The fur industry is swiftly running out of ways to justify continuing the mass raising and killing of animals like foxes, mink and raccoon dogs for fashion. A new undercover investigation reveals what’s really going on at three fur farms in Finland, two of which are touted as having “the highest level of animal welfare,” according to the fur trade’s SAGA Furs certification program.

The industry boasts to designers, policymakers and the public alike that SAGA-certified farms have good animal health and welfare, supposedly providing safe and stimulating housing, as well as good farm hygiene and feed that fulfills the animals’ nutritional needs. But Humane Society International’s October investigation into fur farms in Finland tells a very different story.

Artic foxes packed closely in small wire cages on a fur farm in Finland.
Claire Bass/HSI

Investigators from Humane Society International/UK and Finnish animal campaigners Oikeutta Eläimille brought along a veterinarian, Dr. Marc Abraham, on their undercover visit to three Finnish fur farms. The investigators found foxes in small, barren cages suffering with deformed feet, diseased eyes and missing ears.

Two of the farms held “monster foxes,” who are bred with huge pelts and rolls of fat folded over their bodies in order to increase the volume of fur that can be taken from them. In 2017, the fur trade stated it would put an end to the breeding of oversized foxes, and yet HSI investigators found foxes struggling to move because of their weight, something that they’ve also witnessed during previous investigations.

“Monster foxes” are bred with huge pelts and rolls of fat to increase the amount of fur that can be harvested from their bodies.
Claire Bass/HSI

Dr. Abraham also noted that the foxes showed signs of self-mutilation, a common symptom of psychological trauma that occurs when wild animals are denied appropriate enrichment or the freedom to move, run and exercise in their natural environments.

The photos capture the moments the investigators first encountered the animals. It’s striking how they curiously approached the people from the recesses of their wire cages, looking directly at them. The fur trade often claims that these animals are not wild, and that their more domesticated personality traits means that forcing them to live in cages isn’t cruel. That’s absurd on its face: No dog lover would ever keep domesticated canines in such confined and barren conditions.

It is truly shocking that the brutal practices that treat these animals as nothing more than objects continue.

Investigation after investigation of fur farms has shown amply that there is simply no way to make the fur industry humane, and the past year has also demonstrated that this cruelty risks public health. Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been documented on 447 mink fur farms in 12 different countries in Europe and North America since April 2020.

Some foxes approached investigators from the recesses of their small cages, reaching out to them.
Claire Bass/HSI

Finland is the largest producer of fox fur in Europe and the second largest in the world, rearing and killing as many as two million foxes every year. While some countries and regions have banned fur farming within their borders, their fur imports keep afloat what should be a dying industry. Brands including Fendi, Moncler, Yves Salomon, Woolrich, Herno and Max Mara use fur from Finnish fur farms, and the skins from these animals can be seen in iconic luxury shops, like Harrods in London. Because of this pipeline that keeps such a gruesome and brutal industry going, HSI/UK is urging the government to ban fur imports and sales in the UK, a move supported by 72% of the British public.

Across the world, more than 100 million animals are killed for their fur every year, both on fur farms and through trapping in the wild—that’s equivalent to three animals dying every second, just for fashion.

You can be a voice for animals by signing a petition calling on the UK to end the sale of fur.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.

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