It’s FUR WEEK!
Actually, nearly every week is fur week in my world, except maybe the weeks between May and August. But over the summer I took a day trip to Copenhagen and visited the Kopenhagen Furs Auction House, a mink farm, and the KF Studio. You’ll be hearing about each one of these places this week – and hopefully you’ll be getting a bit excited about cold weather fashion and taking the furs out of your closet!
Let’s start at the beginning – the fur farm. I’ve already visited a mink farm in Canada and the standards and techniques used seem to be quite similar in both Canada and Denmark. Fur farming is a wonderful industry and I have learnt a lot of very interesting things from my visits. Here are a few of them.
1. Mink are a very useful part of the food chain. For some reason, a lot of people seem to think it is ok to eat meat, but not to wear fur (I’ll never understand that, but let’s save that argument for another day.) What do you think happens to the parts of the fish, chickens, and pigs that people can’t (or don’t want) to eat? Well, they can’t be fed to livestock (that became illegal years ago), and we don’t want to throw them away (that is a waste!) so the farmers buy up all of the leftover fish, chicken, and pig bits, grind them into a paste and feed them to their mink. It doesn’t exactly look appetizing, but if someone told me I was going to live on a diet of chicken, fish, eggs (and I think there might be a wee bit of grain ground up in there) then I would be fine with that. So are the mink – they are well-fed, healthy, and produce beautiful coats because of all the yummy food they eat.
2. The farms have to abide by very strict regulations. This is one area where the extremist animal rights activists may have done something good – their pressure on the farmers to look after the animals has meant that the regulations the Danish (and Canadian, might I add) farmers have to follow are very strict. This means the food, toys, huts, and cages (down to the precise size) are monitored very closely. The minks get a few toys to play with and even have a warm little bedroom padded with straw. They live in pairs or fours (so they aren’t lonely), in good sized cages with enough room to play. Battery chickens are certainly not afforded the same luxuries. If the farmers don’t follow regulation, then they get warnings and eventually kicked out of the Kopenhagen Fur association – which means they can’t sell their pelts at auction. And if they can’t sell them at auction – well – business won’t be very good.
But I should add that the regulations aren’t the only reason why farmers want to treat their animals well. What happens to an animal if they aren’t well fed and are stressed out and unhappy? It shows on their fur, first. So unhappy minks means crappy fur and less money. Farms are businesses, and for a farmer to turn a good profit, they will prioritize the diet, comfort and well-being of their animals. (Again, the same can’t be said about those poor battery chickens…)
3. Minks are turned into fuel. People get upset at the thought of raising a mink for its fur, and then discarding the rest. Well, good news: that’s not what happens. Danish mink carcasses are turned into biofuels (and everyone knows that renewable energy is a very good thing) and the bone meal is often used as heating fuel. That’s why the fur industry is being promoted as green – the animals are fed by-products of the human food industry and their carcasses are being turned into fuel. Plus, fur is biodegradable, long lasting, and the industry is made up of very small, independently owned businesses. Sounds pretty green to me.
4. The Danish fur farmers all work together. This was definitely a unique side to the fur farmers in Denmark – while they are all in competition with each other (to produce the best pelts) they also all work together and share information. They event jointly own the fur auction house – more on that in a few days. If someone has a great tip or trick, they will definitely brag about it, but they will also share it with the others, and so the standard gets raised. The result? The best minks in the world (they say – although Canada is not bad at all!) Co-operation and team work has certainly had its benefits for them.
5. Minks get one of the most peaceful deaths of all farmed animals. There are two reasons why minks have it good when it comes to harvest. Firstly, minks are killed on site at the farm (any animals meant for human consumption need to be moved to a slaughterhouse for health and safety reasons) and this greatly reduces the stress the animals suffer when they are euthanized. No one likes to be carted away in a big trailer and transported to a smelly death house. Secondly, minks get a very peaceful death by carbon monoxide poisoning. They are placed in a cosy box, and within twenty seconds the animals have fallen asleep. This is unlike the electrocution and exsanguination techniques we use on cattle. Carbon monoxide can’t be used on any animals we eat (for obvious reasons) but it works wonderfully for mink because they fall asleep peacefully with their beautiful pelts intact.
Part two of Fur Week will be about the fur auction house. Check back in two days!
P.S. If you’re upset by these photos because you don’t like to see animals in cages, then you’re probably a little bit out of touch with the realities of agriculture (and burgers and leather shoes and omelets) so here’s a few photos reminding you of what other types of farming looks like (except the animals aren’t as cute.) Here’s a cow farm, another cow farm, a free range chicken farm (yes, free range chicken does not mean running around in a field, it means running around in a crowded barn with a certain amount of daylight – I have free range chicken farmers in the family – I’ve witnessed this first hand), and a battery chicken farm (cue big sad face here.)
P.S. If you’re anti-fur and want to shout about it in the comments, please feel free but do it politely – I’ll delete anything rude. And please note that my opinions are based on facts – I’ve done my research, visited fur farms, met with aboriginal trappers, and researched the environmental benefits of a sustainable fur trade in North America and Europe and I am PRO.
My trip was made possible by the awesome people at We Are Fur and their fantastic bursary program.