skin so if you part the hair, you’ll be able to see if it is coming from real skin or an artificial base. Real skin will be more inconsistent and will have pores..
Beware of buying onlineThe same labelling laws don’t apply online as they do in shops. Therefore, it can be harder to tell if the item is real or faux. If you can, check with the seller before buying (especially if it’s coming from China).
Don’t be fooled by priceReal fur isn’t always expensive. Much of the fur for sale on high streets is small and affordable, such as a fur pom poms and bobble hats. Fur from market stalls is often cheap because it could come from bulk imports, has little quality control and they just want to sell it.
Don’t buy itIf you’re not sure, don’t buy it.

 

References:
  1. Guy, J. 2020. ‘Coronavirus could drive the last nail into the mink fur trade’. CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/18/world/mink-fur-farms-coronavirus-scli-intl/index.html [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  2. Wiltowska, B. 2020. ‘The Polish fur industry is in crisis’. Anima International. Available at: https://animainternational.org/blog/the-polish-fur-industry-is-in-crisis [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  3. Biondi, A. 2019. ‘The Fur Industry is Fighting Back’. Vogue Business. Available at: https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/materials-fur-industry-faux-vegan-prada-chanel-yoox-net-a-porter-burberry [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  4. Humane Society International. 2020. ‘The Fur Trade’. Available at: https://www.hsi.org/news-media/fur-trade/ [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  5. Boring, N. 2020. France: French Government Announces Ban on Wild Animal Performances and Mink Farming. Library of Congress. Available at: https://www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/france-french-government-announces-ban-on-wild-animal-performances-and-mink-farming/ [Accessed 30 December 2020].
  6. Gambrell, R., Javanaud, K. and Sanghani, H. 2018. The Case for Ethical Fur: Is In Vitro Fur a Viable Alternative? Journal of Animal Ethics 8(2) pp. 229–235. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5406/janimalethics.8.2.0229 [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  7. Kentish, B. 2017. ‘Major UK retailers exposed for selling real animal fur advertised as fake’. Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-retailers-selling-fur-faux-fox-rabbit-shoes-coat-amazon-groupon-boohoo-tk-maxx-a8121241.html [Accessed 4 December 2020].
  8. House of Commons. 2018. Fur trade in the UK: Seventh Report of Session 2017–19. Available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvfru/823/823.pdf [Accessed 4 December 2020].

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