Row after row of tiny, wire mesh cages, stacked four high and strung about 25
in a row; chinchillas peering through the wires; a stack of pelts hanging on
a far wall; and, except for a radio playing softly in one corner of the room,
a morguish hush.
Fur Factory Farming
That's the scene two PETA investigators found at a fur
"factory" farm secluded in a quite, snow-covered town in Michigan.
PETA's Research & Investigations (R & I) Department recently sent two
undercover teams into fur "farms" in five states. Our investigators
witnessed not only how animals live, but also how they die in the seedy world
of fur farming.
One method they documented has never been made public
before: genital electrocution.
Little Animals, Big Suffering
During genital electrocution, the killer attaches an alligator clamp to the
animal's ear and another to her labia and flips a switch, or plugs the wires
into the wall socket, sending a jolt of electricity through her skin down the
length of her body. She jerks and stiffens. But, according to PETA's
biologist, Leslie Gerstenfield-Press, although the electrical current stops
the heart, it does not kill her; in many cases the animals remain conscious.
The electrical current causes unbearable muscle pain, at the same time
working as a paralyzing agent, preventing the victim from screaming or
fleeing. A chinchilla farmer who uses genital electrocution told our
investigators that he leaves the clips on "for one or two minutes" to make
sure the heart doesn't start up again, but sometimes animals revive-those who
do remember the pain.
Recently, in front of our investigators, one rancher
unplugged the animal, listened to the heart and said, "Nope, still beating,"
and plugged the cables back in for another 30 seconds.
Not Killing Them Softly
As one farmer observed, "Sometimes you'll get one that'll argue with you."
The chinchillas, like all animals, do not go willingly; although they make no
noise as they wait-held upside down as the rancher attaches the clip-their
whiskers and mouths tremble constantly until the electrical charge freezes
movement. For the benefit of our investigators, the farmer laid the animal's
body on a table, although normally, he said, he would just hang the animal by
the tail from the clip.
For small animals, neck "snapping" or "popping" is easy and cheap. The owner
of one farm R & I visited wraps the fingers of one hand around the neck of
the chinchilla, grasps the lower body with the other hand, and jerks the
animal's vertebra out of the socket, breaking the neck. Neck snapping takes
just a second, but for "about five minutes" afterward, according to one
rancher, the animal jerks and twitches. It might take two minutes for an
animal to become brain-dead from cervical dislocation; in the meantime, as
shown on our investigator's video, she or he kicks and squirms.
Foxes in Boxes
Minks are the fur farm animals of choice, with 2.7 million pelts produced in
the United States in 1992, down from 3.3 million in 1990, not counting the
animals who die of disease or "mishaps" before they can be pelted. Ranchers
also breed foxes, beavers, and rabbits for fur. In the U.S., fur farms
produced approximately 50,000 fox fur pelts last year.
Some of them came from a place not far from the Eastern Seaboard where dead
animals and animal parts litter the grounds in various states of decay.
"Breeder" foxes peer intently from their cages, their view of the world
chopped into the rectangles created by the mesh wiring. Their food
containers are rusty cans, feces is piled up to boot-rim height, and the
buildings groan in disrepair. The owner showed our investigators a
wheelbarrow full of blood and skinned minks' bodies and, not far off, two
cages dripping with the corpses of foxes newly killed and skinned. One fox's
body, stripped of fur except around the ankles, lay in the dirt. The smell of
decay permeated the place.