Our fight against fur has gained incredible momentum in recent years, with major fashion houses and retailers shedding the cruelty of this completely unnecessary commodity. Now, with mink on two fur farms in the Netherlands testing positive for the coronavirus, we have one more compelling reason why this brutal trade needs to end for good.
The pandemic has been a grim reminder of the problems that can arise when we cruelly confine and mistreat animals. From the wildlife market in China where the coronavirus originated to slaughterhouses in the United States where it is spreading rapidly, there is no doubt that keeping animals packed together in cages with little or no regard for their health and well-being creates the perfect recipe for disaster.
According to the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, disease risk is higher in operations like fur farms where animals are crowded into close contact with each other’s respiratory secretions and excrement. For example, foxes and raccoon dogs kept in close confinement have been found to be infected with viral diseases like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
A Humane Society International investigation of a fur farm in Finland, the world’s second largest fox fur producer after China, showed hundreds of foxes and mink crammed in small, barren and filthy battery cages. Many of the animals had eye infections and gaping wounds, including a mink with a large, bloody hole in the head. Some animals lay dead in the cages and others ate them or walked over them.
At the end of their short, miserable lives, foxes on fur farms are anally electrocuted and the mink gassed to death. On Chinese fur farms, foxes and raccoon dogs are beaten to death and some are even skinned while still alive.
Although the demand for fur has dropped in recent years, the scale of this trade globally is still mind-boggling. For instance, fur makes up 75% of the wildlife trade in China, which is the world’s largest fur producer, as P.J. Smith, our campaign director for fashion policy, wrote in an oped this week. Over 100 million animals – including mink, rabbits, raccoon dogs, foxes and chinchillas—are still confined and brutally killed for their fur ever year, even though warm and stylish alternatives indistinguishable from animal fur are widely available.
In recent years, we have worked with some of the largest fashion houses, including Gucci, Prada, Armani, Michael Kors and Coach, and retailers, including Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Farfetch and YOOX Net-a-Porter, to end sales of fur. California last year became the first U.S. state to ban fur, and we are working to pass similar bans in more states, including Rhode Island and Hawaii.
HSI has kept up the momentum against fur globally and in the United Kingdom, we spearheaded the campaign to make Britain the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur. More than a dozen European countries, including Austria, the Czech Republic and Norway, have since banned fur production. Netherlands, once the third largest fur farming country in the world, banned fur production in 2013 with an 11-year phaseout.
This is amazing progress, but the pandemic has created a greater urgency than ever to end this cruelty. In recent weeks, infectious disease experts and the World Health Organization have called on nations to end their wildlife trade to avoid another pandemic; we need to extend that call to fur farms across the globe, including those right here on U.S. soil. The fur industry is heading toward certain demise, and now, with the increased disease risk it poses, there is no reason to keep it alive for a day longer.