Tens of millions of mink are raised and slaughtered each and every year for their fur. Their situation at the moment could not be much worse as they are also susceptible to contracting COVID-19, and in the unnatural and overcrowded conditions of wildlife farms it is inevitable that they spread it to each other.
In July this year, the first outbreaks of COVID-19 were reported in Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain, where over a million animals were gassed due to concerns they could carry the virus indefinitely and allow infections to persist and spread to humans. This dreadful act of speciesism was delivered even though authorities knew isolation and care could save their lives.
Later in August it was first reported that infection was rampant on at least two properties in Utah, USA, where two to three mink were dying from the virus every day. These animals became the first confirmed cases of the virus on US mink facilities, and their bodies continue to be composted on site to keep the outbreak contained.
And what of the mink in China, the world’s largest consumer of skinned fur products, and the largest single-country exporter in the world? While there are currently no reports of the virus in mink, the Chinese government has recently made the skinned fur industry exempt from its COVID-19 restrictions on wildlife by listing these captive-bred wild creatures as farm animals. They are clearly protecting an industry that has proven to be a danger to mink and potentially human health. An unreported or poorly handled outbreak of COVID-19 on Chinese mink facilities could result in millions of needless deaths. It is not just wildlife markets but wildlife farms that must be shut down.
We can contribute to their decline by banning the sale of mink skins on council land in Australia. We currently have four councils on side. Help us add yours.
A life of suffering
For the mink that are killed because of COVID-19 infection, it is a premature death, but not by much. Normally these suffering animals are murdered before their first birthday by electrocution, gassing or by the breaking of their necks - Animals Australia reports that skinning animals alive is not uncommon in China. These methods are designed to be cost effective and to avoid damage to the animals' skins, but are inhumane and often carried out unprofessionally.
In the wild mink live a solitary existence in cold climates near waterways where they hunt in and out of the water, climb trees and dig dens between roots or live in hollow logs. They are small, inquisitive but discreet, and most often nocturnal. They are never seen more than 100 metres from the water and the only time they come together is to mate. At all other times, they are very defensive of their territory and mark it with the strong scent of their faeces.
Yet in cruel fur farms mink are imprisoned in small wire battery cages stacked on top of and beside each other. There is no waterway and the close proximity to each other means they are forced to endure the confusion and stress of constant and unavoidable scent marking. The stress and chronic boredom of these unnatural living conditions lead to behavioural abnormalities such as running up and down their cages endlessly or twisting their heads continuously.
85 percent of the industry’s skins come from animals raised this way, where they are deprived of any quality of life and the ability to perform their natural and instinctual behaviours. Captive-bred mink are double the size of the same species in the wild. How is this possible?
In the wild, these semi aquatic animals obtain most of their food near the water’s edge. Typically following shorelines and banks, they investigate holes, crevices, and deep water pools for hidden prey. Strictly carnivorous, mink eat mostly frogs, salamanders, fish, crayfish, muskrats, mice, and voles, along with aquatic birds and their eggs. Occasionally, mink will search for terrestrial prey such as hares and rabbits. On so-called farms, they are fattened by cheap waste food such as out of date cheese and unsuitable commercial products. The American mink is larger than its European cousin and is therefore favoured by this cruel industry.
Traps are used in the wild to catch the remaining fifteen percent of mink killed for the skin market. Steel-jaw leghold traps, body-gripping traps, underwater traps and wire neck snares are cruel devices that inflict great and prolonged pain as they are either not designed to kill or fail to do so. The most widely used trap is the leghold trap which consists of two spring-loaded jaws that slam onto the limb of an animal once they step on it. The jaws cut into the flesh, often down to the bone, leaving the animal to languish in pain for hours or even days until they die of their injuries or are killed by the hunter. Some animals gnaw off the trapped limb to free themselves, but have little chance to survive in the wild. Steel-jaw leghold traps are banned in many countries, but still widely used to trap fur animals in the US, Canada and Russia.
Banning the sale of skins on Australian council land will send a message to our state and federal governments, and the rest of the world, that this cruelty is no longer tolerated by consumers in this country.
Death’s dollar value
The fur industry is worth $40 billion a year, and to get a chunk of that, mink farmers forcibly impregnate, traumatise, torture and murder mink by the millions. In 2018 the world racked up the following atrocious death toll:
- Canada 1.76 million dead mink
- The USA 3.1 million dead mink
- China 20.7 million dead mink
- The European Union 34.7 million dead mink.
We do not need to kill 60 million mink to adorn ourselves with the warm body covering of sentient beings - we have natural fibres and technology to do this now and can even synthetically replicate a mink’s fur. Yet still mink coats, stoles, trims, pom poms, fur eyelashes and mink oil are cruelly created and sold to a significant percentage of undiscerning or ill-informed people.
Each mink coat requires the death of up to 90 mink - but you and your council can lead the way on hindering the profits from this cruelty in your local area.
Tricks of the trade
In an effort to fool discerning shoppers, clothing manufacturers and/or sellers are incorrectly labelling fur products as fake fur in order to sell more items tainted by their cruelty. This criminal practice was recently discovered by a customer in one of Melbourne’s markets and investigated by the Animal Justice Party and Four Paws Australia. Forensic tests analysed by Forensic Science and Wildlife Matters showed that pom poms on beanies, fur-trimmed jackets and the lining of some hats for sale at Queen Victoria Market and South Melbourne Market were made from raccoon and raccoon dog fur, despite being labelled as “100% polyester”, “100% acrylic” and “100% rabbit fur”. So keep an eye out and spread the word as it is likely to be happening in NSW too.
What you can do
- Encourage people not to buy mink clothing, eyelashes or oil.
- Join the Animal Justice Party NSW by clicking HERE.
- Check so-called faux or fake fur products carefully. Do the Animals Australia Fur Test on anything you think is suspicious. https://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/the-fur-test.php
- Report incorrectly labeled products to the AJP.
- Buy from recognised fur-free companies. https://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/fur-free-shopping-list.php
Written by: Justin Morgan