Why Are U.S. Fur Farms Escaping Scrutiny?
The demand for fur in China is reviving the industry in the states. In response, Born Free USA is making an extra effort to raise public awareness about the horrors of the fur industry.
The most recent figures available show that the price of pelts has more than doubled from 2008 to 2011, where they reached a record $94, while officials estimate that fur farmers sold almost $260 million in mink pelts to South Korea and China last year.
The fur industry continues to promote its products using terms such as “environmentally friendly” and “renewable resource” like they’re talking about minerals, but they’re not. They’re talking about factory farming living creatures. Keeping them in rows of small barren wire cages – not unlike those used in puppy mills – for their entire miserable lives before they are killed by gassing or electrocution, both commonly accepted methods, for nothing more than frivolous product that no one actually needs.
These animals are left with nowhere to run, nowhere to hide and no way to engage in any natural behaviors.
One of the biggest problems in the U.S. is that furbearing animals that are farmed aren’t considered wild animals, but they’re not really considered domestic either. According to research conducted by Born Free, state wildlife agencies want to pass responsibility over to the agriculture agencies, but agriculture agencies just wants to pass it back. In the end, these animals are left without protection from the Animal Welfare Act and the Humane Slaughter Act and are exempt from most state anti-cruelty laws. There are also no rules about how these animals should be housed or cared for.
Most states where fur farms exist also don’t require licensing, allowing farms to operate off the radar of both agriculture and wildlife agencies. In the few states where the Department of Agriculture has authority, there aren’t any regulations in place, except for New York, which doesn’t allow animals to be killed via electrocution. But even there, there is no state or federal oversight.
While there are environmental regulations in place when it comes to waste and carcass disposal, there are still problems. Just this month two Washington fur farms were fined $48,000 for dumping water contaminated with feed and feces into creeks that are considered important for salmon spawning and are home two species of trout that are listed as threatened. The owner of these two farms was also fined $24,000 in 1999 for the same thing.
“The fur farming industry causes horrific animal suffering and poses serious risks to the environment. Like any other factory farm, they produce massive animal waste (manure) that is too concentrated to be neutralized by natural processes. Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus are the most common causes of water pollution in this country,” said Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President of Born Free USA.
While some designers and retailers continue to support the fur industry, others have vowed to abstain and there have been a few other recent victories. The Netherlands — Europe’s largest mink producer — recently joined countries that have banned fur farming on ethical grounds, including Austria, the UK and Croatia. In the U.S., West Hollywood successfully banned fur and the first all vegan line from an independent fashion house was debuted at New York Fashion Week.
“The fur industry and its apologists want us to believe that fur farming is a humane, environmentally friendly, and highly regulated industry. Nothing could be farther from the truth,” said Monica Engebretson, senior program associate with Born Free USA. “Conscientious consumers and designers should not buy that message. It is time for the U.S. to match international progress on this important issue and ban fur farming.”
Photo credit: Network for Animal Freedom