In a desperate attempt to boost lagging fur sales, some furriers are now trying to convince consumers that pelts are "eco-friendly." That "fur is green". But nothing could be further from the truth!
Eighty-five percent of the fur industry's skins come from animals on fur factory farms. These facilities can house thousands of animals, and, as with other factory farms, they are designed to maximize profits—with little regard for the environment or animals' well-being. Much of the world's fur is processed in China, where environmental regulations are often ignored.
Each mink skinned by fur farmers produces about 44 pounds of feces in his or her lifetime. That adds up to 1 million pounds of feces produced annually by U.S. mink farms alone.
Waste from fur farms is poisoning our waterways. In December 1999, for example, the Washington State Department of Ecology fined one mink farmer $24,000 for polluting ditches that drain into a local creek. The Environmental Protection Agency has also filed complaints against companies involved in fur production and transportation for illegally generating and disposing of hazardous waste from the processing of pelts.
Raising animals for their fur also pollutes the air. In Denmark, where more than 2 million minks are killed for their fur annually, more than 8,000 pounds of ammonia is released into the atmosphere each year.
Furs are loaded with chemicals to keep them from decomposing in the buyer's closet, and fur production pollutes the environment and gobbles up precious resources. Producing a fur coat from ranch-raised animals takes more than 15 times as much energy as does producing a faux-fur coat.
Fur is only "natural" when it's on the animal who was born with it. Once an animal has been slaughtered and skinned, his or her fur is treated with a soup of toxic chemicals to "convert the putrefactive raw skin into a durable material" (i.e., to keep it from rotting). Various salts—along with ammonia, formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, and other chromates and bleaching agents—are used to preserve and dye fur.
Direct environmental damage
The farming of animals for fur, while a profitable venture for fur farms, has proven to be an environmental disaster for the planet. So much so, that advertising claims by the fur industry that it is "environmentally friendly" have been deemed false advertising by the Advertising Standard Committees in England, Holland, Finland, Italy and Denmark. Why?
- The intensive confinement of animals, in it's self, has always been of environmental concern. With thousands of animals being kept over a small area, the build-up of excrement is obvious concern, as it will either be soaked into the soil and end up in our ground water, or it will run off into near-by streams as a result of heavy rain. There is an obvious health factor involved with groundwater contamination.
- Finland is the world's largest producer of fox. The Finnish National Board of Waters and the Environment said "Environmental problems in the functioning fur farms are still remarkable". In the Finnish town of Kaustinen the taking of ground water had to be halted, and the direction of the current changed due the the waste dumped by fur farms.
- The nitrogen of these farms also impedes the wintering of trees. This accounts for added frost damage and easier access for insects and fungi into the weakened tree.
- Fur farms are a source of air pollution as well. Finnish fur farms produce 1, 500 tons of ammonia every year!
- What happens to the carcass after being skinned of its fur? Most fur farms dispose of the bodies in a landfill or woods, etc
Interference with the eco-system
- Predators help maintain healthy prey animal populations by culling the weak and sick. The last thing you want is the domestication of important predators, such as fox and mink.
- Fur farming has also caused the ecological balance to teeter. For instance, in WI, up to 75, 000 mink are kept on one farm - a figure recommended to outnumber the amount living in the wild!
- Mink, although adapted relatively well to the Irish environment, are not natural to it. They are an American species who were introduced into England in the 50's by fur farmers carelessly dumping them with the closure of their farms. They have since come and adapted to Ireland, though, of course, unnecessarily at the cost of many other prey animals, and the risk of upsetting the eco-system. Other examples include Raccoons in Germany, mink in Iceland, nutria in the USA and opossum in New Zealand. These animals in turn are blamed for ravaging the area, but it is not their fault - they were put their by fur farmers.
- Contrary to what the fur trade says, they are still hunting endangered animals! In Montana, USA there as few as 150 lynx in the wild, yet the fur trade has fought and succeeded in preventing the animal from being considered a threatened or endangered species. Dozens of these animal are being removed yearly to be used as breeding stocks on fur farms. Another example is how, in April of 2001, police seized 138 shahtoosh shawls made from the endangered Tibetan antelope, in a London shop. The estimated financial cost was £350, 000, but the cost to the species was to take 20,000 animals from a low of 75,000.
- Government and independent studies show clearly that, for every fur animal caught, two or three others which are of no economic use, are also caught. These animals are considered "trash" and thrown away. Being non-descrimnatory, these traps are known to often catch endangered species. Twenty-one percent of all bald eagles admitted to one rehabilitation project involved leghold traps, and 64% of those injuries led to death. In 1973 a US trapper claimed that 2,500 golden and bald eagles had been accidently caught in traps in the state of Nevada alone.
- Another example, again from the US, concerns the protected river otter of Pennsylvania, which kept disappearing during the '70s, despite the trapping of them was illegal. It was only when legal beaver trapping was significantly reduced that the otter population began to re-flourish. This was blamed on accidental trapping.
Trapping and the spread of disease
Trappers often claim that by culling diseased species they are able to effectively eradicated disease, but it's not as simple as that, for three main reasons:
- When one dramatically reduces the number of predatory animals in the wild, the number of prey animals will obviously increase. Nature cures over-population with disease and this ensures the survival of the fittest. This can be disastrous. In New Mexico, one year, the deer - When large numbers of animals are trapped in the autumn and population numbers fall, animals are forced to travel a greater distance to mate in spring. This will certainly spread disease over a larger area should that animal be a carrier.
- Animals in late states of a disease will never be attracted to the lures a trapper uses. Therefore, the chances of catching strong healthy animals are greater than catching a weaker one. This reduces the genetic strength of the species, making them more susceptible to disease.
While trapping takes some species to the brink of extinction, it causes others to over-populate. Most species trapped by fur-trappers are predators. Incapable of fulfilling their natural roles of culling the weak and excess numbers of prey species it is obvious that the latter will increase in numbers, bringing it's own range of problems.
Processing of Fur
We're told that fur is natural, and therefore environmentally friendly. But how can this be so? Surely, in it's natural state - being the pelt of a dead animal - it should decay quite rapidly. The fur industry proved that this is so in extensive tests carried out, but what they failed to mention was that the pelts tested were raw, as opposed to those that are actually used to make garments, which are quite heavily dressed and treated.
- In dressing furs, caustic chemicals such as formaldehyde and chromium are used, and these are environmental contaminants which the fur industry has been in trouble for, such as in 1991 when two fur processing plants were fined $1.6 million for "total non-compliance with hazardous waste regulations".
- Tests carried out for the Ford Motor Company found that the production of wild-caught fur costs over 3.5 times as much as fake fur in energy terms, while farmed fur costs over 15 times as much as fake fur.
The following is an excerpt from Chemical Engineer William J. Sauber, a distinguished lecturer of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics:
"...the huge price difference between animal and simulated furs gives a clue as to what type of fur requires the greatest energy input and which type is the largest drain on our resources, and animal furs' prices usually run at least three times simulated furs, and often more. Simulated fur can be manufactured from petrochemicals with far, far less damage to the ecosystem, not to mention the pain and agony inflicted on creatures we are now discovering to have a spirit and feelings at least as deep and sensitive as our own.
And a most important point: By what sense of misguided logic do real animal furs become called "renewable resource" and simulated furs become "not renewable?".
Petroleum has been deposited on earth from the bodies of plants and animals that lived and died over aeons of time. The fur and feather trade has caused some species to become extinct and pushed others to the brink. Fossil fuels on the other hand are a long way from extinction, but when they do become really scarce we have other alternatives. We can manufacture synthetic fuels and thus polymers from water, CO2, and solar energy. More than that, we will have clean, abundant fusion energy in twenty to fifty years, and we will have our own sun-power here on earth to manufacture synthetic petrochemicals. Totally renewable! But, when animal species are gone, they are gone forever!!!"