LONDON—Disturbing video footage released by Humane Society International/UK reveals shocking suffering of thousands of foxes and raccoon dogs enduring miserable lives and painful, protracted deaths on fur farms in Asia. Foxes were filmed being repeatedly bludgeoned over the head, resulting in catastrophic injury but not instant death; some animals were cut with knives, or even entirely skinned, while clearly still alive. The footage was described by wildlife presenter and campaigner Chris Packham as “like a scene from hell”.
Investigators for Humane Society International filmed at eleven randomly selected fur farms in one of the top countries in Asia exporting fur to the United Kingdom. The charity has chosen not to reveal the country in order to protect the identity of the investigators, but says that despite the UK having banned fur farming nearly two decades ago, Britain still allows imports of tens of millions of pounds of fur every year from farms overseas in countries such as Finland, Italy, Poland, and in Asia from mainland China, Hong Kong, India and Thailand. In 2018 fur imports to the UK totalled £70.4 million, including over £5.3 million direct from China alone. HSI estimates this equates to the import of fur pelts from an estimated 2.5-3 million animals into the UK each year.
Although most British retailers actively choose to be fur free, clothes, shoes and accessories using fur from these and other countries can still be found on sale on the high-street and online. HSI/UK says its latest investigation shows why the British government must end this double standard of allowing the sale of fur the UK deems too cruel to farm here.
Claire Bass, executive director of HSI/UK said: “Behind the PR spin of the fur trade, this is the hideous, heartless reality they don’t want you to see. Raccoon dogs driven mad with boredom in their pitifully small wire cages, foxes repeatedly smashed over the head with a metal bar in front of their terrified cage mates, animals skinned alive so that the fur trade can sell consumers the lie of luxury. I am sickened and heartbroken by what our investigators witnessed on these cruel fur farms, but not surprised.
Every designer putting fur on the catwalk, every retailer putting fur on its shop shelves, and every consumer putting fur in their wardrobe, is helping to pay for this shameful misery. It needs to stop, and the UK is now in a unique position to take action by banning fur sales. This – and every – investigation into the fur trade shows that fur is not glamorous, it’s grotesque, it’s cruelty not couture, and it’s time for the UK to stop trading in such horrors.
In taking control of our markets and laws post-Brexit the government will have the power – and the moral duty – to send a clear message that the UK will no longer tolerate the cruel fur trade. Cross party support for a UK ban on fur sales is already strong, and we now need a sign that the government will act.”
Catalogue of cruelty HSI’s investigation shows:
- Wild species – fox and raccoon dog – kept in miserable factory farm style conditions
- Cages so small that many animals can hardly move more than a few inches
- Utterly barren wire cages, no enrichment whatsoever
- No bedding, they spend their entire lives bearing their full weight on wire mesh
- Piles of stinking faeces left to gather on the floor; filthy and empty water bowls
- No veterinarian present during any of the visits; investigators told none come at all
- Animals exhibiting repetitive stereotypical behaviour typical of mental decline
- Foxes beaten repeatedly over the face and head with a metal bar, causing extreme pain and injury but not instant death
- Animals beaten, killed and skinned in full view of others
- Foxes cut and skinned while still alive and clearly moving.
TV wildlife presenter and campaigner Chris Packham viewed HSI’s video and said: “I am astonished at the depravity of the fur trade. This investigation is like a scene from hell and anyone who knowingly wears fur should not turn away from watching it. Aside from the unbelievable cruelty of their deaths, these foxes and raccoon dogs will have endured utterly miserable lives. In the wild they would roam and hunt for miles with all the sights and smells of their natural environment. Natural behaviours like digging for foxes are absolutely essential for their mental wellbeing, and yet on fur farms they are confined day in day out in barren battery cages. It is little wonder that that unrelenting deprivation can lead to the tell-tale signs of mental disturbance. There can be no place in British shops and wardrobes for fur, not when this is the price that animals pay, so I fully support HSI’s campaign to make the UK the first country in the world to ban this horrific and totally unnecessary industry.
Humane Society International/UK leads the #FurFreeBritain campaign for a UK fur sales ban. The UK government has said that it wants Britain to be ‘a world leader in animal welfare’; HSI believes an ideal way to demonstrate that is for the UK to become the first country in the world to ban fur sales.
Luke Pollard MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “The animal suffering revealed in HSI’s investigation is truly sickening. This outdated and unnecessary trade should have no place in the UK’s fashion industry. The last Labour government banned fur farming in the UK, and Labour has pledged its support for a #FurFreeBritain in order to send a message that we will not trade in such horrendous treatment of animals. We urge the government to signal their commitment to a UK fur sales ban, starting with a public consultation.”
HSI’s call for a UK fur sales ban is backed by a host of celebrities including Alesha Dixon, Paloma Faith, Sir Andy Murray OBE, Brian May CBE, Dr Jane Goodall DBE, and Joss Stone.
- More than 100 million animals are killed for their fur every year worldwide including mink, fox, raccoon dog, chinchilla and coyote – that’s equal to three animals dying every second, just for their fur. Additionally, rabbits are also killed for their fur, likely to be in the hundreds of millions.
- On fur farms, animals spend their entire lives in tiny wire battery cages. Foxes are typically kept in cages that are just one metre squared, thousands of times smaller than their territories would be in the wild. This would be like a person being forced to live their entire life in a lift.
- Foxes and raccoon dogs are known to be able to become infected with SARS-CoV-related viruses, with the potential to act as intermediate hosts to pass viruses to humans. Raccoon dogs and foxes in wildlife markets in China were both found to have been infected with SARS-CoV. HSI is calling on governments to completely ban consumption and trade in wild animals, in order to reduce the risk of another pandemic. China’s draft proposal to ban wildlife consumption and trade presently allows for the continued farming and slaughter of fur-bearing species – mink, raccoon dogs and foxes – defining them as ‘special livestock’. This is unacceptable.
- Fur comes with a hefty environmental price tag. Whilst all materials have some eco-footprint, when compared to other textiles, fur takes a significant toll in terms of the C02 emissions associated with keeping and feeding tens of thousands of carnivorous animals on a farm, the manure runoff into lakes and rivers, and the cocktail of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as chromium and formaldehyde used to preserve the fur and skin to stop it from rotting.
- Fur farming has been banned across the UK since 2003.An increasing number of fashion designers and retailers are dropping fur cruelty.
- In the last few years alone Prada, Gucci, Armani, Versace, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, DKNY, Burberry, Chanel and other high-profile brands have announced fur-free policies. In addition, online fashion retail platforms Net-A-Porter and Farfetch have introduced no-fur policies.
- In 2019, California became the first US state to ban fur sales following similar bans in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood. In 2020, Hawaii and Rhode Island have introduced fur sales bans, as well as cities Minneapolis, Minnesota and Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Take action: Sign HSI’s petition for a UK fur sales ban at hsi.org/furfreebritain
Media contact: Wendy Higgins, firstname.lastname@example.org