Secret filming shows rooms stacked full of caged chinchillas in Romania’s filthy fur factory farms, sparking calls for a ban

Campaigners urge Romania to become 20th country in Europe to ban cruel fur farming

Humane Society International / Europe

HSI in Romania

BUCHAREST, Romania—Romania is being urged to become the 20th country in Europe to ban fur farming following revelations from an undercover investigation by Humane Society International/Europe which uncovers serious animal welfare concerns. Following discussion with HSI/Europe, deputies from the National Liberal Party have submitted a bill to Parliament to ban mink and chinchilla fur farming, and HSI/Europe has submitted its dossier of investigation evidence to Romania’s Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă with a formal request for the government to introduce a national fur farming ban.

In the first ever exposé of chinchilla fur farms in Romania, filming by HSI/Europe reveals animals confined in small, filthy, wire mesh cages stacked three or four on top of each other, in windowless “farm” rooms, with piles of excrement accumulating under each cage. Baby chinchillas are seen struggling to walk on the wire cage floor, their legs slipping through the mesh, and adult chinchillas are filmed frantically chewing at the bars.

Chinchillas were housed individually (except when rearing young) despite being highly social creatures, and provided just a fraction of their species’ natural range in the wild—they can jump as high as one metre, and horizontally up to two metres. HSI’s investigator was told females are forced into a cycle of almost perpetual pregnancy, which can start again just several hours after giving birth. Fur farms employ an unnatural and likely stressful polygamous breeding system which allows the same male to have access to, and breed with, up to 10 females who are fitted with neck braces or collars to prevent them escaping their own cage during mating. Several fur farmers were also filmed holding chinchillas upside down by the tail, a practice that goes against veterinary advice due to the risk of tail snapping.

The investigation breaks as across Europe, EU citizens in their thousands are signing a European Citizens Initiative calling for an EU-wide ban on fur farming. The ECI must achieve one million signatures to trigger a response from the European Commission.

Andreea Roseti, Romania country director for Humane Society International/Europe, said: “This investigation provides shocking evidence of the deprivation these animals are suffering in Romania for the fur industry. Such cruelty brings shame on Romania and we hope that our investigation marks the beginning of the end for the fur industry here. I am sure that most Romanian citizens will be horrified to learn that hidden from view, thousands of gentle chinchillas are suffering in silence for the sake of frivolous fur fashion items that nobody needs. There is no future in fur farming in a modern, compassionate society. That is why 19 countries across Europe have fully banned the practice.

We are calling on Romania’s Prime Minister Ciucă to act swiftly with a comprehensive ban on fur farming of all species, to stop this atrocious suffering in the name of fashion. Top designers and manufacturers across the globe are shunning fur, and soon we hope the fur industry will be consigned to the history books. This is Romania’s chance to be on the right side of history.”

Unlike mink fur farming where animals are housed in rows of cages in field units in rural areas, chinchilla farming in Romania typically takes place in a room or even a basement of a building in more residential areas. The deprived conditions HSI/Europe found, fail to meet the very basic Five Freedoms of animal welfare as well as the requirements of Council Directive 98/58/EC. HSI’s investigation also raises questions about the methods used to kill chinchillas in Romania. A number of the fur farmers told HSI’s investigator that they break the animals’ neck, a practice not listed as an authorised killing method for chinchillas (Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009). One fur farmer showed the investigator his homemade gas chamber he had constructed using a pressure cooker, and another revealed chinchilla carcasses stored in a freezer.

Professor Alastair MacMillan, a veterinary consultant who viewed the footage, said: “The factory farm style caging in which these chinchillas are forced to exist, piled high floor to ceiling, fails to meet almost every measure of the internationally recognised Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare. Chinchillas are naturally very sociable animals, yet on these fur farms they are kept in solitary caging. They have a strong desire to run, jump, burrow, forage for food and regularly take sand baths, and yet their tiny cages with only the very minimum of enrichment, means they are unable to exhibit these natural behaviours to any meaningful extent, which must cause them significant frustration and psychological distress. Having to stand for long periods on wire mesh floor will cause pain and injury to their delicate feet and is clearly a physical challenge for the young kits. Cervical dislocation—breaking the animal’s neck—is an entirely unsuitable method of killing chinchillas, and if these animals are routinely being killed this way, as some of the fur farmers admit, that will surely be an horrific end to a miserable life.”

HSI’s analysis shows that a fur farming ban in Romania would have minimal economic impact because the industry has been in considerable decline for some time. Farmers told HSI’s investigator that pelt prices had fallen steeply from 40 euros to 25 euros each, and that the farming of chinchillas was not economically viable as a full-time occupation. One chinchilla farmer commented that in the past he was producing 4,000 pelts a year, but now it is closer to 1,500 pelts. In 2013, Romania produced 200,000 mink, 30,000 chinchilla and 2,000 fox pelts, exporting 1,585,098 euros worth of fur garments. In 2021 the value of exports dropped to just 762,359 euros and recent statistics show pelt production halved to 100,000 mink and 15,000 chinchilla. Financial information seen by the investigator shows that Romania’s two remaining mink farms reported zero profits every year from 2014 to 2021 and employ just 46 people at the farms.

Although the fur market is in decline, chinchilla fur items still come with a high price tag. A chinchilla fur lined coat by Yves Salomon retails at Harrods in the UK for £12,600. Spanish homeware website Dentro Home, which ships to the UK, is selling a chinchilla throw for 124,950 euros. Chinchilla fur is also used by Fendi and Loro Piana.

Fur facts:

  • More than 100 million animals are killed for their fur every year worldwide—that is equivalent to three animals dying every second, just for their fur.
  • Fur farming has been banned in 19 European countries, including Malta, Ireland, Estonia, France, Italy and most recently on 22nd September 2022, Latvia. Political discussions on a ban are also underway in Lithuania, Spain and Poland. A further two countries (Switzerland, Germany) have implemented such strict regulations that fur farming has effectively ended, and three other countries (Denmark, Sweden, Hungary) have imposed measures that have ended the farming of certain species.
  • In Denmark, only 1% of fur farmers applied for state aid to re-start business if the temporary fur farming ban is lifted after December 2022. Mink farming is also being phased out in the Canadian province of British Colombia. The UK was the first country in the world to ban fur farming, in 2003.
  • Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been documented on over 480 mink fur farms in 12 different countries in Europe and North America since April 2020. Fur also comes with a hefty environmental price tag including C02 emissions from intensively farming carnivorous animals, 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.
  • An increasing number of fashion designers and retailers are dropping fur cruelty. In the last few years alone, Canada Goose, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Gucci, Burberry, Versace, Chanel, Prada and other high-profile brands have announced fur-free policies.

Download video and photos from the investigation


Media contact: Wendy Higgins, director of international media:

Notes: filming took place between April and October 2021 at four chinchilla fur farms in Transylvania, as well as neighboring regions to the north and south.

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Jo-Anne McArthur

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