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Friday, June 16, 2006

Minks - treatment and disposal - transparency and education

I’ve been writing about how there should be more transparency in the fur industry and was seeking some more information about where the carcasses go, and treatment of the animals whilst they are living. I decided to do some research of my own. I found the Fur commission, which is related to MINKS ONLY. This information comes directly from their site.

‘Fur Commission USA represents 420 mink-farming families on 330 farms in 28 states (Americia), producing 2.6 million of the finest mink pelts annually, worth over $120 million. Our volunteer board and committees work to ensure superior standards of animal husbandry through our own certification program, and to educate the public about responsible fur farming and the merits of fur ‘

I found this website to be informative with respects to farming. It says the feed it uses is leftovers from human food production. It claims this reduces the environmental impact of the agricultural sector as a whole. I like this point. I am all for recycling and I hate food wastage.

It also talks about providing ‘quality care’ as quote, ‘PROVIDING ANIMALS with humane care is an ethical obligation of all livestock farmers, while for mink farmers it also makes good business sense, since the healthiest animals produce the finest pelts.’ Sadly however, the treatment of the animals is due to the affect it has the quality of the pelts. I wish this were the same for chicken eggs too.

It goes onto say that members can participate in a Merit system. ‘The Merit Award seal recognizes commitment to humane treatment in all aspects of fur farming, including: Vigilant attention to nutritional needs Clean, safe and appropriate housing Prompt veterinary care Consideration for the animals' disposition and reproductive needs Elimination of outside stress Inspections to verify compliance are carried out by independent veterinarians, and those farms that pass are authorized to use the Merit Award certification seal until the next mandatory inspection. On the rare occasion that a farm fails the inspection, the farmer will be required to make changes or relinquish membership.

It seems that the farmer is only penalized by relinquishing membership. Furthermore I am given the impression a farm that has failed inspection can sell the fur regardless.

As for Euthanasia, minks are given either pure carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide. A mobile unit goes to the minks farming shed rather than transporting them. This is to reduce animal stress.

And lastly the carcass. ‘Although fur is the primary product of farming, nothing is wasted. An important secondary product is a highly valued oil produced from the mink's thick layer of subcutaneous fat. Mink oil is used to condition and preserve leather, and also in the manufacturing of hypoallergenic facial oils and cosmetics. The carcasses are rarely eaten by humans as the scent gland gives the meat a flavor which most people don't enjoy. But they still have their uses. Some farmers sell them as crab bait, or give them to wildlife preserves, zoos or aquariums. Others will use them to make organic compost. Or they may be rendered down to provide raw materials for a wide range of products, from pet food and organic fertilizers to tires, paint and even cosmetics. Last but not least, the nutrient-rich manure from fur farms is in heavy demand as a natural crop fertilizer.

I am relieved to find the farmers who are part of THIS COMMISSON don’t waste the mink’s carcass and treat them humanly. It’s impossible to inspect every farm. So I will take their word for it.

I recommend checking out the Fur Commission website and reading some of the resources they provide. Sadly this commission is only for America. During my search I also found these two BBC links, which strengthen my recommendations for the fur industry.

McCartney attacks China over fur (NOV 2005)
Inside the fur farms (NOV 1999)

This industry is not perfect and is surrounded by controversy. Just take a look at some of the comments on Almost Girl. In conclusion, if this industry wants to continue then it needs to become more ethical and educate the public about what it does. I am not talking about ‘spin’ here, just the truth. There is a need to do more work in maintaining a high standard of treatment for animals all across all types of fur farms. I recommend that farmers who do not meet the standards should be barred from selling their furs until they have lifted their standards. In addition to farming standards, furs that are sold to produce clothes, rugs or whatever should have a label that indicates the animal that was killed, was treated humanly.

This is a great balanced post it'd be great if you could post a link to it at almostgirl!

Thank you Jason, I think it's important that we can understand the facts here so that we can all make an informed judgement.

My major concern is the quantity of fur produced in China were there are no laws to govern the industry. If China can produce fur cheaper than anywhere else then how is there going to be a reduction in animal suffering if their industry continues to grow and grow?

It really distresses me that people in this fashion blogging community seem so resigned or ambivalent to the issue.
Yes China is a problem. And I don't see things changing there anytime soon. I think it may have to do about how they feel about animals. A Japanese friend once said to me 'why do I dislike battery hens when we eat them?' I explained, yes we eat them but they shouldn't been cooped up in a small cage eating hormones.

Julie has a point that we want to disconnect from what we eat. That's why I prefer mincemeat. I don't see it as an animal.

Regardless, animals do have feelings, and I don't care what others say about this. In my family we had two dogs. When one of them died the other was distraught! He didn't eat for a week and just laid at the back door. He looked very sad. Which brings me back to my argument, if we are going to eat animals then they should be treated humanely.

I too am a bit disappointed with the online reaction too. I wanted to see something that discussed fashion and fur, but also informed people of the negative aspects of this industry. It would have been good if Julie or Phil had of spoken the designers or organizers about it. It’s important to show both sides.

And yes I will link my post to Almost Girl. Thanks for suggesting it.
I wrote an email to Julie a few days ago...asked if she would ask some questions for me [ask designers whether they have ever been to a fur farm or would ever go (or would it be too hard on their conscience?)]. She said she might- but only to the manufacturers and perhaps not to the designers since they wouldn't know (which is the points) and then I asked her again if she was planning on going to a fur farm too...(amidst going to these manufacturing places) but she did not reply.

The way I think of it is- you should know where the fur comes from or else you're being ignorant. A person can't try to fathom someone's pain without seeing it.

On her thread, I get from it that she thinks we don't care about animals as much when we eat them but only when we see them. I know animals suffer to become food. I know sometimes chickens are boiled alive. I know there's injustices. It's horrible. It's just as bad as the fur industry sometimes.

But think about it...most people are vegetarians- they would think more about actual fur skin than consuming them. That's why the focus is on the clothes- and not the food. Hardly anyone comments on animals as unecessary clothing- who would comment about animals as food?

It's not like I like to watch animals tortured. But I'm obligated- I can not ignore it. Ignoring it is criminal in some cases. And ignorance is always criminal in other cases too. (not just concerning animals)
I meant to say- "most people aren't vegetarians." I always skip over the typos when I get somewhat fed up.
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I read with interest your post on the fur industry. It is part of the issue of consumers being informed about the origin of their product and how important this is to them. For some people it is a real issue as they are very conscientious about what they are buying, but others could not give two hoots. The issue of fur is one where I would think it would be quite easy to label where it has come from. I could not imagine many people wanting to wear something from an animal that had suffered to get the fur, but I am sure many people would wear fur products from a farm. It's hard to know where imported products have come from, not the country, but whether from a sweatshop or not, for instance. I have heard the Japanese are very patriotic and will buy products made in Japan even if they are much more expensive. Have you experienced this? A big news item in Australia now is the decision by six Pacific nations to support Japan's pro-whaling declaration at the International Whaling Commission.
Anyway, it would be great if people could know (and care), where all their consumer items come from. This is the angle DE's should/could take advantage of I guess.
Yes the Japanese do prefer to buy Japanese made products and will pay more for it. In addition to this they understand and realise the work that has gone into handmade goods. They will also pay for this unlike Australians who are a bit stingy when it comes to buying things handmade. They want it as cheap as they can get it, regardless of the quality or the amount of hours it has taken to produce. That's generally speaking. Not everyone is like that in Australia.

As for the whaling. I don't know why they do it. The meat is not even popular here. I've seen it for sale once in a supermarket and some Japanese guys eating it at a restaurant. But that's it. I have never seen it at a sushi shop.
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