The international trade in fur is highly lucrative, with an estimated global value of £10 billion per year. Conservative estimates suggest that each year 40 million animals are killed. Over 85% are bred and killed on fur farms and the rest are trapped in the wild exclusively for their fur. This figure does not include the thousands of millions of rabbits killed for the fur trade.
The most commonly bred animals on fur farms are mink and fox, but the industry also breeds and kills polecats, raccoons, and chinchillas. It is estimated that two million cats and dogs are also killed for their fur. There are 6,500 fur farms in the EU. The European Union is the world’s largest producer of factory farmed fur. Around 30 million mink, 2 million fox and 100,000 raccoon dogs are killed each year in EU fur factory farms. Europe is responsible for 70% of global mink fur production, and 63% of fox fur production. The countries that farm the most animals for their fur are Denmark, China, and Finland.
The fur industry makes its huge profits by keeping production costs down to the bare minimum. On fur farms animals are kept in appalling conditions, crammed into row after row of tiny barren cages, and left to stand on metal bars for their entire lives. For species such as mink and fox, these conditions are especially appalling, as they are wild animals and would naturally travel many miles each day. Being caged in huge sheds, where thousands of other animals are also imprisoned, drives them insane with anxiety and fear. Repetitive movements, such as head-bobbing and circling, are commonplace.
It is claimed that humans have always worn animal fur, but that is open to much doubt. Today, fur is definitely a non-essential item, over 85% of which comes from commercial fur farms. Five species are commonly farmed for their fur around the world, although many also suffer.
There are 6,000 fur farms in the EU. The EU accounts for 63% of global mink production and 70% of fox production. Denmark is the leading mink-producing country, accounting for approximately 28% of world production. Other major producers include China, the Netherlands, the Baltic states, and the U.S. Finland is the largest United States supplier of fox pelts. The United States is a major exporter of fur skins. Major export markets include China, Russia, Canada, and the EU. Exports to Asia as a share of total exports grew from 22% in 1998 to 47% in 2002. China is the largest importer of fur pelts in the world and the largest exporter of finished fur products.
Fur farming is banned in Germany, Austria, Croatia, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic (effective in 2019) and Norway. In Switzerland, the regulations for fur farming are very strict, with the result that there are no fur farms. Some other countries have a ban on fur farming of certain types of animals.
Fifty years ago, Russia was one of the largest exporters of fur but the Russian fur trade has declined. The USA and Canada both export fur pelts and import fur products. China has become the largest importer of fur pelts and the largest exporter of fur products.
Every year, the international fur trade kills upwards of 50 MILLION fur-bearing animals, mainly mink and fox but including domestic cats and dogs, killed without mercy so that their fur can be made into “products” for the fashion industry. This annual count does not include rabbits, which the United Nations reports to be at least 1 BILLION killed each year solely for their fur, which is used in clothing, as lures for fly-fishing, and for trim on craft items and other incidentals.
In November 2017 HSI UK and ethical cosmetics company Lush UK join forces to fight fur cruelty on the high street. Claire Bass, Executive Director of HSI UK said; “British consumers will be shocked to learn that they are being duped into buying real animal fur,” “Partnering with Lush gives us a unique opportunity to reach shoppers across the country who are unaware that trusted brands and independent retailers alike can be caught out selling real animal fur at deceptively cheap prices, described as “faux” or “100% acrylic”.
Through extensive research, HSI UK has discovered that many animal fur items for sale in the UK, especially in independent boutiques, in markets and online, are either not labelled at all, or are incorrectly labelled or marketed as synthetic.