A video has very recently been released by animal welfare group, Animal Defenders International (ADI), which documents the brief lives of two fox cubs in the fur industry, and has raised questions about how far society will go for such luxuries as fur products.
The video, secretly recorded in a fur farm in Poland, is only a little over 4 minutes long as it documents cubs Borys and Erik from birth to death.
The video shows the poor conditions the animals are kept in; small, rusty metal cages, barely high enough for them to stand upright. In addition, there is a third cub, Aleska, who is spared to breed next year’s cubs. All three cubs share one cage together in a space that would be cramped for one, let alone three.
Following the demise of Borys and Erik by electrocution through the mouth, the video interjects footage of the foxes with that of models wearing fur and trinkets adorned with fur on sale in retail shops.
One of the taglines ADI places in the video at the beginning is: ‘When you buy fur, you buy cruelty’.
ADI, like many other animal rights organisations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), seek to change public opinion to switch to faux fur products and pressure governments to ban the fur industry. Among those who support ADI’s campaign include the actor, Brian Blessed and national treasure, Joanna Lumley.
In the press release accompanying the video, Animal Defenders International President Jan Creamer said:
Over 100 million animals die for their fur every year. Our film shows the lives of these intelligent, feeling individuals and the cruelty they suffer when treated like a product.
While the UK does prohibit fur farms, most EU countries including Ireland do not. However, the way forward advocated by the likes of ADI is not wholly perfect.
Faux fur, made from synthetic materials and which has been in commercial existence since the 1950s, does remove the need for animals to be kept in captivity and then killed for their fur. However, some elements of the synthetic material derive from petroleum and coal, which are hardly environmentally-friendly. Containing such elements also means that they can take a long time to biodegrade as well, from anywhere between 500 and 1,000 years.
Similarly, just as faux fur cannot be seen as completely free of disadvantages as an alternative to real fur, not all animal rights activists determined to stop fur farms have campaigned legally.
When mink fur farms were present in the UK, some animal rights activists sought to sabotage such farms by breaking fences and barriers, enabling mink to escape into the wild. Among such instances was the release by members of Animal Liberation Front of 6,000 mink from one farm in Hampshire in 1999.
Undoubtedly well-meaning towards the mink in their efforts, the actions of these activists damaged the British rivers eco-system, with the released mink severely predating the native water vole population. Therefore, actually releasing any of those animals held captive in the name of the fur industry can have detrimental consequences to wildlife in general, as well as being illegal actions in themselves.
However, even despite the reservations over faux fur and some of the actions of animal rights activists creating new problems, ADI’s video does highlight the unpleasant side behind real fur production.
Furthermore, the European location of the footage recorded is apt considering that Europe dominates the fur farm market and indeed, Denmark is the world’s largest producer of fur skins.
Responding to the pressure from animal rights organisations like PETA, in 2009 Denmark banned fox fur farming, subject to a gradual phasing out of production. Meanwhile, several petitions have been organised in recent years, requesting the EU Parliament to implement a complete prohibition of fur farms in EU countries.
With countries like Poland benefiting greatly from a fur industry revived by more marketing opportunities, particularly in China, and a significant share of mink and fox-based fur production in the world deriving from the EU, there are strong economic interests behind keeping the fur industry as it is. In fact, overall there are more than 6,000 fur farms in the EU and Denmark farms around 15 million mink a year.
Only exposure of the conditions in fur farms in videos like this, can help raise awareness of the sourcing of real fur-based products. If such videos don’t change people’s habits, then they at least raise difficult questions as to the ethics of purchasing animal-based fur products when viable faux fur products are also available.
Warning: The video below contains footage of a graphic nature, which may cause distress