Mink, rabbits, foxes, raccoon dogs, chinchillas and other animals live their entire, miserable lives in small cages before they are brutally slaughtered in the fur industry.

While fur is widely considered needlessly cruel, it unfortunately continues to be used in the fashion industry. Full length, multiple pelt fur coats are increasingly less common, with more brands banning fur every year, however, fur still sneaks into stores and wardrobes in less obviously ‘animal’ ways – small fur bobbles on beanies, keyrings, and even shoes, fur dyed into bright, unnatural colours that sometimes mean we forget where it came from. It’s important to check labels, and understand what real fur feels like, to avoid buying fur. 

There are plenty of certified vegan, animal cruelty-free ‘fur’ jackets and products available now, so there’s no reason to support cruelty for fashion. These alternatives are also more sustainable, with even more sustainable, innovative materials being created all the time. 

Two sweet rabbits enjoying each other’s company.

Factory farming for fur

Fur farming accounts for about 85% of the global fur trade, with mink and foxes being the most commonly farmed animals in the industry. Animals who are forced to live in tiny cages on these factory farms often suffer enormous psychological anguish. Mink and foxes are both territorial animals, and in the wild they enjoy roaming far and wide

In close confines, they can resort to cannibalism. Investigators have often found animals with wounds, who have been gnawed on by other animals, or who have self-mutilated. These animals are maddened by their imprisoned lives, pacing their tiny cages, spending hours upon hours repeating behaviours known to represent psychological distress, like circling and head nodding

Despite how basic the requirements are that farmers need to meet for the sake of the animals they keep caged, these are still regularly not met. For example in Sweden, over 50% of audited fur farms were in violation of these requirements.  

Two foxes in a cage on a fur farm.
Image: Jo-Anne McArthur /
We Animals

Slaughter on fur farms

Shockingly, two common slaughter methods on these factory-farms are with the use of gas chamber boxes, and by anal probe electrocution. Investigations have exposed fur-bearing animals being bludgeoned to death, and horrifically, even being skinned alive. 40% of the fur market is from farmers in China, where a reported 35 million animals are slaughtered and skinned per year. Unfortunately, these animals are minimally protected by the law there.

A mink trapped in a cage on a factory-farm in Wallonia, Belgium, where fur farming has now been banned. Fortunately, these bans are popping up all over the world, though not fast enough.
Image: Dyrsfrihet / Animal Freedom

Feeding factory farmed animals to other factory farmed animals

As well as the obvious cruelty of fur farms, there is another layer of violence against animals to consider.

Animals like minks, foxes and raccoon dogs are carnivorous, and so must be fed flesh. So, other animals like chickens, who are also confined to factory farms, are slaughtered for their feed. Animals confined to fur farms are also fed fish.

A chicken on a slaughterhouse truck and a fox in a fur farm.
Images: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals / The Ghosts in Our Machines

Trapping animals for fur

Animals like coyotes are not factory farmed for their fur, but trapped out in the wild. Large companies like Canada Goose, who use coyote fur, proudly claim they use ‘farm free’ fur, as though this is more ethical. However this is far from the reality.

Coyotes are lured and caught in painful steel traps. Thrashing in pain, trying desperately to escape, coyotes and other trapped animals like lynx and racoons have been documented gnawing their own legs off so they can escape. They often break their teeth during this hideous process, but would sooner do so than be caught vulnerable, ready to be killed.

The skins of coyotes who have been trapped and killed so people can wear fur trimmed jackets, accessories and coats.


Environmental Exploitation

Not biodegradable, not sustainable

The fur industry attempts to villainise faux fur by saying that animal fur is better for the planet, as it is completely biodegradable. This is absolutely false, as proven by science. 

Animal fur industries call themselves ‘natural fur’, green-washing their reality. In fact, multiple advertisements by the fur industry claiming they are ‘natural’ and ‘eco-friendly’ have been banned by advertising and consumer authorities, labelled ‘misleading’. 

In the fur industry’s own funded study, it was found that very little animal fur actually does significantly biodegrade – as little as 6.6%. Due to the enormous amount of chemicals used in the tanning process (which is the same as in the leather industry), if fur coats were composted the soil health would be compromised. Formaldehyde, chromium, and other toxic chemicals are used to make animal fur and skin into a ‘fashionable garment’.

As with all factory-farming, fur farms like this one in Canada, are inherently unsustainable.
Image: JoAnne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory

Pollution

The World Bank defined fur dressing – like leather tanning, where chemicals are used to stop the decomposition of animal skins that would otherwise rot – one of the world’s five worst industries for toxic-metal pollution to the land. 

Further, fur farming results in air and water pollution, as well as eutrophication – which can lead to oceanic ‘dead zones’, where fish and other aquatic life suffocate. These factory farms result in 10% of ammonia emissions in major fur producing countries like Finland. This is an underestimated environmental threat according to the scientific journal Nature. One study also found that mink factory-farming in the United States adds almost 1,000 tonnes of phosphorus to the environment each year. 

Impact as compared to synthetic faux fur

The fur industry tries to claim that it is far more sustainable, and that you are saving the planet by choosing a coat trimmed with animal, not vegan faux fur. However, objective, scientific data proves this is not the case.

There are lots of exciting new alternatives to fur that are even more sustainable – made partially from renewable resources, from recycled synthetics, and more. But even the most conventional faux fur coat, made from plastics like acrylic, is far less impactful on our changing climate and earth than slaughtering animals for fur. 

From an independent study on the impacts of animal as compared to faux fur.
Note too, that an animal backing (wool) on faux fur is the second most environmentally damaging. 


Human Exploitation

Health risks for consumers

The toxic chemicals used in fur dressing (the fur equivalent of leather tanning) processes, like formaldehyde, chromium, naphthalene and others, are to different degrees, human carcinogens, likely to cause cancer. Not only do these chemicals harm communities surrounding dressing facilities, when they runoff through wastewater, they can harm consumers wearing fur. 

Investigations and studies have tested products across ten European countries, and the majority of the analysed samples were ‘substantially contaminated with hazardous chemicals at levels breaching legal industry standards.’

It is incredibly dangerous and misleading for the fur industry to push their commercial product onto consumers with claims that they are ‘natural’, when they are in fact risking human health and wellbeing. 

Health risks for fur dressing workers

A report on the fur trade, which included impacts of fur dressing chemicals on workers stated that ‘the surfactants, solvents, acids, tannins, fungicides, dyes and bleaches subject industry workers to a risk of acute and chronic conditions, ranging from skin complaints to eye irritation, cancer, and even death’. 

The supposed ‘luxury’ of wearing a dead animal skin is cruel not only to the animal themselves, but to the humans who are exploited in the process of making a skin into a wearable ‘material’. 

From the Toxic Fur report released by ACTAsia, with global implications.
Most of us would feel incredible emotional anguish if we were made to work in a job that required us to kill beautiful animals so often that we became numb to it. We should show compassion not only to animals, but to farm workers, when working towards a world free of exploitation – human and non-human.

Trappers and fur farmers

Multiple studies have reported that in many cases, slaughtering animals for a living has serious mental health risks. PITS, or perpetration-induced traumatic stress, results in mental suffering which comes from having committed violent acts, not being the victim of them. 

While studies have not been done on those people who have trapped or factory farmed for fur, the same premise exists in this industry. Being made to work in an industry which is inherently violent and brutal is very likely detrimental to someone’s mental health. Many fur farmers and trappers work in these jobs because that is what their family has always done, and because they feel they have little other option – even if this is not the case.

Alternatives

There are so many alternatives to cruel animal fur! As well as the more conventional synthetic alternatives, there are also new, kind alternatives to fur being created all the time – from more renewable sources, recycled sources, and plant-based materials! 

There are also, of course, a huge number of second-hand coats and products you can buy that are made from faux fur – just check the labels. 

We’ve put together a short list of some of our favourite ethically made vegan fur products:

Nina, the founder of Jakke, a vegan brand producing garments that are free from fur, leather and wool, wearing and sitting next to her creations. In 2020, Jakke started ethically producing their faux fur from recycled materials. 

These coats are made from plastic bottles which would otherwise be destined for landfill, or which were polluting the ocean. 

This vegan brand, House of Fluff, produces their ‘furs’ in their fair-trade New York studio, and they turn their fabric remnants into cute accessories, so material isn’t wasted. 

In 2020 the brand introduced a fur which is partially made from recycled synthetics, and partially from bio-sources, like plant crops. They also line their fabrics and garments with Tencel, a sustainable, renewable material.

A synthetic faux fur coat made ethically by Unreal Fur, a brand which also assists other designers in going fur free, and sourcing cruelty-free materials. This is a proudly vegan brand, and their remnant materials are used to make child-size jackets.

It’s worth noting too, that while this jacket is synthetic, the risk of micro-plastic pollution is far more minimal as compared with a synthetic dress or other garment, as these coats are not machine washed regularly, but rarely dry-cleaned.

Have some fur in your closet you’re not sure what to do with?

If you’re someone who has a fur coat, or who has been passed down a fur coat, accessory or other garment from another family, there is a way to put it to use, kindly.

Snuggle Coats is an organisation which is ‘giving the fur back to animals’. They collect fur products from people who no longer want to support this cruel fashion statement, and turn them into bedding for animals in need.

Orphaned wild animals need to feel warm and safe, as though they were next to their mothers. The absolute kindest thing we can do with the sad and deathly fur products we have is let them offer some comfort to other unfortunate animals, as they heal and grow up to be strong, healthy and happy. There are a few groups doing this, see if there is one nearest to you. 

A baby wombat cuddled up in a fur bed at Wombat Ridge Wildlife Shelter.