The real price of fur must be measured in deaths - not dollars. To make one fur coat, you must kill at least fifty-five wild mink, thirty-five ranched mink, forty sables, eleven lynx, eighteen red foxes, eleven silver foxes, one hundred chinchillas, thirty rex rabbits, nine beavers, thirty muskrats, fifteen bobcats, twenty-five skunks, fourteen otters, one hundred twenty-five ermines, thirty possums, one hundred squirrels, or twenty-seven raccoons.
A Dying Industry
Every year, the well-organized fur trade spends millions of dollars to glamorize fur coats and accessories and to mask the real price of fur: pain, mutilation, and death for millions of animals. But as more people learn the truth about fur, growing numbers of furriers are going bankrupt. Less practical than alternatives and increasingly seen as offensive, the status of fur is status is slipping. Saga, a Norwegian fur manufacturer, in a bleak attempt to bring fur back in fashion, resorted to giving fur to students to work with in hopes of breeding a new generation of furriers.
The fur industry, which once only included the price of full-length coats in their numbers, has resorted to including fur storage and trim in their statistics to enhance sales reports. Actual fur sales have decreased and a number of furriers have closed . A February issue of The Trapper noted, "From Alaska to Maine, the number of those trapping, hunting, and buying fur has plummeted to the lowest level yet recorded." This trend has already saved millions of animals - but the anguish continues for millions of others.
Trapped in Agony
There are several methods used to trap animals in the wild. The most common is the steel-jaw leghold trap. Animals caught in a hidden steel jaw trap suffer a slow, excruciating death. The trap snaps down on the limb of an unsuspecting animal, sometimes breaking the limb. The trapped animals often freeze to death or are attacked by predators from whom they cannot flee. Many frantically chew off their own legs to escape the agonizing pain. If they are still alive when the trapper returns to the scene, they are bludgeoned or strangled to death. The method for killing a trapped animal, as described in Fur Trapping: A Complete Guide, is to "hit the trapped animal just forward of the eyes with the stick. While it is unconscious, use your knee or the heel of your shoe to come down hard behind the front leg. This ruptures the heart, and the animal never regains consciousness. "
The leghold trap is not just cruel; it is also indiscriminate. Trappers discard millions of "trash animals" not wanted for their fur, including domestic pets and endangered species. Trapped animals sometimes leave behind dependent young who are doomed to starvation, adding to the death toll for each coat. Companion animals, such as dogs and cats, have been trapped and killed after wandering into a trap.
The Horror of the Ranch
Animals raised on ranches are kept in cramped confinement and deprived of anything resembling a natural life, until finally they are killed, often by crude and painful means. Methods used include gassing, suffocation, or electrocution through the mouth and anus so that the "product"--the pelt--is not singed or stained with blood. Far from being "humane," fur ranching is characterized by barren wire-mesh cages, isolation, and environmental deprivation so intense that animals often go insane. Animals used to roaming 15 miles each day go crazy confined in cages. Animals are forced to endure all weather extremes, and veterinary care is typically non-existent since it is not considered cost-effective to treat an animal whose fate it is to be turned into a coat. Animals who are naturally solitary are caged together, often resulting in cannibalism. The dead are left to decompose in cages with live animals.
Environmental Devastation - Nothing Natural about Fur
In the face of causing such notorious, unnecessary cruelty to animals, furriers desperate for positive things to say about their product often resort to the claim that furs are "natural." In fact, turning an animal's skin into a coat involves preserving it with toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde - a known carcinogen - in order to keep the carcass from decaying.
Furriers also claim that fur trapping is a necessary tool for wildlife management. However, trapping as a commercial enterprise can never be a wildlife management strategy. Proper wildlife management needs to be based on highly specific local circumstances, recognizing the delicate balance of a particular ecosystem. But the book Fur Trapping: A Complete Guide shows the true motivator for trapping - money. "The trapper should trap the fur most in demand. If bobcats bring a high of $400, as they did in 1976, he should concentrate on them." Is this wildlife management - or slaughter for profit? Wildlife populations follow natural fluctuation curves. Unchecked hunting and trapping of certain animals have disrupted these fluctuations. The furriers' and trappers' scientifically baseless claim that they are "managing" wildlife is a thinly disguised ploy to kill the most profitable animals.
Once a symbol of glamour and success, fur is now a symbol of insensitivity, vanity, and greed. World-famous designers such as Giorgio Armani, Stella McCartney, Donna Karan, Geoffrey Beene, and Calvin Klein now refuse to include fur in their collections. Leading retailers, including Harrods of London and I. Magnin, have stopped selling furs altogether.
Each of us can make the compassionate choice not to support such unnecessary cruelty to animals and to speak out on the animals' behalf.