The shrinking of the U.S. fur industry goes to show what activism has made possible.
Friends of Animals has always known that if we don’t speak up for fur-bearing animals—such as minks, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and lynx— by talking about their suffering and exploitation, the fur industry will.
Not only have consumers, the biggest names in fashion in the U.S. and the largest retailers heard us loud and clear and stopped buying, using and selling fur, this year California’s ban on the sales of newly made fur products, with the exception of those produced by Native American tribes went, into effect.
We look forward to California’s fur sales ban putting another nail in the coffin of the fur industry.
Because together, California and New York made up nearly 43% of all fur sales in the country in 2017, according to the latest U.S. Economic Census. U.S. retail sales of fur garments totaled just over $574 million, with most sales occurring in California at just under $129 million, followed by New York with almost $115 million. (The next U.S. Economic Census will be released in 2024.)
For perspective, U.S. fur sales in 1993 increased for the second consecutive year, rising 9 percent to an estimated $1.2 billion, according to the Fur Information Council of America.
Mink has always been the most popular type of fur representing approximately 70 percent of fur sold at retail, but U.S. production of mink is also waning.
The state of U.S. mink farms
An estimated 100 mink farms still operate in the U.S., according to Challis Hobbs, executive director of Fur Commission USA.
In comparison, there were 1,116 mink farms in the U.S. in 1982.
Mink pelt production in U.S. in 2022 totaled 1.33 million pelts, down 15 percent from 2021, according to a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture report released in July. Wisconsin, the largest mink producing state, produced 571,750 pelts. Utah, the second largest, produced 266,700 pelts.
The value of pelts produced was $39.2 million, down 17 percent from $47.0 million the prior year.
This is the lowest value since the USDA started recording such data in 1975. It’s nearly $30 million less than in 1992, when production value was $69 million.
None of this bodes well for mink farmers, and we couldn’t be happier.
They’re also feeling threatened by a bill introduced in June by U.S. Rep Adriano Espaillat, a Democrat from New York, that would pay them to shutter their operations and create a nationwide ban on farming. The aim of the federal bill is to reduce the chances that mink farming could trigger outbreaks of viruses that harm humans, an issue that triggered international concerns during the Covid-19 pandemic. Millions of mink, who are highly susceptible to the coronavirus, were killed to contain outbreaks, which occurred on 18 U.S. mink farms during the pandemic’s first two years.
While FoA supports a federal ban on fur farming, the truth is, we don’t need public health concerns to provide incentive to shut down mink farms. All fur farms are unjust and heinous. Minks suffer neck breaking or are stuffed into boxes full of unfiltered engine exhaust, then skinned. And lynxes, coyotes, foxes and chinchillas are often electrocuted.
More tricks of the trade
When you are an industry that raises animals on fur farms and that traps wild animals for the sole purpose of skinning them so people can look a certain way, of course you have to be prepared to be met with disgust. That’s why the fur industry is notorious for amping up its feel-good messaging when the going gets tough.
The latest attempt to persuade people that they can be environmental and animal-welfare advocates by wearing animals’ body parts is the Furmark traceability tag, which rolled out to coincide with the arrival of the fall 2021 collections.
The Furmark swing tag comes with a QR code that maps the history of a garment, from farm to dyer, manufacturer and shop floor, according to the International Fur Federation (IFF).
“If people had doubts about buying or wearing natural fur, then they have been answered with Furmark,” IFF’s CEO Mark Oaten told WWD. “Our centuries-old trade is undergoing its most significant transformation to date, and traceable, sustainable products represent the real alternative to fast fashion,” Oaten said.
These are the rantings of a desperate man fronting a desperate industry.
No amount of PR greenwashing can hide the fact that the carbon footprint of mink fur is 31 times higher than that of an equivalent amount of cotton, 26 times higher than acrylic and 25 times higher than polyester, according to a recent report by Foodsteps, a U.K.-based startup that analyzes the carbon footprint of companies. The results were similar for raccoon dog fur and fox—they are approximately 18 times worse for the climate than polyester, and 23 times worse for the climate than cotton.
The Furmark campaign waxes poetic that every fur has a tale to tell and now consumers will be able to learn the story of the items they’re purchasing.
We agree that every fur has a story–the story of confined animals denied of full, free lives, riddled with injuries, covered in sores and living in feces before being killed.
And there will never be anything luxurious, modern, stylish, respsonsible or sustainable about that.
Support brands that don’t use fur or down in their winter coats such as Save the Duck. (Savetheduckusa.com) and Npiz. REI, Rei.com also carries lots of brands that are completely animal free. Rei.com
Educate others. Request copies of this Friends of Animals’ brochure and hand them out, for example, where retailers sell fur.