The European Union can be seen to be one of the largest producers of factory farmed fur in the world as fur is farmed, designed, manufactured and sold throughout Europe. Although fur farms continuously claim that they adhere to animal welfare laws and protocols, this is often not the case at all. As a result, some countries within the union have begun to phase out fur farming or have already eradicated the practice though the imposition of certain bans.
Every year, approximately 75,000,000 animals including mink, fox and raccoon dog are reared and killed all in the name of fashion, with approximately 32,000,000 of these animals coming from farms situated in European countries such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, Finland and Poland, to name but a few. For example, Finland has 914 fur farms in which 1,876,000 mink, 2,530,000 fox and 152,000 finnraccoon are slaughtered and skinned annually. This archaic and completely unnecessary practice has no place in a community, like the European Union, which claims to vindicate the rights of both human and animal life.
The problem does not just begin and end with the killing of these animals, but is prevalent from the start of their tragic lives right through to the bitter end. There is a real concern for the welfare of these animals which are often not kept or looked after in an adequate way. These animals typically spend 24/7 in small wire cages which are rowed one after another for the convenience of the farmer. Cages usually measure around 70cm (L) x 40cm (W) x 45cm (H), dimensions which are much too small according to the Council of Europe Recommendations. Mink and fox, which are commonly fur farmed animals, are actually completely unsuitable for such farming conditions as they are territorial animals who require solidarity and free range to roam. They are essentially wild animals who go through only a very limited domestication process. Fur farmed animals are usually neglected in terms of exercise space and never receive veterinary care or medical treatment which leads to disease and death. They are fed poor quality food in quantities large enough just to keep them alive. All of these factors lead to behavioural problems also such as cannibalisation.
The killing of animals kept for their fur is often not humane either despite repeated claims by the fur farming industry that they follow humane killing procedures which ensure that the animals do not suffer. This claim could not be farther from the truth.
Animals are usually killed by either electrocution or gassing. Gassing is mostly done using carbon monoxide but the European union still permits the use of engine exhaust gas which has been scientifically proven to induce unconsciousness slower the carbon monoxide and can result in the animal suffering severe distress prior to death. Similarly the use of carbon dioxide is also permitted under EU legislation which can also cause distress to an animal being gassed. Electrocution is no better in that electrocuted mink, fox and raccoondog may suffer a cardiac arrest rather than being killed outright.
This cruel and unnecessary industry does not have to answer to any governing body as such, in that there is no specific European Union legislation in place to detail animal welfare requirements for the protection of animals kept for fur. Fur factory farms are however covered by the council directive 98/58/EC which outlines the minimal requirements which must be adhered to in relation to all animals kept for farming. This directive allows for each member state to adopt or implement stricter protocol should they wish, and has led to countries such as the United Kingdom, Austria and Croatia introducing bans on fur farming.
Commercial rabbit farming is the fastest growing part of the fur industry, yet there is very little information available on it. The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT) investigated the industry and visited four European countries; Denmark, Spain, Italy and France. This investigation revealed shocking results about the industry within Europe. Most rabbits were found to be kept in small wire cages which only took up the floor space of two shoe boxes. Many were caged in groups, crammed together with no space to move. The mortality rate is as high as 15%, a percentage farmers take into account without affecting their profit margin. There are also a number of specific rabbit slaughter houses in Europe where rabbits are killed in the most inhumane ways. This study ultimately found that the welfare of the rabbits bred and killed for their fur, was not even remotely considered by the farmers and the suffering endured by these helpless creatures went beyond the most vivid imagination. CAFT work tirelessly to end the fur industry, and we can only hope that they one day succeed.
For more information on the fur industry and on how you can help put an end to the cruel practices carried out by fur farms and slaughterhouses, you can visit the Fur Free Alliance at www.furfreealliance.com and PETA on www.peta.org.