Animal Writes
20 January 1999 Issue

Environmental Ramifications of Fur

"Fur, the Natural Choice" has been a fur industry slogan in campaigns
designed to save the fur trades reputation by jumping on the "green" band-
wagon. The fur trade has claimed that real fur is an environmentally safe
product, unlike its synthetic counterparts. Nothing could be farther from the

Fur farms, like all factory farm operations, produce massive amounts of animal
waste that is all consolidated in one small area. In Finland, home of 65% of the
worlds fox farms, fur animal wastes have come to equal the unclean sewage
of a million people, according to environmentalist Mauro Leivi.

Animal wastes are high in phosphorous and nitrogen. When it rains this waste
can wash downhill towards streams and other bodies of water. Other times it
is left to soak into the soil, and sometimes contaminate the ground water.

The nutrients in the waste lead to excessive algae growth which in turn depletes
the oxygen in the water. This can kill more sensitive species of fish and make
the water unsuitable for humans. In the Finnish town of Kaustinen, taking of
the groundwater had to be stopped, and the direction of the water current
changed, because of pollution caused by fur farms.

In the US fur farm associations have even lobbied local governments in the
Great Lakes region to keep water quality standards low. The WI DNR has even
addressed fur farmers about ground water contamination.

Various animals have been shipped into new habitat for the purpose of fur
farming. In the 1830s the Russian-American Co. began dumping foxes onto
various islands around Alaska. These islands had never had a predator like the
fox, and the conditions were right for the proliferation of the fox so as to make
trapping easier. This was, in a sense, an early attempt at fur farming, by
placing a large number of animals in one small place until the killing season.

This early attempt at fur farming had a devastating impact. The non-native
foxes caused the extinction of various seabirds. The Aleutian Canada goose
has had its range reduced to one island. A 1987 survey found that more than
100 fox-filled, offshore islands were completely devoid of nocturnal shorebirds.

After this the fur trade moved towards keeping animals in cages. This still led to
the establishment of mink in Europe, nutria in the US, raccoons in Germany,
muskrats in Holland, raccoons and skunks in the Prince Edward Islands, and
red fox in CA. Sometimes this has led to very real environmental problems,
and sometimes it hasn't. The fur trade still hasn't learned as in 1996 nutria
escaped from a fur farm in OR and were reported to be causing damage in
this new alien environment.

The damage American mink have caused in Europe has been exaggerated by
mink hunting interests. Nonetheless, various European governments have
carried out kill campaigns against the American mink. The European mink, a
different species, is often confused with the American mink, and is nearly
endangered as a result of these lethal control initiatives. The European mink
wouldn't be dying in large numbers if fur farmers hadn't originally brought
American mink over for fur farming.

Trapping are lobbying to maintain a trapping season for lynx in MT, despite the
fact that as few as 150 may still exist in that state. On top of that, the National
Trappers Association has even suggested having the lynx, otter, and bobcat
downlisted from there current status with the Convention In Trade for
Endangered Species. The stated reason for this was that tagging the pelts so
as to keep up with the body count involved too much effort.

Trapping causes the immediate destruction of large numbers of predators. This
can lead to an over abundance of various prey species. This helped the deer
mice population in NM boom several years ago. As a result of this the deer mice
transmitted the Hanta virus to over 50 people who later died as a result of this.

Come spring though, the predator populations will usually rebound. When an
animal's numbers are reduced, there is less stress as food and habitat become
more readily available. Less stress on the surviving animals means that there
will be increased breeding success. This refutes the fur trades claim that
trapping curbs alleged animal overpopulation's.

Traps are non-selective and often catch endangered species. In 1973 a trapper
with the federal govt. reported that 2,500 bald and golden eagles had been
caught in traps in Nevada. 630 died in the traps, and undoubtedly others died
later as a result of trap induced injuries.

In the late 70s it was discovered that otter populations in PA were at between
285 and 465 surviving individuals. Yet PA had not allowed otter trapping since
the 50s. Then, 70,000 acre Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area was
closed to trapping, while at the same time beaver prices fell. This saved the
otter, as beaver trapping was reduced substantially. Apparently otters had been
getting caught in beaver traps on a regular basis.

The University of Minnesota Raptor Research and Rehabilitation Program con-
ducted a survey that found 21% of all admissions of bald eagles involved
individuals caught in leghold traps. 64% of these eagles died as a result of their

Caustic chemicals are used in the processing of fur coats. The fur trade has
always claimed fur is biodegradable. This is true for raw pelts, but only dressed
pelts are put on the market as no one wants a coat that will rot in their closet.
In 1991 the Environmental Protection Agency fined two fur processing
companies a combined total of $1.6 million for noncompliance with hazardous
waste regulations. In 1993 a NY fur processor was found guilty of the same
thing. Yet the fur industry still claims they are selling a "natural" product!

A study by Ford Motor Co. researcher Gregory Smith found that production
of a wild caught fur required 3 times more energy than the production of a
synthetic coat. A ranch raised coat required nearly 20 times more energy than
the production of a synthetic coat.

The fur trade has been reprimanded by advertising standards authorities in
England, Holland, Italy, Finland, and Denmark for claiming that fur is an
ecologically sound product. It is clear that anyone concerned about the fate
of the planet should become active in the anti fur campaign.

from CAFT
Email: [email protected]


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