Sweden

Swedish ex-fur farmer reveals truth about fur industry Ingvar Johansson from Falköping, Sweden, has 17 years experience as a fur farmer. After following the fur farming debate, he refuses to remain silent any longer: ”The breeding is totally indefensable. It would be better if the fur farmer kept to the facts instead of half-truths. The breeding that is carried out today is totally unnatural . Thousands of animals are squeezed into a small area. This lead to problems as cannabalism, self-mutilation and other diseases.”

Ingvar Johansson is very critical of the fur industry, and asserts that the farmers only care about the money they can earn from the animals.”  It is necessary to keep thousands of animals on a farm, because one will always loose a certain percentage. In fur farms today, the animals have no possibility of a natural life. During my time in the trade, I tried to influence other farmers. But they were not interested in improving the situation.” 
Johansson believes that bad animal husbandry causes the high mortality rate in animals bred for their fur. ”Fur farms are rife with cannibalism and self-mutilation; diseases such as plasmacytoma (blood disease) are also commonplace. On one farm, up to 40 % of the animals had contracted the disease, and had to be gassed. This is very alarming, as there is no cure for plasmacytoma. I believe this disease thrives because of poor animal welfare.”

“Cannibalism exists on all farms”, says Johansson. On a large fur farm there can be between 5,000 and 10,000 breeding females. In every litter, approximately five kits are born, and at least one kit per litter will be killed by the other kits. Thousands of mink kits die each year in this way. Cannibalism also occurs amongst the adult minks. 
A common practice in Sweden is for the females to be “flushed” prior the breeding. That means that they are not given any food at the end of February, and then in March when the mink become sexually mature, the female are fed unlimited amounts of food. This process encourages maximum number of kits birthed. This method results in unnecessary suffering for the animals. Especially as sometimes, as a result of the weather, the food they are given after the starvation period becomes quickly frozen; subsequently the animals die of starvation. Large numbers of mink have died in this way. Almost every fur farmer in Sweden are flushing.”

Ingvar Johansson doesn’t think that today’s fur farmers are especially worried about raids. “The fur farmer will get money anyway, from the insurance if there is a raid. They will often get financial support from the Council and the authorities, so they do manage. But in the long term, these raids are a big problem for the fur farmers. The insurance companies can’t pay out money forever. It also means a lot of work for the fur farmers, because they must employ security guards for their farms. The only way to stop the raids is to treat the animals well!”
When questioned about those who releases mink Johansson says: “When the politicians don’t listen to the people, you have to count on these things. If the way in which the animals kept in Sweden were good, Animals Rights activists would not be necessary. You can compare it with Greenpeace, if they had not carried out their actions, we wouldn’t have known anything about whaling and other environmental issues.”

Fur farming should be regulated by the existing Government Agricultural Authorities Ingvar Johansson was never visited by any authorities during the 17 years he ran the fur farm. “ The Authorities never visited me. The only time the authorities visited, was when I applied for planning permission, but that is a totally different issue. As it is today, the authorities control system does not work,” says Ingvar Johansson.
Wearing fur belongs in the Stone Age

As a former fur farmer it is not so easy to take a position if it is right or wrong to imprison and kill animals for their furs. Yet Johansson is very critical of the trade: “Wearing fur was something that humans used to do during the stone ages. That people still do it is a little strange.”

In his days as a fur farmer, Johansson experimented with minks, to try to improve the welfare of the mink. He believes that it should be the law to give the animals toys and bedding the whole year round and that mink be given water manually. Johansson didn’t have as many minks as farms do nowadays it is today. 
With fever animals, it was easier to give them a tolerable existence. “But when I put forward my thoughts to other fur farmers, I didn’t get any sympathy. They don’t want any changes, just to carry on as they always have done”

This article is a translation of an article that first appeared in a Swedish animal rights magazine.