Whenever we see a fur coat hanging in a shop window, we seldom consider the cruelty that’s behind it. Millions of animals around the world are skinned alive, beaten, electrocuted, subjected to inhuman torture, and killed in painful methods to satisfy the lust of apathetic consumers around the world, and mink farming is one of the worst forms of cruelty to animals.
And the sad fact is that fur is making a comeback in fashion circles. The fur trade has the clout to contravene international laws. This has been made easier, with high demand from newly wealthy nations like China, Russia, and South Korea.
Minks are carnivores and belong to the weasel family native to North America. They have been hunted for their silky warm fur since the 11th century. Their huge demand led to the mink fur industry relying on farming the animals in captivity rather than capturing them in the wild. Mink farming has also enabled selective breeding that has helped produce mink fur in shades of auburn, black, silver, and cream.
The animal rights movement lost much of its steam after the 1990s. Around two-thirds of the fashion collections in the fall of 2016 were fur products, or had fur as one of their material. Still, mink farming thrives as between 50 and 70 million minks are slaughtered worldwide to appease the thirst of apathetic fashionistas.
The fur trade revolves around several species that are mostly raised in captivity. International laws are lax, allowing countries with an abysmal track record like China to get away with blatant abuse of animals.
China is the largest exporter of fur in the world, supplying millions of dollars of fur products to the US alone. They even have a booming trade in dog and cat fur. They are bludgeoned, at times hanged, and skinned alive for their fur. China regularly mislabels its products and exports them to unsuspecting customers all over the world.
Mink farming around the world is harmful to the environment. Mink farming in the US generates millions of pounds of feces that contain tons of phosphorus, which are extremely polluting to water bodies close by.
Mink farming is the closest thing to concentration camps. Thousands of them are crammed into tiny cages made of wire. This unnatural environment turns them crazy, and the animals routinely engage in obsessive pacing, self-mutilation, and infanticide.
Mink Farming Could Be A Potential Carrier Of COVID-19 Virus
Sanitation and medical care are non-existent. Mink farming is also a hotbed for pathogens and regularly is the source of various zoonotic diseases. Fur farms in the US are asymptomatic hotspots for COVID-19 in farms in Wisconsin, Utah, Michigan, and Oregon.
Mink farming in Europe was targeted by the governments during the pandemic resulting in the culling of 20M minks. Production has been outlawed in over a dozen countries in Europe, including the UK, Belgium, Czech Republic, Norway, and Austria.
Denmark, which is among the largest mink farming industries in the world has stopped production till 2022 for fear of spreading the COVID-19 virus.
Annie Sofie Hammer, a veterinary pathologist from the University of Copenhagen, was appointed by the government of Denmark to study the effect of the virus on the mink populations.
The mink farming industry had around 17 million animals. Many of them, especially the older ones, died in agony, gasping for breath as fluids drowned their lungs. Hammer found that many animals died with fluids running out of their noses.
She warned that mink farming was an unrecognized and serious reservoir of the coronavirus. The presence of farms that harbor the disease could be a threat in the future as the virus mutated within the animal population.
Thousands of minks have died in the US from the virus. There are over 3 million minks on the farms in the US. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and the Food Safety Authority has recommended changes to rid the virus from mink farming operations in Europe.
But such precautions are rarely taken in the US. Routine testing is unheard of, and steps are taken only when animals fall sick.
Mink farming is a hell-hole of cramped enclosures and unhealthy conditions, especially in China, the US, and Russia. In these close quarters, the pathogens are easily transmitted from workers to the mink population, and vice versa. Contaminated surfaces and infected droplets are easy reasons for the contamination.
The virus has been detected in mink farming operations in Poland, which is also a leading producer. Millions of minks have been killed in Denmark and the Netherlands to prevent the spread of a new variant of the virus that has been linked to mink farming.
The USDA has been accused of hiding instances of the spread of the virus in mink farming communities across the country. 12 of the 16 outbreaks have occurred in Utah. Experts suspect that the virus has spread to the wild mink population.
Every year around 100M minks and other fur animals are bred to be slaughtered on intensive farms merely to address the fashion industry’s demand. The market is not just for the customary fur coats, but also for use as fur trims on gloves, hats, shoes, plus a host of other accessories and clothing.
Cruel Measures Used In Mink Farming To Kill Population
The mink farming operation kills around a hundred million animals. Of this China alone accounts for 50.5 million, the European Union 37.8 Million, the US, around 3.1 million, while Canada accounted for 1.8 million animals.
A huge number of minks are also trapped in the wilderness. Most of the fur of the trapped animals is from the US, Russia, and Canada. 3 million minks were killed in 2017 alone in North America for their pelts. Traps inflict severe anguish and pain on the victims, and they include unintended ones such as many endangered species and even stolen pets.
Coyotes caught in such traps suffer for days before they are bludgeoned to death by the trappers.
Mink farming centers use carbon monoxide for the mass killing of minks. The gas stops the breathing of the animals in a couple of minutes and causes cardiac arrest within ten minutes. China has always been notorious for both its animal rights and human rights records.
Undercover investigators for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had recorded instances of minks not succumbing in the first 10 minutes. They found several instances of abuse of animals as they remained alive for close to 20 minutes. PETA investigators found that those that do not die quickly were slammed to the ground and had their neck broken by farmers. They are skinned while still conscious.
The use of engine exhaust is also frequently used to subdue the animals and they are then skinned alive. Another common method is electrocution through the anus or mouth which is extremely painful. Animals are also poisoned with strychnine, which paralyzes them and causes rigid, painful cramps.
Mass killing during pandemics is more macabre as gas becomes ineffective when thousands of minks are cramped in tight chambers. The minks suffer for long and suffer excruciatingly painful deaths.
Videos by animal rights activists show that many minks survive the initial gas poison and are killed by hand. A recent investigation of even ‘high-welfare mink farming in Finland has revealed appalling conditions and acute sufferings of the confined animals. Animals were found will open wounds, diseased eyes, deformed feet, and even animals that were driven into cannibalistic behavior.
Mink Farming Practices Take Little Note Of The Conditions In Which They Are Confined
US mink farming enclosures are filthy, cramped confines where electrocution, gassing, and suffocation are routinely employed, methods normally associated with Nazi concentration camps.
Most animals that are bred in farms including rabbits, foxes, minks, and raccoon dogs, are cramped in cages too tiny for their natural instinctive behavior. These animals are accustomed to roaming over large territories. The semi-aquatic minks are used for diving and swimming.
Denying the animals an outlet for their instincts causes the distressed animals to lose their mental equilibrium. they are driven to erratic mental behavior are found pacing restlessly or circling madly inside cages, and violently nodding their heads. Animals also fight among each other and tend to self-mutilate. Such stereotypical behavior is a result of stress and is a common occurrence in farms across the world.
Severe health issues are apparent in mink farming operations and animals of all types exhibit such behavioral and physical abnormalities. They include missing limbs caused by bites, infected wounds, eye infections, deformed mouth, bent limbs, self-mutilation, and even cannibalism of siblings.
The build-up of urine and feces also is a potential cause of stress among the animals. Even Europe, Canada, and the US are lax when it comes to the condition of the farms. The cages are crammed with little scope for enrichment.
Oxford University zoologists who have studied confined minks say that despite being bred in captivity for generations, minks are never domesticated. They suffer greatly when held captive in confined spaces. This is truer when they are prevented from swimming. The same holds for raccoons and foxes.
Animals in the mink farms are fed animal byproducts that are not their natural food. Water is supplied through nipples which often fails, especially in winters.
An investigation by PETA in China found that dogs and cats were regularly trapped and killed for their fur. Dogs and cats are piled on each other and dropped from a great height, killing many instantly. Investigators found up to 800 animals cramped in small vehicles.
Mink Farming To Go Ethical
While there have been practically no regulations to protect minks on farms around the world. The EU has rolled out WelFur, a new welfare regime for animals. The WelFur will mark mink farming operation on qualities like behavior, health, and housing, but appears more a cover-up operation to lobby for greater acceptance.
But animal welfare activists and groups are critical of such a move. They want a complete ban on the farming of fur, even as the European Union develops and goes ahead with the welfare measures.
Welfare activists are particularly concerned that WelFur carries on accepting the usage of tiny metal cages, which confines the normally frisky animal used to run, swimming, or climb. This does not thus address the psychological toll that it takes on the animals. It causes the animals t to indulge in erratic behavior like fur-chewing and tail biting.
Mick Madsen, speaking for WelFur was defensive about the need for minks on farms. He said that farm minks did not need to express the same behavior or have the same freedom as wild minks. He said that WelFur protocols were science-based and would be subjected to revision every 5 years to add in the latest research on animal welfare.
But mink farming fails to address even the basic conditions of animal welfare in most countries, especially China and the US. Animal welfare regulations are based on minimizing the pain inflicted on animals.
But animal rights activists say that the very foundation of mink farming is flawed. The industry fails the ethical test of basic necessity. Humans do not need any fur accessories and clothing. The very basis of fur production and trade is immoral.
Fur is for mere luxury and fashion and is neither essential for human health nor human well-being. Pain is inflicted on millions of animals each year just for luxury.
The Utter Pitilessness Of Chinese Mink Farming Practices
The Chinese mink industry accounts for half the world’s production and trade in mink fur. But they have refused to heed international calls to open up mink farming practices to international scrutiny.
Exposure by animal protection activists in 2005 prompted some action on paper by it has done little to transform the Chinese fur farms. Inhuman treatment and outright cruelty remain rife.
The Chinese see animals confined in fur farms as economic animals and a tool solely for human use and a source of income. Productivity takes precedence over everything else for the Chinese fur industry. And the collective clout in the fur trade has prevented other countries from moving against them.