Accurate statistics showing the number of animals killed by the fur trade each year are extremely difficult to find, as the fur trade is notoriously secretive. It is safe to say however, that animal deaths run into the hundreds of millions even by the most conservative estimates. Fur is enjoying a resurgence in high fashion, and the industry was recently valued at 40 billion dollars.
Contrary to popular belief, most fur is sourced from animals who are raised in captivity in fur farms. The most commonly used animal is mink, followed by foxes. Animals raised for fur are usually kept in extremely cramped conditions and are prevented from engaging in their natural behaviours, studies reveal that this causes severe stress. Mink and foxes are usually killed at about 6-7 months of age, after which time they are slaughtered and skinned. Animals are usually killed by anal electrocution in order to maintain fur quality, though neck-snapping, clubbing and gassing can sometimes be used. Animals caught in the wild are usually caught in traps and die either from shock, blood loss or in cases where traps are not regularly checked, starvation. China is the largest exporter of fur in the world; China has no laws which prosecute abuses on factory farms, making even the most horrific treatment perfectly legal. Even in the US, there is no federal slaughter law which applies to fur farms.
Fur, like any animal skin, will rot if left untreated. For this reason, fur is usually treated with formaldehyde which is linked to leukaemia and chromium, which is linked to cancer. This hazardous process has led to fur dressing being ranked by The World Bank as one of the world’s five worst industries for toxic-metal pollution. When the toxic chemicals involved in the dressing process leak into waterways, which they often do, the consequences for local communities and the environment is devastating. in 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined six fur processing plants $2.2 million for the pollution they caused, citing them for hazardous waste violations and stating that “the solvents used in these operations may cause respiratory problems, and are listed as possible carcinogens.” In addition to air pollution arising from gases released in the animals’ manure, significant air pollutants are released when disposing of animal carcasses by incineration. As well as environmental costs, fur comes at a significant resource cost, since real fur requires 20 times more energy to produce than faux fur.
For the vast majority of the population, fur is an unnecessary luxury item which comes at a cost which simply cannot be justified, a cost borne by both animals and the environment. Regardless of whether animals are trapped in the wild or raised in fur farms, it is unjustifiable to kill an animal for their fur when a wealth of cheaper, more sustainable alternatives are widely available. To choose to wear fur is to choose fashion over ethics, and to decide that your vanity alone justifies the exploitation and slaughter of millions of sentient, intelligent beings. Our response to an industry as harmful as this one can be nothing other than a complete boycott, and it is all of our responsibility to speak out against the atrocities committed in the name of fashion to all those who support it.