It is claimed that humans have always worn animal fur, but that is open to much doubt. Today, fur is definitely a non-essential item, over 85% of which comes from commercial fur farms. Five species are commonly farmed for their fur around the world, although many also suffer.
American Mink (Neovison vison)
American Mink, are a semiaquatic species of mustelid native to North America, though human intervention has expanded its range to many parts of Europe and South America. Since the extinction of the sea mink, the American mink is the only extant member of the genus Neovison.
American mink are carnivores that feed on rodents, fish, crustaceans, frogs, and birds. In its introduced range in Europe, it has been classified as an invasive species linked to declines in European mink, Pyrenean desman, and water vole populations.
It is the animal most frequently farmed for its fur. Around 50 million American mink die every year to feed the fur industry. Mink are bred once a year in March and give birth to their litters in May. The average litter is three or four kits. Fur Farmers vaccinate the young kits for botulism, distemper, enteritis, and, if needed, pneumonia. The best animals are kept for breeding stock for the next year, the rest are killed in November and December for their fur.
Chinchilla (Chinchilla chinchilla) and (Chinchilla lanigera)
Chinchillas are crepuscular rodents, there are two species, Chinchilla chinchilla has a shorter tail, a thicker neck and shoulders, and shorter ears than Chinchilla lanigera. In their native habitats, chinchillas live in burrows or crevices in rocks. They are agile and can jump up to 6 ft (1.8 m). In the wild, chinchillas eat plant leaves, fruits, seeds, and small insects. They live in social groups called herds. Herd sizes can range from 14 members up to 100, this is both for social interaction as well as protection from predators. Predators in the wild include birds of prey, skunks, felines, snakes and canines. Chinchillas have a variety of defensive tactics, including spraying urine and releasing fur if bitten. They can breed any time of the year. Their gestation period is 111 days, longer than most rodents. Due to this long pregnancy, chinchillas are born fully furred and with eyes open. Litters are usually small in number, predominantly two.
The international trade in chinchilla fur goes back to the 16th century and the animal (whose name literally means "Little Chincha") is named after the Chincha people of the Andes, who wore its soft, dense fur. By the end of the 19th century, chinchillas had become rare. The trade in fur has driven one species of Chinchilla to extinction, the remaining two species are now endangered and extinct across much of their original home range. In 1923, Mathias F. Chapman brought the eleven wild chinchillas he had captured to the U.S. for breeding. This small population now supplies the fur and pet trade.
Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
The red fox is one of the most widely distributed members of the order Carnivora, being present across the entire Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, North America and Eurasia. The species primarily feeds on small rodents, though it may also target rabbits, birds, reptiles, invertebrates and young ungulates. Fruit and vegetable matter is also eaten.
Red foxes reproduce once a year in spring. The average litter size consists of four to six kits. Kits are born blind, deaf and toothless, with dark brown fluffy fur. Mothers remain with the kits for 2–3 weeks, as they are unable to thermoregulate. During this period, the fathers feed the mothers. Vixens are very protective of their kits. If the mother dies before the kits are independent, the father takes over as their provider. The kits' eyes open after two weeks. Their eyes are initially blue, but change to amber at 4–5 weeks. Their Coat colour begins to change at three weeks of age. During this time, their ears erect and their muzzles elongate. They reach adult proportions at the age of 6–7 months.
Captive bred red foxes come in a range of different colour mutations. A few of them occur naturally in wild populations around the world, but, the majority were created by man, through selective breeding of foxes born in captivity with unusual coat colours or patterns or through the cross-breeding of foxes displaying specific colours. Some of the mutations display noticeable differences in comparison to an average red fox, including a larger or smaller size, a much calmer behaviour, an almost complete lack of musky smell, or genetic problems, such as haemophilia. Today, around one hundred different coat colours and patterns can be observed, which were created over the course of about 300 years of breeding silver foxes for the fur industry. Among the colour mutations, individuals are found displaying a slightly darker/lighter coat, legs, ears, eyes, tail and muzzle of a different colour. Foxes are individual and not one fox is the same, just as for humans.
Raccoon Dog and Cat
There are no penalties for people who abuse animals on fur farms in China, which is the world’s largest fur exporter. In China, more than 2 million cats and hundreds of thousands of raccoon dogs are bludgeoned, hanged, bled to death, and often skinned alive for their fur.
The UK and United States banned the import, export, and sale of products made from dog and cat fur in 2000. The European Union banned imports in 2009. Italy, France, Denmark, Greece, Belgium, and Australia ban the import of domestic cat and dog fur but the sale is still quasi-legal. In most countries, novelty items made from farmed cat and dog fur are available in the form of trim on garments like boots, jackets and handbags and animal toys.
The main breed in the rabbit fur farming industry is the Rex (Castor Rex and Chinchilla Rex). Breeding animals are kept for up to 3 years and usually give birth twice a year. The kits are taken from their mothers at 4 weeks old and put in a nursery with other kits. After this, the mothers are kept separated from their kits, and they get put together only for feeding. When the kits are 7 to 8 weeks old, they are put in solitary cages, where they are kept for about 6–7 months. They are killed after they have shed their winter fur. The rabbits are kept in bare wire mesh cages. A cage for one rabbit has the floor space of about two shoe boxes. The mortality rate for caged Rex is 10 – 15%, mostly from respiratory disease.
By-products of Fur Farms
The meat from fur farm animals is not normally eaten by humans. The carcasses are used in various products such as pet food, animal feed, organic compost, fertiliser, paint, and even tyres.
Some Carcasses are sent to animal sanctuaries, zoos, and aquariums to feed animals. In China, the carcasses are fed to the remaining animals. Faeces is used as an organic crop fertiliser, and animal fat is turned into oil to manufacture soap, face oils, cosmetics, and leather treatments.