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Trapping and Fur Farms


Each year approximately 10 million animals are trapped in the wild, so that they can be skinned for fur coats. The primary tools used by fur trappers are the following: leghold trap, the body grip (Conibear) trap, and the wire snare.

Despite that 74 percent of Americans oppose the use of the leghold trap, Congress has not banned its use. If more people were exposed to these traps, that number would sky rocket. Trapping is indefensible, and should be banned today.

Fur trapping is a barbaric activity, done to supply people with an object of vanity, a fur coat. Clearly this animal suffering cannot be justified with such a frivolous end product. The suffering is multiplied when one considers the fact that an average of 40 animals must be killed to make one fur coat.

In fact, the leghold trap has been banned in eighty-eight countries, but only 8 states in the U.S. have passed legislation to prohibit leghold traps. This is despite volumes of documentation proving that leghold traps mutilate wild animals, are non-selective in what they catch, and are a danger to companion animals and children.

The leghold trap is composed of two metal jaws, powered by high strength springs, which slam shut on an animals paw when triggered. The initial impact of the steel jaws causes injury, but the majority of damage is caused as the animal struggles to break free.

Within the first 30 minutes of capture, a trapped animal can tear her flesh, rip tendons, break bones, and even knock out teeth as she bites the trap to escape.

Before Sweden banned leghold traps their government carried out a trapping campaign against foxes. Of the 645 foxes that were trapped, 514 were considered seriously injured. The trapped foxes had struggled desperately to get free, and over 200 of them had knocked out teeth. Some of the foxes had even knocked out 18 teeth as they bit the trap trying to escape.

Some animals will even bite off their own limbs in a desperate attempt to escape. The fact that an animal would severe her own limb shows how horrible the experience of being caught in a leghold trap is. A study in Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge found that 27.6 percent of mink, 24 percent of raccoon, and 26 percent of trapped fox would actually bite their limbs off in hopes of surviving.

In many cases the animals died from blood loss, infection, and inability to hunt with an amputated limb. This study was carried out over a 4 year period, and involved many trappers with varying degrees of skill. Therefore, these percentages are fairly indicative of what happens with the various species mentioned above.

Another study, conducted in 1980, found that 37 percent of raccoons mutilated themselves when caught in a leghold trap. In a public relations move the fur trade started manufacturing padded leghold traps. These pads consisted of nothing more than a rubber strip across the jaws of the trap. The traps still had to close with the same force to hold a fighting mad wild animal. The trapped animal still had to wait in the trap for as long as 3 days, until the trapper returned. A 1995 study of coyotes trapped in padded leghold traps found that 97% of them experienced severe swelling to their legs, while 26% of them suffered from lacerations and fractures.

While causing extensive injury, leghold traps are not designed to kill an animal outright, but rather to restrain it until the trapper returns. State laws vary in regards to how long an animal can be left in a trap. Some states have no time limits, others mandate that traps be checked every 72 hours, 36 hours, and so on. Some animals in traps will be found dead from dehydration, blood loss, hypothermia, or other trap inflicted injuries. Many animals are eaten by predators that find the helpless in these traps.

Trappers kill animals that are still alive by shooting them in the head, stomping on them, or by beating their skulls in. Some leghold traps are actually set in a way as to kill an animal as opposed to restrain it. These are set in the water and are called "drowning sets." These are mostly reserved for beaver, muskrat, and mink.

The average time length required to actually drown the animals was 9 minutes and thirty seconds. Some beavers would hold on for as long as twenty minutes before their lungs gave out.

The fur industry argues that these "drowning sets" are humane. This only shows that their definition of humane is quite different than that of the rest of society.

Often times the traps will capture an animal other than the one the trapper was targeting. These are often referred to as "trash" animals, and are generally killed and thrown away. Those that are released usually die shortly thereafter from trap inflicted injuries.

Susan Foster of New York was walking her dog when he ran into the bushes and was caught in a body grip trap. Susan testified in a written statement that her dog was in agony for 20 minutes. The trap was too strong for her to open. Susan could only struggle to free her dog as he writhed in pain until he eventually died.

The other commonly used fur trap is the snare. This is made of cable, and is shaped like noose. When the animal goes through the noose, she is caught. The more she struggles, the tighter the noose becomes. If the animal is caught around the neck it will eventually strangle her.

Fur Farms

Fur-farming methods are designed to maximize profits at the expense of the animal's health and comfort. For example, foxes are kept in cages up to two feet square with up to four animals per cage. Likewise, minks suffer from close confinement, often developing self-mutilating behaviors. The animals in these concentration camp conditions also exhibit distressed neurotic behaviors such as pacing back and forth in their cages.

Animals live in filth on fur farms and are often victims of disease and pests. For example, fur farm animals are fed meat by-products which are often so grisly that they are unfit even for the pet food industry: calves heads, beef lungs and windpipes, unborn calves, chicken and turkey heads, beef and chicken entrails, cow udders, and fish heads. Bacterial contamination from such a diet threatens the health of the animals--particularly that of newly weaned pups. Contagious diseases--such as viral enteritis and pneumonia--as well as bladder and urinary tract infections are also prevalent on fur farms. Fleas, ticks, lice, and other insects are attracted by the piles of excrement under cages. These piles are often left for months, long enough for insects to infest the animals.

Under normal circumstances, minks spend about 70 percent of their time in water. But on fur farms, where little water is available, their salivation, respiration, and body temperatures increase to unnatural and painful levels. In 1987, about 450,000 minks died on American fur farms due to heat stress alone.

Even death does not come easy on a fur farm. Ranchers have devised hideous methods of killing--methods which do not "damage" the animals' pelts:

  • Foxes are killed by anal electrocution--the insertion of a metal rod into the anus.
  • Some animals are killed in decompression chambers.
  • Minks and other animals have their necks broken.

No Regulatory Protection

There are no regulations protecting animals on fur ranches. Cages are typically kept in open sheds that provide little protection from wind, cold, or heat. In the winter, animals often have to endure sub-zero temperatures. Summers are particularly hard on minks because they lack the ability to cool their bodies without bathing in water. Recognizing the cruelty inherent in the fur factory farming system, Austria and the United Kingdom have banned fur farms.

Given that the American government does not regulate fur farming and that the states do not force fur ranchers to comply with existing cruelty statutes, severe abuses occur. It is not rare, for instance, to have animals lying in their fecal matter or to have animals with toes frozen to cold wire mesh during winter. And it's often more economical for ranchers to hope sick animals will survive rather than to hire a veterinarian to care for them.

Over the last several years, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) has released tens of thousands of mink and beavers from fur farms. While some people question whether these captive-reared animals can survive in the wild, ALF activist Rod Coronado reported that after rehabilitating and releasing animals from fur farms he "saw farm-raised mink who immediately began building nests under logs and in other animals' abandoned dens" and "began to swim in waters where they could find fish and crayfish." And Mark Pimlott, a wildlife biologist with the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, reported that mink released by the ALF can survive in the wild, and said that the claims to the contrary by the fur industry are "a little self-serving."

Environmental Toll

While the fur industry promotes its product as a "natural" fabric from a "renewable resource," nothing could be further from the truth. Gregory H. Smith, an engineer with the Ford Motor Company, reported that the amount of energy expended to manufacture a fur coat from trapped animals was nearly four times the amount needed to manufacture a fake fur coat, and that the amount of energy expended to manufacture a fur coat from ranched animals -- after calculating the production of feed, cages, skinning, pelt drying, processing, and transportation -- was 66 times the amount needed for a fake fur.

Formaldehyde, chromium, and other dangerous chemicals are used in the processing of furs, and have catastrophic effects when this runoff leaks from fur farms into rivers or streams. In 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined six New Jersey fur processors $2.2 million as a result of the pollution they caused. The EPA claims that the waste from fur processing plants "may cause respiratory problems, and are listed as possible carcinogens." Fur industry lobbyists are even working in state legislatures for more lenient water pollution laws, a chilling sign that their product can hardly be considered "natural."

Over the last few years, prominent designers such as Calvin Klein and Bill Blass have shown compassion and removed fur from their garments, and hundreds of celebrities have announced that they won't be caught dead wearing fur. Even the World Council of Churches has announced its opposition to fur, and Tel Aviv (Israel) Chief Sephardic Rabbi Haim David Halevi ruled in 1992 that Jews should not manufacture or wear fur because it constitutes a violation of Jewish law. As more and more people are learning about the cruelty involved in making a fur coat, a January 2000 Harris Poll indicated that 72 percent of Americans would rather wear faux-fur.

A Dying Industry

The best evidence that fur is a dying industry is the dramatic drop in the number of animals killed for fur. For example, in 1987, 4.12 million minks were killed on fur farms in the U.S. but, in 1999, 2.81 million minks were slaughtered for their skins -- a sharp decline. Yet, the year 2000 saw an expensive media push by the fur industry to ensure fur's popularity again. The extremely cold weather aided the propagandistic advertising of the fur pushers, as the industry began pushing fur-trimmed collars, fur mittens, and many items other than full-length coats. But, fur has not increased in popularity as the growing consciousness about the cruelty inherent in fur production is helping to decrease the number of fur ranches in the United States. For example, in 1988, about six million animals were raised and killed on American fur ranches. In the late 1990s, however, that number declined to approximately 2.5 million. In 1988, there were 1,027 mink farms registered with the USDA. Today, there are only 457. Business remains ailing for furriers because a growing segment of the American public will not tolerate animals being tortured and killed for vanity.

If people don't buy fur, no one will sell it. Ultimately, it will be the consumers -- not politicians or judges -- who decide the fate of the fur industry. Help spread the word about animal cruelty every time you see a fur coat. With the many available fake fur coats and other alternatives, the new fashion is compassion. For a catalog of fake fur coats, you can visit Donna Salyers' Fabulous-Furs or call 1-800-848-4650.

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