Practical Issues > Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping - Index > Trapping

Fur Factory Farming

Row after row of tiny, wire mesh cages, stacked four high and strung about 25 in a row; chinchillas peering through the wires; a stack of pelts hanging on a far wall; and, except for a radio playing softly in one corner of the room, a morguish hush.

That's the scene two PETA investigators found at a fur "factory" farm secluded in a quite, snow-covered town in Michigan. PETA's Research & Investigations (R & I) Department recently sent two undercover teams into fur "farms" in five states. Our investigators witnessed not only how animals live, but also how they die in the seedy world of fur farming.

One method they documented has never been made public before: genital electrocution.

Little Animals, Big Suffering During genital electrocution, the killer attaches an alligator clamp to the animal's ear and another to her labia and flips a switch, or plugs the wires into the wall socket, sending a jolt of electricity through her skin down the length of her body. She jerks and stiffens. But, according to PETA's biologist, Leslie Gerstenfield-Press, although the electrical current stops the heart, it does not kill her; in many cases the animals remain conscious. The electrical current causes unbearable muscle pain, at the same time working as a paralyzing agent, preventing the victim from screaming or fleeing. A chinchilla farmer who uses genital electrocution told our investigators that he leaves the clips on "for one or two minutes" to make sure the heart doesn't start up again, but sometimes animals revive-those who do remember the pain.

Recently, in front of our investigators, one rancher unplugged the animal, listened to the heart and said, "Nope, still beating," and plugged the cables back in for another 30 seconds. Not Killing Them Softly As one farmer observed, "Sometimes you'll get one that'll argue with you." The chinchillas, like all animals, do not go willingly; although they make no noise as they wait-held upside down as the rancher attaches the clip-their whiskers and mouths tremble constantly until the electrical charge freezes movement. For the benefit of our investigators, the farmer laid the animal's body on a table, although normally, he said, he would just hang the animal by the tail from the clip. For small animals, neck "snapping" or "popping" is easy and cheap. The owner of one farm R & I visited wraps the fingers of one hand around the neck of the chinchilla, grasps the lower body with the other hand, and jerks the animal's vertebra out of the socket, breaking the neck. Neck snapping takes just a second, but for "about five minutes" afterward, according to one rancher, the animal jerks and twitches. It might take two minutes for an animal to become brain-dead from cervical dislocation; in the meantime, as shown on our investigator's video, she or he kicks and squirms. Foxes in Boxes Minks are the fur farm animals of choice, with 2.7 million pelts produced in the United States in 1992, down from 3.3 million in 1990, not counting the animals who die of disease or "mishaps" before they can be pelted. Ranchers also breed foxes, beavers, and rabbits for fur. In the U.S., fur farms produced approximately 50,000 fox fur pelts last year. Some of them came from a place not far from the Eastern Seaboard where dead animals and animal parts litter the grounds in various states of decay. "Breeder" foxes peer intently from their cages, their view of the world chopped into the rectangles created by the mesh wiring. Their food containers are rusty cans, feces is piled up to boot-rim height, and the buildings groan in disrepair. The owner showed our investigators a wheelbarrow full of blood and skinned minks' bodies and, not far off, two cages dripping with the corpses of foxes newly killed and skinned. One fox's body, stripped of fur except around the ankles, lay in the dirt. The smell of decay permeated the place.

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