According to Statistics Canada, more than 2.5 million animals are farmed for their fur each year. The vast majority of these are mink and fox, both of which are non-domesticated, with all of their wild instincts intact.
Fur farming, like any other form of factory farming, is hell on earth for animals.
Mink have a natural territory of up to 2,500 acres; foxes can require even more space. Despite this, both animals spend their short, miserable lives trapped in tiny wire cages stacked together in long sheds, where they eat, sleep, urinate and defecate. Their movement is so severely restricted (the average mink has less floor space than two sheets of paper) that they are unable to run, hunt, hide, or socialize. Studies have shown that because mink are semi-aquatic, they suffer greatly when denied access to water. Foxes suffer similarly when denied the ability to dig and seek cover, which the tiny wire cages also disallow.
Some of the common physical consequences of these unnatural living conditions include frostbite, deformed limbs, infectious diseases, and ulcers. Sadly, but not surprisingly, farmed animals also routinely develop psychological conditions, including social deprivation, learned helplessness, continuous fear, and behavioural abnormalities (repetitive pacing, circling, head-bobbing, self mutilation) at a rate of up to 85%. Inbreeding for specific colour traits has also led to severe genetic abnormalities including deafness, “screw-neck," and compromised immune systems.
The fur industry routinely claims that it is in the best interest of the farmers to treat their animals humanely, as it is integral to the “quality” of the fur. But “high quality” fur has never been shown to reflect on the health or well-being of a farmed animal – only that they were killed shortly after their first winter coat arrives, at about seven months of age. In order to avoid damaging the fur, animals are killed by gassing, neck-breaking, or anal electrocution.
The Fur Institute of Canada explains that “Canadian fur farmers also operate under provincial and territorial legislation and Codes of Practice covering animal welfare. The Recommended Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals include mink and ranched fox, and were developed by Agriculture Canada in collaboration with the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies”.
Don’t let the rhetoric fool you. There are few laws regulating the keeping, handling or killing of cage-raised fur-bearing animals in Canada. Most regulations are entirely voluntary and simply reflect the standard practices used to make the most possible profit off of each animal with the least possible amount of input and care.