CAFT Factsheet

Mink Fur Farming

 

Due to campaigns by anti-fur groups including CAFT-UK the farming of animals 'solely or primarily for their fur' was banned in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1st January 2003. Meanwhile, millions of animals continue to be killed around the world for their fur. The majority of these animals are mink, raised on fur factory farms.

Mink are wild solitary animals, whose life on fur farms is reduced by the farmer to a walking fur coat. Fur farms totally suppress any natural behavioural instincts of the mink, resulting in self-mutilation, cannibalism and psychotic behaviour.

Recommended cages sizes for mink are 38cm wide by 30.5cm high by 61cm long [1], but many are considerably smaller. Some have likened the floor area of the cage to the size of two shoe-boxes [2]. These are bare wire cages, usually but not always with a wooden nest box (rarely with any straw bedding) attached. The partially webbed feet of the mink mean that walking on the coarse, wide mesh is uncomfortable; not that they can actually walk far. Cages witnesses by CAFT-UK investigators are not even high enough to allow the prisoners to stand fully upright, which mink do to sniff the air to scent prey or danger.

Mink are not domesticated animals. Mink farming was introduced to Britain in 1929, and no captive line is older than 100 years old. Compare this to the 12,000 years of domestication of the dog, or 7,000 years for the chicken, and 4,000 for the pig, and you can see why the Government's Farm Animal Welfare Council said it was "particularly concerned about the keeping of what are essentially wild animals in small barren cages." [3]

Access to water is essential for the well being of mink. In the wild they have a territory of up to 4km along a waterway, using it both for hunting prey such as fish and water fowl, and for travelling. They spend 60% of their active time in water [1]. Access to water plays an important part in the life and development of mink [4]. The only water mink get on fur farms is drinking water, through a rubber pipe. Even this most basic of requirements is denied by the farmers whose only motive is profit. The fur trade even has the audacity to deny that these semi-aquatic creatures need access to swimming water. Robert Morgan of the British Fur Trade Association has been quoted as saying "If mink have access to swimming water, then they would get wet and probably get cold and die" [5]. In 1989 the Farm Animal Welfare Council pointed out that account should be taken of the need for environmental enrichment such as adequate access to water [3], a call echoed by the British Veterinary Association in 1995 [6]. During a CAFT-UK investigation at a West Yorkshire mink farm, our investigators witnessed two mink that had escaped from their cages playing in a pool of water caused by a leak in the water pipe, doing what comes naturally to these semi-aquatic animals.

Mink are solitary creatures. In the wild they strongly defend their territories and only come into contact with other mink in order to mate. On the fur farm each mink is imprisoned in a row of cages. Each row may hold over 100 cages, two rows to a shed. These solitary animals are forced to live in close sight, smell and sound of thousands of others. They are often forced to live several to a cage.

It is no surprise that these conditions force the animals into displaying unnatural patterns of behaviour. As with animals confined in zoos, farmed mink display signs of psychotic behaviour, 'madness'. Virtually all the mink's activity in the wild is dictated by its requirements for survival and reproduction. Caged mink show all four of the recognised types of abnormal behaviour, such as self - injury and stereotyped behaviour (constant pacing or circling of the cage, gnawing bars, etc). Wild mink exhibit none of these [7, p183]. Self-mutilation is common, and according to a Government report into fur farming in the Netherlands, 10-20% of farmed mink cause injury to themselves, such as pelt and tail biting [8], and others have put this figure as high as 30% [9].
Cannibalism is another common behaviour, and has been caught on film by CAFT-UK investigators.

Mink are mated in early March and litters of kits are usually born in the first two weeks of May. The level of infertility on British mink farms is high, and females reach their highest fertility at 2-3 years old [7, p144]. Kit mortality is high, with 9-12% being born dead or dying within 3 weeks of birth [7, p184].

By November or December, when the young's winter coat is fully grown, they are pelted at just 7 or 8 months of age. The most common methods of killing mink in Britain were by gassing with carbon monoxide from a vehicle exhaust and gassing with carbon dioxide [10]. The British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) claimed that their members do not use gas to kill mink [11]. Yet at that time only one British mink farm did not use gas and CAFT-UK investigators filmed the gassing of mink at a Newcastle farm owned by a then director of the BFTA!

Back in 1989 the Farm Animal Welfare Council examined mink and fox fur farming. So concerned were they by the conditions they found that they issued a press statement to point out their disapproved of the farming. They slammed the farms for failing to "satisfy some of the most basic criteria which it has identified for protecting the welfare of farm animals" [3].


References

  1. Beauty Without Cruelty Charity leaflet
  2. Daily Mail, 9.7.97, p19
  3. Farm Animal Welfare Council Press Notice 4.4.89
  4. Nigel Dunstone, letter to Dutch anti-fur group, 22.8.94
  5. Observer, 1.6.97, p3
  6. 'Welfare Standards for Keeping Animals Farmed for Their Fur'. British Veterinary Assn submission to MAFF, March 1995
  7. 'The Mink', Nigel Dunstone. Poyser Natural History, 1993
  8. Prof Wiepkema, 'Advice regarding the husbandry of fur animals', 1994. P 5
  9. Bont voor Dieren (Dutch anti-fur group), 'Summary of the reactions from the experts consulted by Bont voor Dieren on the reports of Wiepkema'.
  10. Hansard, 12.1.98, col 94
  11. Sunday Express, 30.11.97, p7