The Truth About Fur

Warning: Graphic content regarding animal cruelty

The other day I was talking with one of my animal activist friends about the fur industry. I’d never done research into the topic before and the extent of my knowledge was as broad as having watched 101 Dalmatians when I was a kid. She told me about how, in China, they skin animals alive. It turns out that China has no animal cruelty legislation and humanely killing animals first is not a cost effective idea. I was absolutely (and rightly) horrified by this discovery so I did what any inquisitive student would—I googled it.

In 2010 PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) released a video showing inside a fur-farm in China*. The video displayed the horrendous conditions of the farms and the tiny cages which small animals like dogs, rabbits, cats and minks are kept in. According to Animals Australia, around 85% of the world’s fur comes from animals raised in battery-cages where they are deprived of any kind of quality of life and subsequently driven insane1. The animals in the video are agitated and jostling to get out—there was not enough room and no escape. This film has sound. You can hear the terrified screeching of the cats and dogs and other small animals as they try to escape—some even still had collars on, proving they’d once been beloved family pets.

The video contained footage of dogs being skinned alive. They were handled roughly and taken to a table designed for the purpose of paralysing and skinning. The process began with paralysis; a pole coursing with electricity is shoved into the anus to paralyse the dog. The skinning then takes place, starting at their legs, moving up to the torso and eventually the head. Once the pelt was cut away, the sore, red husk of a dog is thrown into a pile of naked, writhing dogs. They then have an expected life-span of ten minutes. Watching the video I was reminded of sheep being shorn—but the cut was much too close and they’d never be shorn again.

I tried to argue with my friend about humane alternatives—killing the animal first before taking its skin. She quickly assured me that it wasn’t a ‘cost-effective’ practice and the risk of the blood damaging the pelt was too great. I suggested giving them a lethal injection, breaking their necks or using a gas chamber. Skinning animals alive isn’t the only process used, but it is a common one in China. Sometimes animals are gassed, clubbed to death or caught in bone-breaking traps which maim but don’t kill2. The recurring theme throughout testimonies is that skinning is easier while the animal is still warm. But really, with no animal rights legislation in place, why would a thriving business waste the money on killing humanely? Unfortunately it isn’t a China-exclusive process; countries like Norway and Poland have also been known to skin animals alive.

One thing I found that surprised me is that fur products are often mislabelled. Most people don’t want to purchase cat or dog pelts. It reminds them too much of their own loving pet and nobody wants to be Cruella De Vil. What fur-buyers may be unaware of is that much of the fur that is ‘made in China’ actually belongs to cats, dogs and rabbits.  There are no labelling laws in Australia that enforce species of origin to be specified. The importation of fur from domestic dogs and cats has been illegal since 2004, but it hasn’t stopped.  The fur of domestic animals can infiltrate the market as deliberately mislabelled faux fur3. Often the fur used for the trimming of cheap garments in Australia comes from rabbits bred for their pelts4.

Over 50 million animals are killed annually for their fur and more than 90% of Australia’s fur is imported5. It takes anywhere between 12 and 100 skins to make a fur coat. Most of these animals are bred and raised in small cages and have next to no quality of life. Next time you’re out shopping and you see fur, just remember it was probably processed in shocking conditions and ripped from an animal that still needed it. As a result of learning this, my animal activist friend has progressed to becoming a vegan. Although I haven’t taken such measures, I’ve found it increasingly confronting seeing fur or faux-fur products sold in stores.

1. animalsaustralia.org/issues/fur.php

2. unleashed.org.au/change_the_world/go_faux_yourself/fur.php

3. news.com.au/technology/environment/australian-government-refuses-to-ban-fur-skinned-from-live-raccoon-dogs-for-ugg-boots/story-e6frflp0-1226159080875

4. abc.net.au/news/2013-10-01/watson-the-true-face-of-the-fur-trade/4991790

5. animalsaustralia.org/issues/fur.php

*To watch the PETA video mentioned in this article, visit https://youtu.be/G6gBWXZU74g

Words by Kayla Gaskell