Facts & Reports
The conditions under which animals are kept are the same throughout the world.
Long rows of barren wire cages in open sided sheds house the animals that are fed with dollops of paste placed on the cage tops. Water is supplied by hose and nipple. A typical mink cage would measure 70cm long by 40 wide and 45 high. Its size is based more on the length of a persons arm than the biological needs of the species. A cage for two Arctic fox would typically measure 110 cms square.
Over 75 million mink (Mustela vison) and fox (mostly Arctic fox - Alopex lagopus) are bred each year to meet the world demand for their skins. More than half the world's mink are bred in Scandinavia where there are more than 10,000 fur factory farms. Two thirds of all fox bred for fur come from Finland.
Although mink and Arctic fox are the main species bred in fur factory farms others include red fox, sable, coypu, and chinchilla. US breeders are experimenting with beaver, lynx, raccoon, wolverine and coyote whilst in Eastern Europe even domestic cats are being reared for their skins.
Mink and fox are unique amongst farm animals. They are highly inquisitive and intelligent carnivorous predators. Agricultural legislation has been drawn up for herd or flock animals like cows, sheep or hens and so is inappropriate for fox and mink.
In 1989 the British Farm Animal Welfare Council described mink and fox as ‘essentially wild animals' and expressed its disapproval of their farming stating that ‘the systems employed in the farming of mink and fox do not satisfy some of the most basic criteria for protecting the welfare of farm animals'. In November 2000 the Government recognised this and banned fur farming in England and Wales. The Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000 was introduced on moral grounds. Scotland and Northern Ireland introduced their own legislation shortly after meaning that fur farming is banned throughout the UK.
In the wild, mink defend and patrol riverbank territories of up to 2.5 miles in length whilst Arctic fox range over vast areas of up to 15,000 acres. Mink are semi-aquatic but in fur factory farm have no access to water in which to swim. Experiments have shown, however, that captive mink will go to enormous efforts to reach water to swim in.
Fur factory farms follow a regular calendar. Animals are mated in February, give birth in May, weaned 6-7 weeks later and each year's offspring are killed in November at the age of just 7 months.
Animals kept in fur factory farms show clear signs of stress. They perform stereotyped behaviour, mutilate themselves, sucking or biting their own tails. Some even resort to cannibalism.
The killing of animals on fur factory farms is carried out immediately after their first winter's moult when their fur is at its best and any defects have disappeared. Fur farmers claim that the animals must be well looked after or their fur would suffer, that is why they have to be killed as soon as they moult before it begins to deteriorate. Slaughter methods include gassing (using vehicle exhaust), neck breaking, lethal injection and electrocution (using electrodes clamped in the mouth and inserted in the rectum). Prior to the ban on fur farming, in the UK no qualifications or training were required for those carrying out the killing and this is the same in most countries.
Some countries have banned fur farming for some or all species. Here is a summary of fur farming legislation around the world:
Austria: has an outright ban on fur farming throughout the entire nation since 2004.
Croatia: In December 2006, the Croatian government introduced a new Animal Protection Act that bans fur farming. The legislation came into force on January 1, 2007 and the ban is subject to a 10 year phase out period.
Denmark: A ban on fox farming was introduced in 2009 with a phase-out period until 2017 for most farmers, and until 2023 for the two fur farmers for whom fox farming is their main income. Welfare regulations for mink farms remain weak.
Italy: As of 2008, all mink farms in Italy must allow swimming water, more space and pens on the ground. This will likely lead to the closure of all Italian mink farms.
The Netherlands: Became the first country in the world to ban fox farming in 1995, with a phase out period of 10 years. Chinchilla farming was prohibited in 1997. A bill based on ethical arguments to ban mink farming has recently passed in the lower house of parliament. This despite the fact that the Netherlands is the world's third largest producer of mink pelts. The next step is for the senate vote on the ban.
New Zealand: Allows fur farming of ferrets (between 2 and 5 farms exist in the entire country), but prohibits the import of mink. This means that effectively mink farming is banned in New Zealand.
Sweden: In 1995, Sweden passed an amendment to the Animal Protection Ordinance that required that fox be kept in such a way that they can be active, dig and socialize with other fox. Fox farming is no longer economically viable in Sweden and since 2001, fox farming is no longer carried out there.
Switzerland: The farming of fur animals is prevented by legislation which only allows their keeping under what are effectively zoo conditions. Thus, there are no fur farms in Switzerland.
United Kingdom: Under the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act of 2000, England and Wales banned fur farming completely. All fur farms in England and Wales had to be shut down by January 1, 2003. Despite having no fur farms, Northern Ireland and Scotland both banned fur farming shortly afterwards. There are now no fur farms anywhere in the U.K.
U.S.A.: There is no federal law regulating the keeping or killing of animals reared for their fur. No states have banned fur farming, but some states prohibit keeping foxes in captivity because of concerns about disease transmission to native wildlife. California has housing requirements for mink and fox that make fur farming of these species cost prohibitive. Wisconsin and Utah are currently the two top fur farming states.