Animals on Fur Farms:
How They Live and How They Die

How many animals went into that coat?

It is unlikely that the buyer of a fur coat is aware of how many animals were required to make that single garment. 100 chinchillas or as many as 60 minks are required to make one full-length fur coat; depending on the type of fox, 10 to 24 may be required.1 Fox especially is used for trim—collars, cuffs, flings, etc.—and it is estimated that 90% of cage-raised foxes are used just for fur trim.2

Photo of fox in wire cage.

A life of confinement

Animals at fur farms are kept in extremely confined spaces. Mink cages are 2 feet long by 1 foot wide by 1 foot high, and fox cages only a little larger. The stressful confinement of foxes may lead to aberrant behavior, such as self-mutilation. Of the 20% of foxes on fur farms that prematurely die, half of them die as a result of cannibalism.3

Minks are semi aquatic animals which on fur farms are denied access to their natural habitat and behavior. As a result, minks, like foxes, may exhibit behavioral problems such as pacing back and forth and self-mutilation that results in damage to their pelts. Minks often die of heat related diseases because they are not able to cool themselves by taking a swim in warm weather. Deaths occur in the winter when the water bottles in the cages freeze, cutting off the water sources of the fur farmed animals.

Animals used for breeding on fur farms may live in confinement for 6 to 10 years and such breeding may result in numerous abnormalities or behavior such as infanticide and cannibalism. Animals can be blind, deaf, deformed, sterile and highly susceptible to infectious diseases. Such abnormalities may also result from breeding to achieve specific coloration of fur.

Methods of killing

The world's fur farms kill over 30 million animals annually, according to the Humane Society of the United States. On the average, minks are killed when they are 5 months old, and foxes when they are 9 months old.4 The lives of these animals commonly end by having their necks broken, being gassed or being electrocuted.5 The gassing is not always effective, and animals are sometimes still alive while being skinned.6 When foxes are electrocuted, clamps are placed on their mouths and metal rods inserted in their anuses in order to convey the voltage through the body.7

No laws

Currently, there are few laws in the United States regulating the keeping or killing of cage-raised fur bearing animals. There is no humane slaughter law addressing the killing methods employed by fur farms.8 The only existing "guidelines" come from the fur industry itself and are related to the size of the cages of the animals. These guidelines are voluntary and there is no monitoring of practices to see that they are met.

The Fur Commission USA's codes are entitled "Standard Guidelines for the Operation of Mink Farms in the United States" and "Standard Guidelines for the Operation of Fox Farms in the United States." These guidelines cover "management, accommodation, nutrition, health and disease and euthanasia."9 The Fur Commission reported that by 1990, over 95% of the fur farms met the guidelines.10 In a cynical twist on the old fable, the fox guards not only the hen house but the fur farm.

In 1996, Massachusetts banned the use of cruel traps. However, fur farms still exist without legislative regulations. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272 s. 77 addresses cruelty to animals. This statute is very general and has not been specifically applied to the fur industry.

3. ibid
7. ibid
9. Carol McKenna, Fashion Victims: An Inquiry Into the Welfare of Animals on Fur Farms, 1998. (
10. ibid

Researched by Jennifer Fogelson. Fox photo: Frantz Dantzler/HSUS

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