By Yuika Yoshida.
The word ‘fur’ conjures up the feeling of indulgence and high fashion in the minds of many. Dating back to postwar Britain in the 1900’s, a fur coat embodied the height of luxury for women and what made someone upper class. Behind the hazy world of glamour surrounding this romanticized fashion trend, there is the suffering of millions of silenced animals. Do those sitting up front at Paris Fashion Week ever think where their “très chic” clothing came from?
Global demand for fur pelts have sky rocketed, thanks to leading designers such as Fendi, Valentino, and Karl Lagerfeld. From these daunting needs for resources, the tragedy of fur farming arose. At these farms, if we can even call them that, animals are bred, raised, and then killed for the sole purpose of obtaining their fur. Procedures used by farm laborers prioritize generating maximum profits, which are always at the expense of animals and never have their well-being in mind. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a staggering eighty-five percent of the fur industry’s pelts come from animals held captive on unregulated farms. This way, through close monitoring and breeding, it’s easier to ensure high quality pelts will be produced. To put it into perspective, 36 million animals around the world die on fur farms annually. It’s hardly difficult to understand why outsiders are often banned from visiting.
If one were to take a glance around a running farm, they would be met with the sight of mink, rabbits, and foxes more cramped into rows of filthy wire cages that are unbearably small for the sake of “efficiency”. Animals have no more than the little space provided to take a few steps in one direction. With no room for natural animal instincts like running or hunting, many go insane under the inhumane conditions of living life in a cage. When investigators from Swiss Animal Protection and EAST International looked in on a farm in Hebei Province of China in 2005, one of the few countries that doesn’t provide legal provisions for animal welfare, they discovered abnormal behavior indicative of harsh treatment. The investigators witnessed extreme fearfulness and self-mutilation; animals in captivity were reported gnawing at their skin, tails, and feet due to mental trauma. Some en-caged animals even resorted to cannibalizing their cage mates in fits of frustration.
The brutal conditions don’t just end there. It’s not uncommon for diseases and parasites to run rampant in these neglected barns. For days on end, accumulated feces and urine burn vulnerable animals’ eyes and lungs. The unsanitary state of farms has reached the point where it’s become an environmental issue. One million pounds of feces are produced yearly by mink in U.S. farms alone. This multitude of waste promotes companies involved in fur production to illegally dispose of them, ultimately leading to the pollution of our waterways.
Because fur farmers only have to concern themselves over preserving the fur itself, they choose the cheapest slaughter methods so long as the pelts are kept intact. Common methods utilized by farmers include electrocution, gassing, steel-jaw traps, and neck-breaking. However, these methods aren’t exactly foolproof. For instance, the carbon monoxide in gassing chambers doesn’t always get the job done, and as a result, animals have to endure the agony of being skinned alive. Disturbingly, there is no humane slaughter law that protects animals from being subjected to these gruesome means. The guidelines that do exist only address the size of the animals’ cages, and have no way of monitoring if the correct standards are being met.
The public needs to face the fact that while fur may be an enjoyed luxury, it’s nonessential to our lives. It’s morally wrong and selfish to put animals through torture just for our materialistic needs. Though the horrors of fur farms can be considered one of the more “unpleasant” topics the world is facing, it’s one that shouldn’t be ignored.