There is no such thing as “humane”, “ethical” or “animal-friendly” fur when it comes to fashion. The sad reality is that animals suffer when we use fur to make or decorate jackets, boots, hats, and gloves. Most people can’t tell the difference between real and fake fur, and the inadequacies in Canadian labeling laws mean you could be wearing real fur without knowing!
The BC SPCA is opposed to killing animals for clothing – animals in the wild experience cruel deaths, or suffer when raised on fur farms.
Fur in fashion
In B.C., coyotes, rabbits, raccoons, mink, beaver, foxes and many other animals are killed for their fur. Not all items made in Canada containing fur are required to be labelled as such. This means handbags, toys, shoes or other items could be made of real fur without you knowing. Not only is fur used in fashion, but also in the cosmetic industry. Mink fur is harvested and used for human eyelash extensions, called mink lashes.
There is no guarantee that “faux” fur coats and other clothing items do not contain real fur to some extent, and some fur products imported and sold in Canada may even be made from cats or dogs.
Leg hold traps or snares often used by trappers are still legal in B.C. when used within 200 meters of a dwelling, despite their inherently inhumane nature. Even the trappers’ “humane trapping” methods allow animals to suffer for up to 72 hours on trap lines before they are checked. Fur farming is also inherently inhumane, as wild animals are bred and stocked as products in captivity.
Hundreds of thousands of animals are farmed for their fur in Canada each year, the most common two animals being mink and fox. In B.C., wild animals can be farmed for their fur under the Animal Health Act and the Fur Farm Regulation.
In 2018, 98 mink farms and 27 fox farms existed across Canada. Currently, there are 13 mink farms in B.C., almost all of which are in the Fraser Valley. Fortunately, there are no fox farms in B.C. In 2018, over 260,000 mink were killed for fur in B.C.
Mink are bred once per year and give birth in the spring. After being weaned from their mothers, mink are housed in small, wire mesh pens. Come winter when their fur coats are fully developed, they are killed on-site at the farm. The furs are shipped to an auction house where they are graded and sold, often to international markets. Mink oil is also harvested and commonly used as leather conditioner.
Farmed mink are the same as wild mink, but they have been selectively bred over 150 years for certain colours and traits (size, fur quality, temperament). Farmed mink keep their wild nature and instincts, and can become naturalized if they escape to the wild.
The BC SPCA does not encourage releasing farmed mink into the wild. Farmed mink in B.C. carry Aleutian virus, which may harm wild mink populations. The released animals can upset the natural ecosystem and most will not survive.
Mink have also been found to carry the virus that causes COVID-19. The BC SPCA is calling for a moratorium on mink farming in British Columbia through an immediate suspension of all mink farm licenses, after workers on a Fraser Valley fur farm tested positive for COVID-19. More than 200 mink have died on the farm, and samples from mink on the farm have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. The BC SPCA will be meeting with government officials to share the results of the pledge to end fur farming in B.C. and discuss the future of the industry in our province.
Around the world there have been increasing cases and concerns about the virus passing from humans to minks, and back to humans. The cramped conditions of thousands of mink on farms creates dangerous conditions for the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
Similar to mink, foxes raised on fur farms are bred once per year and give birth in the spring. After weaning, the pups are also housed in restrictive wire mesh pens. Their fur coats are ready for harvesting in the winter, at which point they are killed on-farm.
The Code of Practice for farmed mink and fox
The BC SPCA is opposed to mink and fox farming, but we do recognize this is a legal industry. Until the fur industry no longer exists, we expect all farms to meet the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Mink (PDF) and the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farmed Fox (PDF).
The Code of Practice for farmed mink is currently being updated. Proposed changes were open for public comment from December 2020 to February 2021. Thank you to everyone who took the time to speak up for mink! Proposed amendments to the Code would allow mink across Canada to be killed by having them breathe in engine exhaust or carbon dioxide as well as halt a transition to larger cage sizes.
Although the Canada Mink Breeders Association suggests all members follow this minimum standard, there is no independent monitoring in place, meaning there is no assurance that animal care standards are being met. Learn more about farm animal welfare laws in Canada.
Other types of fur farming
Currently, only mink are farmed for fur in British Columbia. However, there is no ban on farming animals like foxes in our province, meaning someone could apply for a permit to start up a fox farm if they wanted to. From January to March 2021, over 7000 people signed a federal petition supporting a nationwide ban on fur farming for all species of animals, and we hope to see federal action on this important issue.