Fur-farming methods are designed to maximize profits at the expense of the animals’ health and comfort. Foxes, for example, are kept in cages about 2 feet square with up to four animals per cage. Likewise, minks suffer from close confinement, often developing self-mutilating behaviors.
There are no regulations protecting animals on fur ranches. Cages are typically kept in open sheds that provide little protection from wind, cold, or heat. In the winter, animals often have to endure sub-zero temperatures. Summers are particularly hard on minks because they lack the ability to cool their bodies without bathing in water.
Animals live in filth on fur farms and are often victims of disease and pests. For example, fur farm animals are fed meat by-products which are often so grisly that they are unfit even for the pet food industry: calves heads, beef lungs and windpipes, unborn calves, chicken and turkey heads, beef and chicken entrails, cow udders, and fish heads. Bacterial contamination from such a diet threatens the health of the animals —particularly that of newly weaned pups.
Under normal circumstances, minks spend about 70% of their time in water. But on fur farms, where little water is available, their salivation, respiration, and body temperatures increase to unnatural and painful levels. In 1987, about 450,000 minks died on American fur farms due to heat stress alone.
Even death does not come easy on a fur farm. Ranchers have devised hideous methods of killing—methods which do not “damage” the animals’ pelts:
Foxes are killed by anal electrocution—the insertion of a metal rod into the anus. Some animals are killed in decompression chambers. Minks and other animals have their necks broken.
Contagious diseases—such as viral enteritis and pneumonia—as well as bladder and urinary tract infections are also prevalent on fur farms. Fleas, ticks, lice, and other insects are attracted by the piles of excrement under cages. These piles are often left for months—long enough for insects to infest the animals.
The growing consciousness about the suffering and exploitation inherent in fur production is helping to decrease the number of fur ranches in the United States. According to the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S Department of Agriculture, nationwide mink pelt production in 2003 totaled 2.55 million pelts, down 2 percent from 2002.
There were 307 mink farms producing pelts in 2003, down 5 percent from a year earlier. There were 18 mink farms in the U.S. which also raised foxes in 2003, down from 20 farms the previous year.
An independent federal factfinding agency in Washington, DC has published a comprehensive report on the trade in untreated fur pelts, from a U.S. perspective.
Industry & Trade Summary: Fur Skins (USITC Publication 3666, January 2004 has) has been produced by the International Trade Commission. The Report emphasizes the decline of pelt consumption in the United States, and states matter-of-factly: “Pressure from animal rights and animal welfare groups have led many European countries to pass legislation banning fur farming or making it economically unviable to raise fur-bearing animals”. In the USA there is no federal law regulating the keeping or killing of cage-raised fur-bearing animals.