Fur farming

Fur farming
Mink farm (after 1900)
A mink farm in the United States

Fur farming is the practice of breeding or raising certain types of animals for their fur.

Fur used from wild caught animals is not farmed, and is instead known as 'free range fur' because the animals have lived their lives free and natural in the wild. Most of the world’s farmed fur is produced by European farmers. There are 6,000 fur farms in the EU. [1][2][3] The EU accounts for 67% of global mink production and 70% of fox production. Denmark is the leading mink-producing country, accounting for nearly 40% of world production. Other major producers included the Netherlands, Russia, Finland, China, Sweden, and Canada. Finland is the largest United States supplier of fox pelts. The United States is a major exporter of furskins. Major export markets include Canada, the EU, and Asia. Exports to Asia as a share of total exports grew from 22% in 1998 to 47% in 2002.[4] China are the largest importers of fur pelts in the world, therefore making them the largest re-exporter of finished fur products.[5]

Fur farming is banned in Austria,[6][7] Croatia (started on January 1, 2007, with a 10 year phase out period),[7][8] and the United Kingdom.[9] In Switzerland, the regulations for fur farming are very strict, with the result that there are no fur farms.[7] Some other countries have a ban on fur farming of certain types of animals.

Demand fell in the late 1980s and 1990s because of a number of factors, including the failure of designers to come up with exciting new lines, and also the efforts of animal rights campaigners. Since the turn of the millennium, however, sales worldwide have soared to record highs, fuelled by radically new techniques for working with fur, and a sharp rise in disposable income in China and Russia. This growing demand has led to the development of extensive fur farming operations in countries such as China, where activist groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have raised concerns about inhumane treatment of animals and the nature of some slaughterhouse practices.



Cat skins

While wearing fur clothing in cold weather as protection goes back to the stone age, the source for this material came from the wild. As human populations grew, furs, leathers and hides for use in clothing came from farm stock such as sheep (sheepskin), rabbits, cattle, pigs and goats. The earliest records of breeding mink for fur in North America were in the 1860s. Foxes were first raised on farms for fur in Prince Edward Island in Canada in 1895.[3]

Historically, the fur trade played an important economic role in the United States. Fur trappers explored and opened up large parts of North America, and the fashion for beaver hats led to intense competition for supplies of raw materials. Starting in the latter half of the 20th century, producers and wearers of fur have been criticized by animal rights activist because of the perceived cruelty involved in animal trapping and because the availability of synthetic fibers (from petroleum oil) that competed with natural fibres such as fur and wool.

Today, 80 percent of the fur clothing industry's pelts come from animals raised on farms. The rest is from animals caught in the wild. The most farmed fur-bearing animal is the mink (40 million annually), followed by the fox (about 4 million annually). Asiatic and Finnish raccoon and chinchilla are also farmed for their fur. 64 percent of fur farms are in Northern Europe, 11 percent are in North America, and the rest are dispersed throughout the world, in countries such as Argentina and Russia.[10]

Various types


Mink colours

Mink have been farmed for fur in the United States for 130 years. In 2005, the U.S. ranked fourth in production behind Denmark, China and the Netherlands. Mink typically breed in March, and give birth to their litters in May. Farmers vaccinate the young kits for botulism, distemper, enteritis, and, if needed, pneumonia. They are harvested in late November and December. Methods for killing animals on fur farms, as on all farms, are detailed in the American Veterinary Medical Association's Report on Euthanasia which is used as a voluntary guideline for state departments of agriculture which have jurisdiction over all farms raising domesticated livestock, including mink.[11]

Mink are bred once a year, the average litter is three or four kits. The best animals are kept for breeding stock for the next year and the remainder are killed for their pelts.

The white mink, a northern European breed, was introduced into Canada in 1968.


A 2-year-old standard gray female chinchilla

The international trade in chinchilla fur goes back to the 16th century and the animal (whose name literally means "Little Chincha") is named after the Chincha people of the Andes, who wore its soft and dense fur. By the end of the 19th century, chinchillas had become quite rare. In 1923, Mathias F. Chapman brought the eleven wild chinchillas he had captured to the U.S. for breeding. Only three of these were female. Empress Chinchilla is the breeders association for the chinchilla farmers, many of whom are based in the United States, including California. Empress Chinchilla runs a certification program for farmers. [1]


"Cross fox" furs. The cross across the shoulders is a common Red fox marking.
Caged red fox (silver morph).

Finland is the world's leading producer of fox pelts. In the USA, fox production is about 10,000 pelts, produced in about 10 states. Wisconsin and Utah have the most mink farms in the USA. Canada produces ten to fifteen times as many fox furs as the USA.[12]

Dog and cat

The USA banned the import, export and sale of products made from dog and cat fur in 2000.[13] Italy, France, Denmark, Greece, Belgium and Australia ban the import of cat and dog fur but the sale is still legal,[14] and novelty items made from feral cat fur can sometimes be found in Australian gift shops, especially island areas. The European Union ban on imports took affect as of the January 1, 2009.[15] However, some products made with dog or cat fur may be mislabeled, on purpose or accidentally.[16]


A load of rabbit skins (c. 1905)

The main breed in the rabbit fur farming industry, is the Rex (Castor Rex and Chinchilla Rex). Breeding animals are kept for up to 3 years, and usually give birth twice a year. The kindle are taken from their mothers at 4 weeks old to be put in a nursery with other kindle. After this the mothers are kept separated from their kits, and they get put together only for feeding. When the kits are 7 to 8 weeks old, they are put in solitary cages, where they are kept for about 6–7 months, and are harvested after they have shed their winter fur. The rabbits are kept in bare wire mesh cages. A cage for one rabbit have the floor space of about two shoe boxes. The mortality rate for caged Rex is 10 – 15%, mostly from respiratory disease.[17] Another breed of rabbit, is the Orylag, which is farmed only in France. The Orylag is bred for fur and meat. They are slaughtered at about 20 weeks. It was bred by the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA). The mortality rate for caged Orylag is 25 – 30%, mostly from respiratory disease.[17] Broken bones and traumatic lesions are common when rabbits are transported to the slaughter. A small percent is also dead on arrival, often due to the rabbits being tightly packed in, with poor ventilation.[17]


The meat from most fur-bearers is not usually eaten by humans. Therefore the animals carcasses will go on to become various products like animal feed, pet food, organic compost, fertilizer, paint and even tires. Carcasses will sometimes go to zoos and aquariums to feed animals, and some end up as crab bait. Mink faeces make crop fertiliser and their fat is turned into oil to manufacture soap, face oils, cosmetics and leather preservative.[18]


Anti-fur activist have claimed that methods used on fur farms are focused on maximizing profits at the expense of the welfare of fur producing animals.[19][20][21]

Christy Turlington in a PETA advertisement.

As with other types of animal farming, living conditions of animals do vary and the extreme cases are ones of much contention. According to PETA, a minority of fur farmers pack animals into small cages, preventing them from taking more than a few steps back and forth.[19] PETA claims foxes and other animals suffer equally and may even cannibalize each other as a reaction to their crowded confinement.[19] In other cases, as with passing of animal welfare legislation in Italy, animals are required to be "given enriched living environments in which they can climb on branches, dig holes, use a nest of 50 × 50 cm and also have a water basin of at least 2 × 2 metres and 50 cm deep in which to swim."[22] Farmers argue that 50 years ago, the animals were kept in large outdoor holding areas, with pools of water. However, such "farms" resulted in high disease rates for the animals and were not practical. Farmers claim that today's farmed animals only know farm life as they have been domesticated through hundreds of years of selective breeding. The methods used for killing the animals on farms and in the wild vary depending on the animal. For farmed mink, the American Veterinary Medical Association researches the best methods and publishes a report on the subject every 7 to 10 years. This report is used to guide state departments of agriculture which have jurisdiction over farm animals, including farm-raised mink. For those harvesting wild furs, biologists and wildlife managers dictate seasons, methods of kill and numbers of animals to be taken.

United Kingdom

After UK mink farmers were submitted to almost daily protests, they agreed to shut down their farming in exchange for compensation in England and Wales in 2000. At second reading, the "ban" in England and Wales was justified principally on grounds of public morality since there was no supporting evidence for banning the farming on humane grounds.[22] Prior to the ban, there had been 11 fur farms in the UK producing about 100,000 pelts annually.[23] While the last fur farm in Scotland had closed in 1993, fur farming was nevertheless banned by the Scottish Parliament in 2002. Raising rabbits and sheep for meat fur pelts remains legal although animal rights campaigners are also working to ban this type of farming too.


In Austria, six of the nine federal states have banned fur farming and in the remaining three there are such strict welfare regulations, in relation to the availability of swimming water, that fur farming is no longer economically viable.[22]

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland there are currently five fur farms in operation. These farms focus mainly on the trade of mink fur (some farms which have used fox fur are currently winding down operation as such trade is no longer economically viable). In 2006, approximately 170,000 mink and 300 foxes were slaughtered in the Republic of Ireland for their fur pelts.[24] Furs are exported from the Republic of Ireland to other EU member states or to countries in Asia and North America where the market demands for such trade. In the Republic of Ireland, fur farms are monitored by the Department of Agriculture and welfare standards at both an Irish and European Union level must be adhered to at all times. As of October 2009, there are discussions within the political sphere demanding for the out-right ban of fur farms and fur trade in the Republic of Ireland.[25] If such proposals are met, fur farming should begin to be phased out between 2010 to 2012 under a new animal welfare act.[25] Animal welfare groups have welcomed such proposals,[26] though some concern has been highlighted by the fur industry in Ireland, in terms of its impact on rural communities where alternative industries are scarce. At the moment fur farming in the Republic of Ireland contributes about €3.1 million per year to the economy.[citation needed]


Fur farming is banned for some animals, such as foxes and chinchillas. A legislation to phase out all fur farming by 2018 is pending.[27]


The State Forestry Administration (SFA) is set to offer training courses for fur farmers.[28] Legislation was drafted in September 2009 to address any cruelty to animals in China. If passed, the legislation would regulate how farm animals are raised, transported and slaughtered.[29] In 2005, animals right group The Swiss Animal Protection accused the Chinese of skinning fur-bearing animals including the Asiatic raccoon while still alive and produced a film on the subject.[30][31] Chen Jie and Wu Xuejun, Beijing News reporters, substantiated reports of live skinning and other poor welfare conditions in an April 5, 2005 investigative article published in the Beijing News[32]. Zhuo Rongsheng, the director of the wildlife and plants protection department from the State Forestry Administration (SFA) stated at a press conference "Initial investigations found skinning a live animal is bad for fur quality and also decreases production efficiency, so it is by no means the commonly accepted practice".[33]

See also


  1. ^ Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development
  2. ^ Irish Fur Breeders Association
  3. ^ a b International Fur Trade Federation. "The Socio-Economic Impact of International Fur Farming". http://www.iftf.com/publctns/4849Intls_eEng.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  4. ^ "Industry & Trade Summary – Jan 2004". http://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/pub3666.pdf. 
  5. ^ "What are the rules on wearing fur?". BBC News. 2006-01-12. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4603032.stm. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  6. ^ Europe kicks up a stink over British move to ban mink, Telegraph.co.uk, May 13, 1999
  7. ^ a b c Fur Farming Legislation Around The World, Infurmation.com
  8. ^ Fur Farmers Backed into a Corner, fashionFINLAND.com, January 2, 2007
  9. ^ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1035944.stm, BBC News, November 22, 2000
  10. ^ "Fur Industry". MSN Encarta. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. http://www.webcitation.org/5kwpYHoMs. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  11. ^ http://www.avma.org/issues/animal_welfare/euthanasia.pdf
  12. ^ "Farming For Fur". Fur Commission USA. http://www.furcommission.com/farming/foxfarming.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  13. ^ The trade in dog and cat fur, Happy Paws
  14. ^ "Betrayal of Trust: the Global Trade in Cat and Dog Fur". Humane society. Archived from the original on 2008-03-21. http://web.archive.org/web/20080321220309/http://www.hsicanada.ca/cat_dog_fur/. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  15. ^ "An Olympic disgrace". 2008-03-24. http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/03/24/animal_cruelty_china/. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  16. ^ Md. Bill Seeks to End Mislabeling of Fur Coats
  17. ^ a b c "Rabbit fur: face the facts". The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT). http://www.rabbitfur.org/factsheet.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  18. ^ Animal Rights Encyclopedia: Carcass Disposal
  19. ^ a b c "Inside the Fur Industry: Animal Factories". PETA. http://www.peta.org/mc/factsheet_display.asp?ID=56. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  20. ^ "Frequent Reasons for buying Fur". fur.elehost.com. http://fur.elehost.com/frequent_reasons.html. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  21. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 5 Mar 1999 (pt 6)". 1999-03-05. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199899/cmhansrd/vo990305/debtext/90305-06.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  22. ^ a b c "Support Our Efforts for Animal Rights". Bont voor Dieren. Archived from the original on 2005-12-15. http://web.archive.org/web/20051215121641/http://www.bontvoordieren.nl/english/index.php?action=farming. Retrieved 2005-12-29. 
  23. ^ "Campaigners hail fur ban bill". BBC News Online. 22 November 2000. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1034562.stm. 
  24. ^ http://www.ciwf.ie/farminfo/farmfacts_fur.html
  25. ^ a b http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1012/1224256435727.html
  26. ^ http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2009/1012/1224256435882.html
  27. ^ "Mink farmers on offensive against impending ban". DutchNews. 2011-05-06. http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2011/05/mink_farmers_on_offensive_agai.php. 
  28. ^ "Regulations to Improve Wildlife Welfare". http://www.china.org.cn/english/GS-e/159563.htm. 
  29. ^ "China unveils first ever animal cruelty legislation". The Daily Telegraph (London). September 18, 2009. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/peterwedderburn/100010449/china-unveils-first-ever-animal-cruelty-legislation/. Retrieved 2009-09-18. 
  30. ^ "Dogs and Cats Skinned Alive for Their Fur in China". http://en.epochtimes.com/news/7-2-21/51905.html. 
  31. ^ "Video footage of animals being skinned alive (may be disturbing)". http://www.peta.org/feat/ChineseFurFarms/index.asp. 
  32. ^ "The Slaughter behind 200-million-yuan Revenue from Fur". http://www.animal-protection.net/furtrade/more/beijing_news.pdf. 
  33. ^ "Regulations to Improve Wildlife Welfare". http://www.china.org.cn/english/GS-e/159563.htm. 

External links


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