Question 4: 'Are those videos going around for real?'
The answer is: “Unfortunately there are many documented incidents of activists’
groups ‘staging’ horrible videos to fuel their fund-raising drives, and links to
http://www.furcommission.com/news/newsC7.htm, a website devoted to exposing
Because all such “exposures” involve groups or individuals or situations other
than Born Free USA, we will limit our comments to the one example with which the
senior author had somewhat personal knowledge, except to say that experience
shows that courts very often fail to bring justice to animals, particularly in
Canada when it comes to the east coast commercial seal hunt.
One of the allegations is that one video showing animals getting caught in traps
was staged by putting animals in enclosures with set traps and photographing the
results. No proof is provided because none exists. The video in question is made
from film produced in part by Frank Conibear, and in part by a trapper in
Alberta who provided the film in return for absolute anonymity. The latter’s
claim was always that the animals were not caught in the wild and caged. All
that happened decades ago and there is simply no way to verify either
contention, of course, but in terms of what it illustrates, the impact of traps
on animals is obvious and real. The practice of putting animals in captivity in
traps is, while not something to be done or condoned by any compassionate
organization, exactly what the FCC condones in its support for trap research
The website also blames the Canadian Association for Humane Trapping (CAHT) for
using these images, apparently not realizing that CAHT was formed as a pro-fur
None of this addresses the core issue of whether the fur industry is “green.”
The FCC’s answer to Question 4 continues: “They do this because the stakes are
high! Animal activist groups now rake in millions of dollars with
sensationalized media-driven campaigns.”
There are no specifics about any “sensationalized media-driven campaigns,” nor
is it explained how media drive a campaign. Those of us actually engaged in the
business of helping animals know that we don’t make “millions of dollars” and
that media may follow a campaign, but do not drive it. The only link given is to
organization that appears to take offense at animal-protection organizations
daring to oppose “institutionalized” cruelty — the abuse of animals that occurs
in industries, such as the fur industry, where abuse regularly occurs and has
been well documented. It implies that the largest organization, an American
registered charity, somehow falsifies its claims, as though the Internal Revenue
Service were so easily duped! In fact, registered charities are, unlike
lobbyists such as the FCC, rigidly constrained by law in their political
activities, and in both Canada and the United States, the law is very strictly
enforced by each country’s respective government.
More to the point, these organizations do not sell (beyond a minimal amount of
promotional marketing at best) a physical product; they offer a service. That
service is the protection of animals.
The public is bombarded with messages from all sides of any major controversy,
and the fur issue is no exception. The FCC receives funding from the fur
industry, which in turn sells a physical product derived from animals.
Animal-protection organizations deliver the message that the fur industry does
not want to have delivered, thus the industry, through the FCC, attacks the
The veracity of claims made by advocates is important, but common sense has to
enter the debate. Whether or not some instances of animal abuse have been
staged, the evidence is overwhelming and obvious that animals suffer in traps,
even though most trapping occurs in remote areas where photography, particularly
of the animal getting caught, is difficult to impossible to attain. Certainly
none of us who are compassionate would ever consider simply standing buy, camera
running, and do nothing to prevent an animal from entering a trap, thus will
never be the primary source of such visual material.
The reason some video of institutionalized animal abuse was obtained covertly,
and thus lacks a degree of provenance that can satisfy extreme critics, is
because the activities shown are conducted behind locked doors and out of sight
of the public and in conditions inimical to filming. For an excellent look at
the problems faced by those seeking to expose egregious animal abuse, see the
Oscar-winning film documentary “The Cove.” That film demonstrates the
considerable cost and huge effort needed to document the slaughter of dolphins
in a cove on a Japanese island, even though the event takes place in the open
and in a populous area.
It should be emphasized that people who abuse animals, those who are not driven
by psychopathic urges, do so for some reason — and in the case of those involved
in the production of fur, it is to earn income.
Animal protection, on the other hand, is largely volunteer-driven. Even those
who earn part- or full-time livings helping animals are dependent on support
from those who, however they earn their living, want to share some of those
earnings in return for knowing that animals have been protected, with the abuse
curtailed or eliminated.
Compassion for animals is a value supporters of animal-protection organizations
have that, obviously, is not shared by the animal abusers themselves, who
obviously have a different value system. Thus they are inclined to assign to
those who earn any income from efforts on behalf of animals their own motive,
profits, even though advocacy work is notoriously low-paying and uncertain, when
it pays at all. Yes, there are some senior executives of some of the largest
animal-protection organizations who certainly earn decent livings, but even
those incomes are but a fraction of what would be earned for similar work with
similar levels of responsibility done in the private sector, including the
financial sector where, as we have all learned in recent years, competency is
not related to absurdly massive incomes.
And none of this has anything to do with the question of whether or not fur is
The reply to Question 4 goes on to say: “One of the most gruesome and offensive
videos now circulating shows Asiatic raccoons (sic) in a Chinese village being,
literally, skinned while still alive. The question is why anyone would do
something so cruel … unless they were paid to produce a shocking video? Apart
from the obvious cruelty, skinning a moving animal, increases the risk of
damaging the pelt or harming the operator; diseases and infections can be
transmitted by knife nicks or cuts. Furthermore, living animals (their hearts
still beating) bleed more, which would unnecessarily dirty and damage the pelt.
Would a pelt stained with blood and cut haphazardly while an animal wriggles be
of any value?”
What the video, or as much of it as we could stomach viewing, shows is several
raccoon dogs (a species of canine native to Asia — there is no such thing as an
Asiatic raccoon, see below) being hauled up by the hindquarters and slammed very
hard against the earthen ground until stunned, then suspended upside down, and
skinned from the top, rear quarters, down the body, in the usual way. There is
little movement left in these horrifically abused animals and in the video we
see three animals lined up on the ground after being slammed to earth with great
force, twitching and jerking, but obviously suffering from much too much neural
trauma to do what they would otherwise do, and run away.
The objective is almost certainly not to produce furs of great value used by the
fashion industry, but to quickly and cost-effectively obtain skins that can be
then sliced up for trim on non-fur garments, which is what raccoon dog fur is
normally used for when exported to foreign markets such as Canada and the United
States. To kill the animals would require extra steps and equipment, thus
There are no raccoon dogs bred in North American fur farms. The species is
prohibited from North America because of the ecological damage that has occurred
in parts of Eurasia where it is not native, but has escaped from fur farms — a
development that contradicts the FCC’s contention that fur is “green.”
But there are foxes, in the same family as the raccoon dog and about the same
weight and they are often killed in North America by placing an electric probe
up the anus so as not to damage the fur, and then electrocuted.
The ability to kill the animals in this fashion is presumably beyond the ability
of the man in the video in question, and surely the risks of using makeshift
equipment to electrocute the animals would be no less to the operator than using
a knife. Drugs that can be injected into the animal or gases and the equipment
needed to use them possibly could more humanely kill the animals, but would also
be expensive and difficult of not impossible to procure and use in rural China.
If jury-rigged, such methods would also put people at risk. Shooting the animal,
or slitting its throat, or any other such method of delivering a quicker death
would do more damage to the pelt and cause more blood, cost money and cause
Finally, for those who can endure watching this film, it soon becomes obvious
that the man doing the job is unemotional and adept, clearly having done it many
times. There is none of the trial and error or hesitation that would suggest
that this was something new to him, something that he normally would not do. And
were he complicit with the filmmakers, the quality of the film itself would be
We do not know why anyone would be so cruel, but the length of time spent
suffering by these unfortunate animals is a fraction of the time some trapped
animals in Canada and the United States spend suffering, so it is moot as to
which is “more” cruel. We do know that while anti-cruelty legislation is
reportedly pending in China as this is being written, at the moment and at the
time the video was made the practice is and was quite legal. As any student of
history knows, when laws either do not exist, or are rendered by civil breakdown
to be ineffective (Somalia and Rwanda present two relatively recent examples,
Nazi Germany remains the iconic example), the most horribly cruel abuses beyond
what ordinary people could imagine are directed against people. It is only law
and its effective enforcement that guards against cruelty to animals or humans.
We also know people are given to irrational behavior. Those of us who have
travelled in eastern Asia have seen things done to animals that make no sense —
why would anyone buy and eat diseased puppies? Why are snakes, masters at
wriggling, skinned alive in food markets in Hong Kong? It was in Asia that the
practice of eating the brains of live monkeys became a fad that has been
reported too often by too many people to be dismissed as myth.
That said, no region or culture has a monopoly on irrational, absurd or
self-destructive behavior. Why do intelligent young people starting smoking now
that the hazards associated with the practice are so well documented? Why did
Newfoundland ignore all warnings by experts and allow one of the province’s
major sources of income, the cod, to become so rare that thousands of workers
lost their jobs? Why did the islanders of Easter Island cut down all the trees?
We could go on endlessly asking such unanswerable questions. Why do so many
Americans eat diets high in fat, salt and sugars when there is so much evidence
of the health risks such a diet creates? There is no answer, but the film of the
raccoon dogs being skinned alive clearly speaks for itself. We will not provide
a link here; for those who insist upon seeing it, any good search engine will
find it if you type in such words as “raccoon dogs skinned alive video.”
The answer to Question 4 concludes: “Other videos show animals suffering on fur
farms. But it is impossible to produce high-quality fur unless animals are
raised in good living conditions, with a balanced diet, a clean pen and
excellent care. Are we expected to believe that this is a common practice when
it doesn’t make any business sense?”
We are not sure if “it” refers to the skinning of a living raccoon dog in rural
China, or to other abuses, but remember that there is less of a market for
“high-quality fur” of the type used in expensive fur garments than there is for
inexpensive fur used for trim, lining, small garments and novelty items.
Remember, too, that the stress and neurosis that tightly confined animals can
experience in the highly unnatural conditions of a fur farm have nothing to do
with the quality of their fur. Weather the mink whose skin is draped over the
mannequin in the fur shop suffered agonizing fear or stress or stomach disorders
or neuroses matters not at all in terms of the final product so long as it
stayed alive long enough to grow its first winter coat of fur, and was prevented
from causing damage to fur.
'What do you mean by saying fur is green?'
'How can the use of animal (sic) to make a luxury product ever be ethical?'
'How can I be sure the Canadian fur industry practices humane standards?'
'Are coats in Canada made from dog and cat fur?'
'Who are the animal activist groups and what do they really want?' and the