Animal skins are being embraced by designers amid a push to make the lives and deaths of captive creatures more humane. This story by Richard Conniff appears in the September 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine. Photos by Paolo Marchetti.
FBI Alert 6/10/2016 – When a family-owned mink farm in Illinois was attacked by animal rights extremists in 2013, 2,000 minks were released from their cages and a barn was spray-painted with the words “Liberation is Love.”
Students attending School for Agriculture and Environmental Studies (SAGES) in Fox Lake can rattle off at least a dozen commodities in which the Badger state ranks No. 1 including cranberries, mink pelts and milk goats.
After animal activists once again unleashed a horde of carnivorous mink on the Ontario countryside, the Canadian Mink Breeders Association has put up a staggering $100,000 reward to rein in the “extremists.”
“These criminals don’t think that people have a right to use animals, fine, but these are domesticated animals that have been raised on farms for more than 100 generations,” said mink farmer Kirk Rankin in a Tuesday statement announcing the six figure reward to catch the “cruel and irresponsible” persons responsible.
In the summer and fall of 2013, two California animal rights extremists traveled over 40,000 miles across the country attacking mink farms. By the end of their crime spree, over 5,000 domesticated mink had been removed from their pens to suffer and die by starvation and dehydration; by predators or on roadways.
Fur and shearling made their mark across all four leading Autumn-Winter 2016 (AW 16) fashion weeks, with an estimated 70% of collections overall featuring the natural material.
What’s the Difference?
For the last 50 years or more, the debate has raged over the role of animals in human society, with particular reference to the ways in which we use them for our benefit.
A Rainbow of Choices
As with developing an appreciation for the different colors and varieties of fine wines or diamonds, consumers can become just as discerning when choosing a mink garment or trim – choosing from an amazing spectrum of colors.
What is the Humane Care Merit Award Certification Program?
The fur industry’s Humane Care Merit Award program, launched in 1989, was one of the first formalized humane care certification programs in U.S.
Faux Fur is Everywhere You Look
Are You Wearing Fake Fur and Feeling Just a Tiny Bit Smug?
Undercover Videos: Concerned Citizens or Shameless Self Promoters?
In this age of “shock imagery” being used to promote political agendas, it’s easy to paint an entire industry by the actions of a single actor.
How to SuCCeeD!
Prior to selling a mink crop, an auction house will subject pelts to close scrutiny and sort them into groups, or bundles, of the same quality. For a farmer to do well during grading, he must focus on four points all year long: Size, Color, Coverage and Density.
Humans & Animals Are Inextricably Tied Together
People are part of the natural world, and our relationship with animals is defined in large measure by the natural order.
Wisconsin Mink Farmer Exonerated
January 15, 2016
No evidence of animal cruelty was found by state authorities and it has been determined there is no reason for charges to be filed,
FCUSA Calls for Swift Investigation
American mink farmers are committed to providing best possible care for their animals.
Do They Depict Reality?
These are films are the stuff of nightmares… animal life being taken, legally and illegally, “Animal snuff films” feature footage that is sometimes real but is too often staged.
Sustainable Mink Ranches Targeted
The fur industry finds the need to increase security to cope with threats of animal rights activists.
Hand Crafted Works of Art
Great care is given to selecting and processing each pelt that will be used to make a garment.
Nearly 500 Designers Presented Fur in Fall 2015 Collections
Bolstered by healthy retail gains in 2014, U.S. fur retailers are positioned for another strong selling season in 2015-16.
How Fur Farmers Turn Waste into Beauty
Worldwide, mink and fox farmers recycle over three million tons of agricultural by-products annually.
We all belong to the same bare race. We all, ultimately, care for the same things, and we are all naked apes, the children of fur.
Animal Rights Activists Accused of Going on Cross-Country Spree
Defendants drove 40,000 miles to release thousands of mink from farms in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and elsewhere.
Rising Mink Prices & Production
The 2015 Mink Production Report was just released this past July 24. The report by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, reveals that both domestic mink prices and production numbers are steadily rising.
There are many factors to take into account when considering the ethics of raising animals for fur.
Extremists Seek to Impose Their Views
“Demonstrate against Saks Fifth Avenue’s Summer Fur Promotion.”
Fur: Has a New Generation Shrugged Off the Old Stigma?
New statistics from the International Fur Federation suggest a once-reviled industry is thriving.
Third Generation Still Caring for Mink
Bob Zimbal, president of Zimbal Minkery in Sheboygan Falls, WI believes in providing quality care to produce the highest-quality mink pelts.
Mark Oaten, CEO of the International Fur Trade Federation Sets the Record Straight.
The fur industry is regularly accused of skinning animals alive
Great Care is Given to the Animals’ Health
“Life on a fur farm revolves around the natural reproductive cycles of the animals,” explains the Fur Commission USA (FCUSA), a trade association representing some 400 fur-farming families across America.
Overwhelming Resurgence of Fur On the Runways
The prominence of the fluffy stuff on the runways translated into some serious dollars this season.
Campaign Shows the Modern Face of Fur
The International Fur Federation (IFF) has developed a global fashion campaign to communicate the modern face of fur and to break down stereotypes around what fur is and who wears it.
Fish Waste Is Going to Waste
In Norway, farmed fur animal producers purchase almost 50,000 tons of waste from fish poultry and meat production.
Fur or Faux? Say Goodbye to the Old Taboos
The real deal is making a comeback, ironically driven by the abundance of fakes, writes Francesca Fearon.
The Fur Industry was Formed in Detroit
When the French built Fort Pontchartrain on the banks of the Detroit River in 1701, there was a very big reason why: fur.
Perceptions Change With Education
“Anti-fur sentiment has waned as more ethical practices lure younger generations to their modern designs,”
Modern Agriculture Programs Go Beyond the Farm
High school agriculture programs sprouting across the nation’s Corn Belt are teaching teenagers, many of them in urban environments, that careers in the field often have nothing to do with cows and plows.
Food Industry Prevents Greenhouse Gases
Food safety overhaul could inadvertently send much of the reusable food back to landfills.
Fur Commission Commentary
Created in the 1970s as an inexpensive convenience, the plastic bag is now an everyday item with costs that are adding up fast.
Fur Labeling Requirements
Whether it’s a coat, cape, jacket, stole or parka… if you manufacture, import or sell fur garments, you must comply with the labeling requirements under the Fur Products Labeling Act (FPLA).
Tactics Drive Even Animal Advocates & Employees Away
For 20 years, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has waged a brutal war in the name of kindness.
Fur Sales Up 44% Over Past Decade
World retail sales of fur products edged up to $15.6 billion in 2011/12, an increase of almost $600 million over the previous year, according to the International Fur Trade Federation.
Renewable Energy Project
The Municipality of the District of Digby (Nova Scotia, Canada) is one step closer to making electricity and money from mink manure.
Regulations Protect the Environment While Supporting Jobs and Exports
New regulations introduced by the provincial government will ensure that lakes and watercourses are protected
All Beings Have the Right to Equal Consideration
It is said that the modern animal rights movement began with the publication of Peter Singer’s book, “Animal Liberation,” published in 1975. But the animal rights philosophy actually has its roots much deeper in history.
Animal Rights Opinions & Perspectives
Leaders of the animal rights and Earth “liberation” movements often deny that their agendas are extreme, but their own words tell a different story.
Government Regulations Affecting Mink Fur Farming
The status of farmed mink is recognized in US federal law (US Code Title 7, Chapter 7, § 433) and, in common with all livestock,
Kansas Brothers’ Parody Video Goes Viral
Instant fame came for two brothers who recreate a classic to reflect their life on the farm.
Should Santa Wear Fur or Faux?
HO, HO, HO! SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN. But this year, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and fashion designer Oleg Cassini (inventor of the talking watch), Santa will abandon his fur-trimmed wool garments.
1,200 Mink Released From Iowa Farm
Early this morning animal rights extremists broke into Palmer Erickson’s fur farm in Jewell, Iowa, releasing over 1,200 mink from their cages.
300 Mink Released in Astoria Oregon
Early Sunday morning animal rights extremists broke into Carl Salo’s mink farm near Astoria, Oregon, releasing approximately 300 animals.
Fur Farming in Europe:
World Center of Farmed Fur Production
Oversight for Product Labeling
2011 NASS Annual Report
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Department of Agriculture has issued its latest annual report on mink production in the US, up to the 2010 crop year, sold at auction in February and May of 2011.
Gary Yourofsky Finally Lands a “Job”
Gary Yourofsky, who made his questionable contribution to society as founder of Animals Deserve Adequate Protection Today and Tomorrow (ADAPPT), is now officially on the payroll of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) and is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fighting Words From Animal Rights Activists
Below you will find a collection of quotes, all with one thing in common: they come from the leaders of non-profit tax-exempt public benefit charities.
Sales Remain Stable During 2008/2009 Recession
Fur is the dominant trend for the Autumn/Winter 2010 fashion season but sales also remained stable during the worst of the global recession in 2008/2009.
The North American Animal Liberation Press Office
Walter Bond: NAALPO National Press Officer since January 2011, then sentenced in February to five years in prison for arson.
High Demand for Sable
The following extract is reproduced with permission from Sandy Parker Reports, Weekly International Fur News, Vol. 34, Issue 47, 2011.
Be a Sensitive and Smart Consumer!
You can be sensitive to concerns about the Earth and smart about your clothing choices! Read on to learn why fur is nature’s most beautiful, natural fiber and one of the most environment-sensitive choices you can make!
Global Markets Pay Off for U.S. Mink Farmers The economic and financial crisis that swept the globe in 2008 is not over. The world’s largest economy, the US, continues to struggle, while debt crises in the Eurozone threaten to ignite another meltdown. But the economy of China, the biggest buyer of mink pelts and consumer of…
“Green” Groups’ Fundraising Practice Inconsistent with Goals
While the debate over man’s contribution to climate change rages, there is a general consensus that we need to reduce our dependency on petrochemicals.
Dawn Carr: Fish spokeswoman My family and friends don’t order fish with me. They know that every time they stab its flesh, I want to scream. Fish are dragged along the ocean bed. They suffer excruciating decompression, their swim-bladders rupture, their eyes pop out, the esophagus and stomach get pushed through their mouths. Then they’re tossed…
FUR COMMISSION USA PRESS RELEASE, JULY 28, 2010 At about 2:30 in the morning of Tuesday, July 27, a series of explosions echoed through the night in tiny Astoria, Oregon, destroying a family car, a boat and a barn full of equipment. A husband and wife, their son and grandmother were sleeping just yards from…
US Mink Production Edges Up, Auction Prices Rebound Strongly
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Department of Agriculture has issued its latest annual report on mink production in the US, up to the 2009 crop year, sold at auction in February and May of 2010.
Let Me Count the Ways
Born in Canada where temperatures routinely fell to 20 degrees blow 0, fur coats kept the cold at bay.
Vegans Face Off Against Omnivores
November 30, 2009. It was the first protest Morgan City – population 3,200, incorporated in the great state of Utah in 1868 – had ever seen.
Hello “Wear Your Fur Friday”
As the days grow crisp and cold, Americans celebrate the rites of Fall: Football, Thanksgiving, jumping into piles of leaves… In an annual ritual, we put away the cool cottons and silks of summer and pull out the warm wools, leathers and furs of winter. There’s another ritual now on the calendar, “Wear Your Fur Friday”!
Norway & Canada Request WTO Consultation on Ban
Both Norway and Canada have requested WTO dispute settlement consultations following the EU’s decision on 16 September to ban trade in seal products. The decision was first formally published on 31 October 2009, enabling Norway and Canada to now request WTO consultations. The ban will enter into force on 20 August 2010.
Special Feature: Activist Peter Young
Peter Young is a Straight Edge vegan who graduated from high school in upscale Mercer Island, Washington in 1995. In 1996, he was arrested in Oregon on a criminal trespassing charge and ordered to pay a $174 fine.
Animal Liberation Front Views
The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) David Barbarash: Spokesman for the North American ALF Press Office, 1999 – Jan. 2003 has this to say:
A Book Review by Fur Commission USA
New Ban Will Have Ramifications for Other Industries Fur Institute of Canada, July 27, 2009 – OTTAWA: Today, the Fur Institute of Canada and representatives from Canada’s seal trade described a move in the EU to ratify a ban on commercial seal products as “irresponsible and counterproductive – a completely political move – but not…
Auction Prices Dented by Economic Turmoil The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Department of Agriculture has issued its latest annual report on mink production in the U.S., up to the 2008 crop year, sold at auction in February and May of 2009. (Click here for the latest NASS stats – PDF format.)…
Global Economic Conditions Dent Domestic Mink Consumption
After three years of moderate output increases in response to record-breaking pelt prices and strong consumer demand in China and Russia, US mink farmers are in a wait-and-see mode as the global financial and economic crisis plays out.
Relative Stability Despite Economic Downturn Data from global retail sales of full fur garments, trim and accessories for the 2007/08 season show that the industry, after 9 years of continuous growth, is not immune to the overall economic turmoil. With over $13 billion, sales figures are back to the level of 2005/2006. Analysts point a…
FUR COMMISSION USA COMMENTARY, MAY 6, 1999 THE “FUR FREE 2000” campaign of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has moved to stage two: legislation. As you recall, Christmas 1998 brought the world video clips of a German Shepherd being bled and skinned alive, supposedly somewhere in China. (1) As the dog howls,…
In late 1998, the Humane Society of the United States, America’s largest animal rights group, launched a campaign called “Fur Free 2000”, aimed in part at blocking legitimate fur imports to the US from Asia.
Norwegian Fur Breeder’s Association Press Release April 21, 2009 – The Labour party still supports Norwegian fur farming, and we’re pleased that the largest political party in Norway has faith in our industry, says Odd Harald Nordsveen, chairman of the board in the Norwegian Fur Breeders’ Association. The annual convention of the Labour party has just…
Injustice is Served: EU Council Favors Political Expediency Over Science and Law
Fur Institute of Canada, March 27, 2009 – “The decision taken today in Brussels to support a complete ban on the trade in all seal products has been made for political expediency,” says Fur Institute of Canada executive director Rob Cahill.
Cahill was responding to the decision by the Ambassadors representing European Union Member States (COREPER), a decision that is not supported by either sound science or the EU’s own legal opinion.
The Council of European Member States have voted against their own legal counsel opinion that such a ban is contrary to EU law, he said, and to a recent legal opinion by the World Trade Organization (WTO) which states that it is contrary to international law.
Despite Inuit leaders’ statements that any kind of ban with an Inuit exemption will still have a detrimental impact to their people, EU decision makers are patting themselves on the back that they have protected Inuit interests. By allowing Inuit seal products into the EU for ‘cultural purposes’ – like museums– while denying them the opportunity to sell these products into Europe for much needed income, the EU will be harming more than just East Coast fishermen.
Anti-sealing lobby groups say this decision will stop the hunting of seals. According to Cahill, this is where they are seriously misleading decision makers and the public. Seals are hunted around the world, including European countries, to manage their populations. Global seal populations are on the rise for most species and fish populations are in decline. In Canada, seals eat approximately seven times what Canadian fishermen are allowed to catch. Canadian fishing communities, who rely on declining fish stocks are also those who hunt seals – they will now be losing on both ends.
Meantime, a ban on the trade of seal products into Europe will not affect the hunting of seals for population management.
One option before the EU is to establish criteria and standards for the hunting of seals that, if met, will allow seal products to continue to be traded into the EU. This would provide an important incentive to meet the highest level of welfare, Cahill said. “Seals will continue to be hunted to manage their populations, without the incentive for best practices. So, the EU is not discouraging the killing of seals, but rather the responsible use of animals that are managed under regulated hunting programs.”
Cahill concluded by saying that, “Sadly, the EU decision is a missed opportunity to show environmental and animal welfare leadership and cultural respect.”
The Seals and Sealing Network operates under the Fur Institute of Canada, a national non-profit organization promoting sustainable and wise use principles. The Seals and Sealing Network is committed to the conservation and respectful harvesting of the world’s seal species through sound scientific management and internationally accepted sustainable use practices. It comprises government, Inuit, veterinarians, conservationists, health care practitioners and Industry representatives. For more information, please go to www.fur.ca or www.sealsandsealing.net.
FUR COMMISSION USA PRESS RELEASE, FEBRUARY 9, 2009 I flew out from San Diego to Milwaukee on Thursday, January 15, the same day a plane in New York had both engines extinguished by a flock of birds, landing, safely and amazingly, in the Hudson River. It was eerie watching such news while flying across the…
2008 – International Fur News with Sandy Parker
The following extract is reproduced with permission from Sandy Parker Reports, Weekly International Fur News. Sandy Parker has been covering the fur industry for more than four decades.
Fur Information Council of America Releases Latest Statistics US retail fur sales fell 18% in 2007 from a year earlier, according to the latest survey results released by the Fur Information Council of America (FICA). The annual survey covers sales of fur and fur-trimmed apparel and accessories, and services such as storage, cleaning and remodeling,…
“Captain” Paul Watson: Founder
The Sea Shepherd is not really a protest organization. We’re not protesting anything. We’re opposing the illegal activities by criminal operations in a world where governments support criminal operations in the name of profit.
2008 Will be a Year of Adjustment The global supply of ranched mink pelts is expected to fall back this year from the all-time high set in 2007, mainly due to a reduction of output in China. World output has been increasing steadily since 1999, with most producers responding to ever-stronger prices at auction, fueled…
IUCN Again Calls on Members to Base Policies on Science
Fur Institute of Canada, October 16, 2008 – Ottawa: World conservationists have sent a strong message to governments and policy makers, to put their sustainable use principles into practice.
FUR COMMISSION USA PRESS RELEASE, AUGUST 27, 2008 Before daylight on Sunday, Aug. 24, trespassers broke into the Rippin Fur Farm in Aldergrove, B.C. Canada where they released about 6,000 mink and opened the farm gate. Most of the mink were contained within the perimeter fence while over 500 mink made their way through the…
FUR COMMISSION USA PRESS RELEASE, AUGUST 20, 2008 Early in the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 19, trespassers broke into the McMullin & Sons Fur Farm in South Jordan, Utah. About 800 mink pens were opened and the farm animals abandoned around the area. Lindsey McMullin, a third-generation mink farmer who runs the farm with his…
Auction Value of 2007 U.S. Mink Crop Shatters Record The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the US Department of Agriculture has issued its latest annual report on mink production in the U.S., up to the 2007 crop year, sold at auction in February and May of 2008. (Click here for the latest NASS stats…
News Release: Government of Nunavut
July 23, 2008 – IQALUIT, NUNAVUT: The Government of Nunavut is disappointed that the European Union Commission is responding to the propaganda of animal rights fundraisers rather than the science of animal husbandry in its proposal to ban the trade in seal products.
US Farmed Mink Continues Growth
Production of US farmed mink continues to rise in response to record-breaking prices for pelts, buoyed by strong consumer demand in particular in China and Russia, and fur’s now established resurgence on the fashion scene.