Clothing & Cosmetics  > Fur - An Environmental Nightmare


In a public relations campaign designed to deflect criticism of the fur industries treatment of animals, it was declared that fur is an environmentally safe product.  When held up to review, this statement has not held true. In fact, advertising standards committees in England, Denmark, Holland, Italy, and Finland have ruled that any advertising declaring fur as environmentally safe is false and misleading. Fur farms, like all factory farm operations, produce massive amounts of animal waste that is all consolidated in one small area. In Finland, home of 65% of the worlds fox farms, fur animal wastes have come to equal the uncleaned sewage of a million people, according to environmentalist Mauro Leivi.


Water & Air Pollution


Animal wastes are high in phosphorous and nitrogen. When it rains this waste can wash downhill towards streams and other bodies of water. Other times it is left to soak into the soil, and sometimes contaminate the ground water.


The nutrients in the waste lead to excessive algae growth which in turn depletes the oxygen in the water. This can kill more sensitive species of fish and make the water unsuitable for humans. In the Finnish town of Kaustinen, taking of the groundwater had to be stopped, and the direction of the water current changed, because of pollution caused by fur farms.


In the US, fur farm associations have lobbied local governments in the Great Lakes region to keep water quality standards low. The WI DNR has even addressed fur farmers about ground water contamination.


Sweden's largest fox farm was ordered to close in January 1998 because of the role they had played in contaminating local water supplies. At roughly the same time the magazine Scientifur reported on a Polish study which found that the soil around fur farms was contaminated with growing forms of nematodes. Another study in the same issue advised fur farmers to be careful when determining the location for water wells on their property.


In Finland, fur farms produce 1500 tons of ammonia a year. This is serious air pollution and is very unpleasant to live near. Unfortunately, agricultural zoning laws make it difficult for people near fur farms to do anything about it.


Invasive Species


Various animals have been shipped into foreign habitat for the purpose of fur farming. In the 1830's the Russian-American Co. began dumping foxes onto various islands around Alaska. These islands had never had a predator like the fox, and the conditions were right for the proliferation of the this animal so as to make trapping easier. This was, in a sense, an early attempt at fur farming, by placing a large number of animals in one small place until the killing season.


This early attempt at fur farming had a devastating impact. The non-native foxes caused the extinction of various seabirds. The Aleutian Canada goose has had its range reduced to one island. A 1987 survey found that more than 100 fox filled, offshore islands were completely devoid of nocturnal shorebirds.


After this the fur trade moved towards keeping animals in cages. This still led to the establishment of mink in Europe, nutria in the US, raccoons in Germany, muskrats in Holland, raccoons and skunks in the Prince Edward Islands, opossums in New Zealand, and red fox in CA. Sometimes this has led to very real environmental problems, and sometimes it hasn't.


This still hasn't stopped the fur trade from raising animals in places that they are not native too, thus inviting another ecological disaster. An example would be the farming of red fox in Iceland. The red fox, and its color mutations such as the silver fox, are not native to Iceland. These types of fox are bigger and more aggressive than Iceland's native arctic fox, and should red fox establish themselves in this Nordic country, they are likely to cause a great decline in the arctic fox population. This theory is based on what has happened in other areas where the two species have been forced to coexist.


Icelandic farmers often complain about the impacts the arctic fox has upon their stock. Let's see what happens if the bigger red fox establishes itself in Iceland as a result of fur farming.


The damage American mink have caused in Europe has been exaggerated by mink hunting interests. Nonetheless, various European governments have carried out kill campaigns against the American mink. The European mink, a different species, is often confused with the American mink, and is nearly endangered as a result of these lethal control initiatives. The European mink wouldn't be dying in large numbers if fur farmers hadn't originally brought American mink over for fur farming.


Impact on Native Species


Trappers are lobbying to maintain a trapping season for lynx in MT, despite the fact that as few as 150 may still exist in that state. On top of that, the National Trappers Association has even suggested having the lynx, otter, and bobcat downlisted from their current status with the Convention In Trade for Endangered Species. The stated reason for this was that tagging the pelts, so as to keep up with the body count, involved too much effort.


Trapping causes the immediate destruction of large numbers of predators.  This can lead to an over abundance of various prey species. This helped the deer mice population in NM boom several years ago. As a result of this the deer mice transmitted the Hanta virus to over 50 people who later died as a result of this.


Come spring though, the predator populations will usually rebound. When an animal's numbers are reduced, there is less stress as food and habitat become more readily available. Less stress on the surviving animals means that there will be increase in breeding success. This refutes the fur trades claim that trapping curbs alleged instances animal overpopulation.


Traps are non-selective and often catch endangered species. In 1973 a trapper with the federal govt. reported that 2,500 bald and golden eagles had been caught in traps in Nevada. 630 died in the traps, and undoubtedly others died later as a result of trap induced injuries.

In the late 70's it was discovered that otter populations in PA were at a dangerously low level. There were between 285 and 465 surviving individuals. Yet PA had not allowed otter trapping since the 50's. Then, 70,000 acre Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area was closed to trapping, while at the same time beaver prices fell. This saved the otter, as beaver trapping was reduced substantially. Apparently otters had been getting caught in beaver traps on a regular basis.


The University of Minnesota Raptor Research and Rehabilitation Program conducted a survey that found 21% of all admissions of bald eagles involved individuals caught in leghold traps. 64% of these eagles died as a result of their injuries.


Trapping has been blamed for hindering the recovery of the marten, the fisher, and the wolverine in the Rocky Mountain states. These predators are very susceptible to baited traps set for other species. An accurate count of how many of these animals have been trapped incidentally is impossible to measure as many trappers follow the "shoot, shovel, and shut up" philosophy.

Basically, this means that if you catch an endangered species you should bury it and never say anything about it again.


Caustic chemicals are used in the processing of fur coats. The fur trade has always claimed fur is biodegradable. This is true for raw pelts, but only dressed pelts are put on the market as no one wants a coat that will rot in their closet. In 1991 the Environmental Protection Agency fined two fur processing companies a combined total of $1.6 million for noncompliance with hazardous waste regulations. In 1993 a NY fur processor was found guilty of the same thing.  Yet the fur industry still claims they are selling a "natural" product!


A study by Ford Motor Co. researcher Gregory Smith found that production of a wild caught fur required 3 times more energy than the production of a synthetic coat. A ranch raised coat required nearly 20 times more energy than the production of a synthetic coat.


The production of fur hurts marine mammals as well. Seal and whale meat is increasingly being used as feed on fur farms in Canada and Russia.


The fur industry is an environmental rapist. The evidence presented here is just a thumbnail sketch of the immense environmental problem created by fur production. This industry is now exposed as being not only abusive in their treatment of animals, but deadly to the planet that we all live on.


Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT)