Dirty conditions on such fur farms, packed with sick, desperate and terribly injured animals, are a ticking time bomb for new deadly pandemics, experts have warned.
These dark scenes were filmed during a two-month investigation on 13 farms in China, the largest fur-producing country in the world.
Activists say the nagging sights of mentally ill animals kept in small, barren factory-style cages are systemic to the fur industry and can also be seen on farms across Europe and North America.
In one location in China, raccoon dogs were found to have been electrocuted so incompetently that experts say they are paralyzed but still conscious and suffer a slow, agonizing death from cardiac arrest.
In their tiny, barren wire cages, rows of foxes were also repeatedly caught, turning and pacing up and down. These were the classic symptoms of mental decline due to environmental deprivation.
Second, a disturbing admission by a farmer revealed that meat from slaughtered fur animals is being sold by unsuspecting diners to local restaurants for human consumption.
A year after Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic, these scenes of animals being held tightly together in tiny cages, some of which are strewn with fragments of blood and meat from slaughtered animals, are of great concern.
It is now generally accepted that the extreme stress experienced by animals held in captivity increases the levels of “virus shedding”. This puts us all at risk of another outbreak of zoonotic diseases that spread from animals to humans.
In a wet market in Wuhan, the coronavirus is believed to have jumped from a bat-infected pangolin onto a human widely believed to be the cause of the outbreak.
Experts say fur farms are virus reservoirs and should be closed immediately to protect public safety, along with damp markets and other extreme situations where wild, distressed animals are kept in close proximity.
China is home to the world’s largest fur-producing industrialized country, where 14 million foxes, 13.5 million raccoon dogs and 11.6 million mink were bred in 2019. During the same period, the UK imported 5.3 million pounds of fur from China alone, and 25.5 million GBP between 2015 and 2019, according to the latest available figures.
The Mirror is working with Humane Society International / UK for campaigns whose investigators took the footage on 13 farms between November and December and is calling for an immediate ban on the sale of fur products in the UK.
Claire Bass, Managing Director of HSI / UK, said: “In recent months, the public has been confronted with the fact that fur farms are not only places of tremendous animal suffering, but can also function as virus factories.
“The living conditions on fur farms, where wild species are trapped in high density and in close proximity, do not meet the animals’ most basic welfare needs, so they are highly stressed, which can lead to impaired immune systems.
“Minks, foxes, and raccoon dogs can all be infected with coronavirus, and the SARS-CoV-2 virus outbreaks on fur farms across Europe and North America have presented us with the terrible reality of fur factory farms creating ideal conditions for diseases to evade spread from one animal to another and viruses mutate into forms that may be virulent to humans.
“We don’t need frivolous fur fashion. And we definitely don’t need these unnecessary reservoirs for coronaviruses. Now more than ever, it is time to write fur history.”
The investigation comes just days after Animal Welfare Organization Four Paws wrote to United Nations and World Health Organization leaders calling for radical revisions to the way humans treat animals to help prevent future pandemics.
The letter warns that risky practices must be “stopped urgently” with a ban on fur farms, live animal markets, an end to the cat and meat dog trade, and crackdown on wildlife trafficking.
Addressed to WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), it said that the world “should stop focusing on tentative pharmaceutical solutions without addressing the issue to prevent zoonotic pandemics current issues related to animal abuse ”.
Raccoon dogs were electrocuted with a double-tip lance attached to a high-voltage battery on several Chinese fur farms.
One after the other, the animals are stabbed in random body parts.
HSI Veterinary Advisor Professor Alastair MacMillan said, “The animals in this video are electrocuted in the body rather than the brain, which means they have most likely experienced several minutes of extreme physical pain and suffering, such as the symptoms of heart attack.
“Instead of being killed instantly, they are likely immobilized by the electric shock, but remain conscious and feel the severe pain of the electric shock.”
Despite the investigation during the global pandemic, HSI also said none of the fur farms had followed basic biosecurity measures, routinely ignoring Chinese disease control regulations. None of the farms had disinfection stations at the entry and exit points.
and visitors were allowed to come and go without Covid-19 safety precautions.
Between April and February there were at least 422 outbreaks of Covid-19 on 289 mink fur farms in 11 different countries in Europe and North America.
Experts say raccoon dogs and foxes are just as prone to contracting coronavirus.
Almost a year ago, Germany’s leading coronavirus expert Christian Drosten warned: “Raccoon dogs are a huge industry in China, where they are farmed and caught in the wild for their fur. If someone gave me a few hundred thousand dollars and free access to China To find the source of the virus, I would look to places where raccoon dogs are bred. “
Last month, WHO program manager and China mission chief Peter Ben Embarek also stated that in searching for the origins of the coronavirus, they would “conduct more systematic studies of other animal species of interest, particularly in China, that we know are vulnerable are: minks, raccoon dogs, foxes. “
Every year more than 100 million animals around the world are bred and killed for their fur. They live their short lives in miserable, painful imprisonment.
This terrible suffering is simply endured to make fur-trimmed coats, gloves, hats, hoods and other fashion accessories.
The UK closed the last fur farm in 2003 for cruelty to animals, but more than £ 800 million worth of furs have been imported from around the world since then.
“Although this research took place in China, fur farms across Europe and North America have seen similarly disturbing scenes of mentally ill animals kept in small, barren factory-style cages,” added Claire Bass of HSI.
“Any country that still raises fur animals in the factory is responsible for appalling suffering and unacceptable public health risk. The UK government cannot of course shut down fur farms overseas, but we can stop providing a market for fur. So we welcome signs that the government is serious about banning fur sales. Such a ban would send a clear message that we will not be cruel to animals for frivolous, outdated and unnecessary fashion accessories. “
HSI has submitted a full dossier of its evidence to the Chinese authorities in both Beijing and London.
Thomas Pietsch, Wildlife and Fur Expert at Four Paws, added: “Animals suffering from injuries and diseases are common on fur farms. These conditions are sufficient to call for a ban on fur farms from an animal welfare point of view. However, numerous cases of COVID-19 have also been detected in mink farms around the world in recent months.
“The answer is to kill these animals. However, this is a short-term solution. The only way to prevent future zoonotic diseases from occurring and spreading is to stop fur farming altogether.
“Otherwise it is not unrealistic that the next pandemic starts from a fur farm.”
To help, sign the petition at: hsi.org/furfreebritain