The negative environmental impacts of fur farming are far reaching. Compared with other textiles, fur production is extremely inefficient and resource intensive. Every stage of fur production requires significant resources that impact the environment, from the massive amounts of feed to the toxic chemicals used for pelt processing. A 2011 report by CE Delft, an independent research organization in the Netherlands, found that of the 17 of the 18 environmental impacts they studied, 1kg of mink fur scored consistently worse than 1 kg of other textiles such as cotton, wool, and polyester. Among their findings:
- For 1 kilogram of factory farmed mink fur, 563 kilograms of feed is required
- Farmed fur outscores other textiles by 2-28 times for various environmental indicators such as soil and water pollution and land use
- The climate change impact of 1kg of mink fur is five times higher than that of the next highest-scoring textile (wool)¹
In Nova Scotia, home to the majority of Canada’s fur farms, manure runoff from mink operations has been identified as a threat to soil and water quality, posing serious risks for fish, birds, farmed and wild animals, humans, and the environment.² Following complaints of algae blooms in several watersheds located in areas with high concentrations of mink farms, the Nova Scotia government conducted investigations and water quality surveys from 2008 – 2012.³ The 2012 report prepared for Nova Scotia Environment found that the high levels of pollution observed in 9 lakes located within the watersheds were likely the result of mink farming activities.⁴⁵
In addition to its impacts on the natural environment, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the risks of fur farming due to the threat of disease spillover from fur farms into wildlife populations. Transmission to wildlife is possible through direct and indirect contact with animals as well as through contaminated carcasses and waste generated by fur farms. Because of fur farming, SARS-CoV-2 has the potential to establish itself as a permanent reservoir in wildlife populations, posing a threat to both wild animals and become a continual public health risk. The 2020 fur farming assessment by the WHO, FAO, and OIE writes:
The threats that fur farming poses to the environment and wildlife populations are varied and significant, all for a product that is unnecessary and where cruelty-free and sustainable alternatives exist.
¹Bijleveld, M., Korteland, M., & Sevenster, M. (2011, January) The environmental impact of mink fur production. CE Delft.
²Tri County Watershed Protection Association. (2011, April 25). The impacts of the mink industry on freshwater lakes in Nova Scotia: An overview of concerns. David Suzuki Foundation Technical Brief.
³Lavoie, J. (2014, August 15). Mink Farm Pollution Key Culprit in Rendering Nova Scotia Lakes Unswimmable: Report. The Narwhal.
⁴Brylinsky, M. (2012, February). Results of the 2011 Water Quality Survey of Ten Lakes Located in the Carleton River Watershed Area of Digby and Yarmouth Counties, Nova Scotia. Prepared for Nova Scotia Environment.
⁵CBC News. (2012, April 2) Mink farms likely polluted lakes, study finds.
⁶World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, & World Organisation for Animal Health. (2020, January 20). SARS-CoV-2 in animals used for fur farming: GLEWS+ risk assessment.