In a public relations campaign designed to deflect
criticism of the fur industries treatment of animals, it was declared
that fur is an environmentally safe product. When held up to review,
this statement has not held true. In fact, advertising standards
committees in England, Denmark, Holland, Italy, and Finland have ruled
that any advertising declaring fur as environmentally safe is false and
misleading. 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 uncleaned 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 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
Sweden’s largest fox farm was ordered to close in
January 1998 because of the role they had played in contaminating local
water supplies. At roughly the same time the magazine Scientifur
reported on a Polish study which found that the soil around fur farms
was contaminated with growing forms of nematodes. Another study in the
same issue advised fur farmers to be careful when determining the
location for water wells on their property.
In Finland, fur farms produce 1500 tons of ammonia a
year. This is serious air pollution and is very unpleasant to live near.
Unfortunately, agricultural zoning laws make it difficult for people
near fur farms to do anything about it.
Various animals have been shipped into foreign habitat
for the purpose of fur farming. In the 1830’s 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 this animal 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, opossums in New Zealand, and red fox in
CA. Sometimes this has led to very real environmental problems, and
sometimes it hasn't.
This still hasn't stopped the fur trade from raising
animals in places that they are not native too, thus inviting another
ecological disaster. An example would be the farming of red fox in
Iceland. The red fox, and its color mutations such as the silver fox,
are not native to Iceland. These types of fox are bigger and more
aggressive than Iceland's native arctic fox, and should red fox
establish themselves in this Nordic country, they are likely to cause a
great decline in the arctic fox population. This theory is based on what
has happened in other areas where the two species have been forced to
Icelandic farmers often complain about the impacts the
arctic fox has upon their stock. Let’s see what happens if the bigger
red fox establishes itself in Iceland as a result of fur farming.
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
Trappers 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 their
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 increase in breeding
success. This refutes the fur trades claim that trapping curbs alleged
instances animal overpopulation.
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
In the late 70’s it was discovered that otter
populations in PA were at a dangerously low level. There were between
285 and 465 surviving individuals. Yet PA had not allowed otter trapping
since the 50’s. 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
The University of Minnesota Raptor Research and
Rehabilitation Program conducted 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 injuries.
Trapping has been blamed for hindering the recovery of
the marten, the fisher, and the wolverine in the Rocky Mountain states.
These predators are very susceptible to baited traps set for other
species. An accurate count of how many of these animals have been
trapped incidentally is impossible to measure as many trappers follow
the “shoot, shovel, and shut up” philosophy. Basically, this means that
if you catch an endangered species you should bury it and never say
anything about it again.
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”
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 production of fur hurts marine mammals as well. Seal
and whale meat is increasingly being used as feed on fur farms in Canada
The fur industry is an environmental rapist. The
evidence presented here is just a thumbnail sketch of the immense
environmental problem created by fur production. This industry is now
exposed as being not only abusive in their treatment of animals, but
deadly to the planet that we all live on.
Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT)
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