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Farm Animals - Fur Farming

mink activists according wild

Fur farming is a unique agricultural enterprise for two reasons. First of all, most of the animals involved are wild instead of domesticated. Second, the animals are raised and killed for their pelts only. The most popular fur animal is the mink. It takes about forty mink pelts to produce one fur coat.

Mink are wild animals that are kept in cages on fur farms. They typically breed in the early spring and give birth to litters in late spring. An average litter contains four or five babies, or kits, that are weaned after six to eight weeks. The kits are vaccinated against common diseases. During the late summer and early fall, the mink naturally molt (lose their summer fur) and regrow a thick winter coat. The mink are killed in late autumn or early winter. Some are retained for breeding purposes.

According to the USDA, there were 310 mink farms in the United States in 2002, down from more than 1,000 in the 1970s. Approximately 1.1 million pelts were produced in 2002. According to the U.S. Fur Commission, the top five mink-pelt producing states are Wisconsin, Utah, Minnesota, Oregon, and Idaho.

The fur industry is harshly criticized by animal rights activists and welfarists, who say that the animals are kept in miserable conditions and in small cages. The HSUS says that overbreeding by farmers to produce desirable coat colors leads to serious and painful deformities in the animals. Farming and slaughter of fur animals are not regulated by the USDA. The most common killing techniques are gassing, electrocution, and breaking of the animals' necks. Fur farming has been banned in many western European countries.

Animal welfarists and rights activists have conducted antifur campaigns since the 1960s. PETA's "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" campaign was begun in the 1990s and has featured celebrities like Pamela Anderson and Kim Basinger posing nude. PETA activists also regularly disrupt fashion shows featuring fur-clad models and protest outside stores selling fur. However, fur sales have continued to rise in the United States. According to the Fur Information Council of America, fur sales increased from $1 billion in 1991 to $1.8 billion in 2003. Industry analysts say that fur demand is driven by weather and economy rather than animal issues. A Gallup poll conducted in May 2004 found that 63% of those asked felt that buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur was morally acceptable. This was up slightly from 2001, when 60% found it morally acceptable.

Mink farmers defend their animal husbandry and slaughtering procedures as humane. They argue that mink in the wild rarely live longer than one year and insist that the mink are handled carefully, both for their welfare and to protect their valuable coats from damage. Producers also insist that the mink are killed quickly and humanely using veterinary-approved methods. In a 2001 media interview a veteran mink farmer claimed that "animals raised for their fur are inherently the best cared for farm animals" (Delia Montgomery, "Fur Ethics," U.S. Fur Commission, http://www.furcommission.com/resource/perspect999as.htm).

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