5 Interesting Facts About Danish Fur Farms

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.

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The barns are clean, well-ventilated, and free of flies.

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.

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This is the mink’s food – made of fish, chicken, and pig that isn’t fit for human consumption.

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…)

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I have to admit this little guy was kinda cute (even though minks ARE rodents.) But lambs are cute too, and that hasn’t stopped me eating lamb curry.

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.

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The cages vary in size, depending on whether there are two or four minks. Usually it is two, and they have a large play area and a separate little hut where they sleep.

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.

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Here’s a mink is the little hut that they sleep in. When it gets really cold, they have a little tube that prevents wind getting into their bed area, but it rarely gets that cold.

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.

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  • Franziska

    An interesting story. The breeding, utilization, we tested and improved over many years. The competitors promotes the practices described in the breed and in recovery. We see each coat, as the animal was lived and recovered. There is absolutely no shame in wearing fur.

  • Stephen Teague

    Great report and good to hear more facts rather than the propogander we normally hear from ARA’s! I really think wearing fur is the way forward, sourced from sustainable farms where minks are raised and treated humanely. As every animal (Whatever it’s destiny) deserves. I really think buying and wearing a fur that will last for 30 plus years should be encouraged and people should be aware, for example that the rest of the mink is used also and not wasted! A great natural product..! ;-)

  • Andrea R.

    Maybe things have changed in the last few years, but the last time I was on a mink farm there wasn’t anything remotely close to a toy in their cage (that actually made me lol) and they certainly weren’t in a cage with other mink. Your description of how the mink live conjures up images of happy little creatures, with toys, and friends, and comfortable straw beds to lay in. I am not against the fur trade, but lets not try to make it something it isn’t. In my opinion a poorly written and un-professional article.

  • Saranna

    Flawed & uneducated. Mink are not rodents, they are mustelids. They are also very territorial, the biggest cause of mink death in the wild is other mink. So caging them together does not prevent loneliness, it causes stress & aggressive fights, which very often are “to the death”. If you want to discuss fur, please stick to educated facts. Saying either “it’s mean!” or “the mink are very happy being caged!” is just people letting their emotions & beliefs get in the way of seeing something for what it actually is. Sugarcoating things doesn’t convince anyone.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Sorry – I didn’t do proper research with regards to the “rodent” comment – although I will say that they are not that dissimilar to rodents. And males and females are put together in a cage, they do not fight and they are not stressed out. Think about it – a stressed out mink would have a crappy pelt, and minks fighting with each other would damage the pelts and make them worthless to the farmer. It doesn’t make sense. Go and see a farm – you won’t see mink fighting.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Well, I was at a mink farm this summer and there was a toy in there. Things have changed in the past few years. And why wouldn’t they be happy? They don’t know any different. They live in a cage with a friend, get fed nice food, have a warm place to sleep, and toys to play with. Life is pretty good for them.

  • Andrea R.

    you’re delusional.

  • JennyJo

    Minks in captivity suffer from stress and boredom – by definition. They are wild animals who fare very badly in captivity and never get used to it. Their cages are no bigger than 85 x 30 centimeters max. They cannot swim, which is essential for their wellbeing because it helps them regulate their body temperature; they cannot run, burrow, hunt and fish, they can’t do anything that is essential to their wellbeing and a “toy” won’t fix that. When they are 7 months old, they are gassed only because of their furs. We don’t need their furs to keep warm, there are good alternatives. The only reason these beautiful, wild animals are treated so badly and killed by the millions is human vanity and greed. They belong in the wild, not on someone’s neck. I have a terrier dog that I take for off-leash walks at least 3 to 4 hours every day; I play with her and give her lots of mental stimulalations and challenges. If I would keep her locked up in a tiny bench every day of her life, throw her a blob of food once a day and give her a toy, people would be right to call me an animal abuser. But somehow there are other standards for minks and other animals in the fur industry. I don’t understand that.

  • colleen

    Did any of you even bother to look at the pictures of the cows & chickens? I don’t hear you protesting about that, but I bet you sit down every night & feast on one of them. Most mink protesters have never been to a mink ranch but most have been to a farm at some point in their life and did not see a problem. If you don’t want to wear fur, don’t wear it.

  • jennyjo

    I know all about how cows and chickens are bred and I don’t eat meat. But even if I did, two wrongs don’t make a right. I realize that meat is a very valuable source of protein. One could argue that certain kinds of of meat in moderation have a place in a healthy, balanced diet. But I see no valid reason whatsoever health wise or otherwise to breed minks and other fur animals.

  • colleen

    Quote “But somehow there are other standards for minks and other animals in the fur industry. I don’t understand that.”
    This is your quote Jennyjo. Why are you only concerned with the fur industry? Walking your dog & not eating meat does not save all the cows, chickens & pigs. There are more of those that have been caged, abused & eaten over the years and I will say it again, where are the protesters? Every person that has a farm of any kind is trying to make a living & survive. Not everyone can be a doctor, lawyer etc.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    One could also argue that fur is a good way to keep warm: it is local (here in Canada), sustainable, biodegradable, and mostly supports small businesses, farmers, and other people living close to the land. I’d love to know of your “good alternative” – because nothing comes without its consequences.

  • jennyjo

    Of course there are alternatives.(Btw, I don’t consider a mink breeder a farmer). I’ve been to several mink farms and yes, they are clean, the animals get plenty of food, they even have some straw. I haven’t seen any toys, but still I find it extremely depressing to confine wild animals to a life of stress and boredom in tiny cages, for no other reason than human greed and vanity.

  • jennyjo

    No animal should spend its life in a tiny cage with nothing to do and be fobbed off with a stupid, useless toy to ease the consumer’s conscience. Nobody needs fur anymore, there are good alternatives that do not cause needless suffering to helpless animals. Why can’t you at least be honest and admit you just want your fur no matter what?

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Please offer some alternatives – I’d love to know what they are. Because wool and synthetics also have “consequences” – and last time I checked, the desire to stay warm in cold weather is not greedy nor vain.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Again – what alternatives exist that don’t cause involve the use of animals?

  • jennyj0

    You are deliberately twisting my words, you know very well what I mean. You are free to wear as much for as you like, but at least be honest about the fact that the animals have had a rotten life. And how can an industry be sustainable when it is the main cause of animal extinction?

  • jennyjo

    You keep implying that fur is necessary to keep warm, but most fur is used for (cheap) trims only. This makes your argument that it is in the interest of the fur farmer to treat his animals humanely because this makes for an undamaged pelt, invalid. Most animals are killed for trims, not for complete coats. As for alternatives, I don’t know them all. What I do know however is that fur clothing is hardly ever worn by members of arctic expeditions. Recently, a group of scientists of the university where I work spent a considerable time at antarctica and they too wore clothes without fur, down or other animal components and yet stayed warm.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Have you been to a mink farm? Go to one. Then decide if they have a rotten life. And you’ve lost ALL credibility by saying that the fur industry is the main cause of animal extinction. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You clearly know nothing about sustainability and at risk species. If you are going to be anti-fur on my fur-loving blog, then AT LEAST come armed with some facts.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Minks are more frequently used for full pieces, not trims. And furriers by the best pelts they can afford, use the “,main” parts for large coats and jackets, and use the end bits for trim. So no, farmers don’t treat their animals like crap because they are going to be used for trim.

    And yes, most people who travel to the Arctic wear man-made materials, most of which are made from petroleum based plastics. I’m pretty sure more people and animals have died indirectly from the oil industry (from wars, oil spills, and drilling) than the fur industry in the past 10 years. Not to mention our dependence on oil is practically destroying the earth. You go ahead and wear those materials but I refuse to dress myself, or my children, in petroleum-based synthetics unless it is absolutely necessary. If you don’t want to wear fur, then you don’t have to. But make an educated decision as to why – instead of making yourself look like a fool on my blog.

  • jennyjo

    First you say we need fur to stay warm. But we don’t, as you admit yourself. Second, you ignore the fact that most fur is not mink and that most fur is used for trims and not for large coats. Third, you suggest that all synthetics are made from petroleum (a natural substance btw), which is not the case and only shows your ignorance when it comes to chemistry. Fourth, you seem to think that it’s ok to breed and abuse animals for fashion purposes only, because we have made ourselves dependent on oil. Fifth, you completely ignore all the research into sustainable energy sources and production of eco-friendly materials.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Jennyjo, you continuously tell me I am wrong, but fail to provide a single statistic or fact to back up your false claims. This is a pointless argument. None of the above points have much validity, especially the last. Have you done any real research into the subject? I don’t think so. Mink is actually over half of fur production in Canada, and over three quarters in Denmark – so yes, it is a LOT of the fur used. And you just completely ignore my fact about how they use the main parts of the animal for larger pieces, and the other parts for trim. Please take the time to read my replies. I actually know this subject quite well.

    I think you don’t like fur, but probably wear leather and eat some meat – and feel guilty about it but aren’t ready to give those things up, even though you know you are a complete hypocrite. I think you like to believe that the fur industry is evil, but you haven’t actually done any primary research on the subject, and you keep trying to convince yourself that your petroleum-made fleece/rain jacket is ok even though you actually don’t know how it is made. And lastly, you think that throwing in words like “abuse” and “torture” are going to make us fur lovers feel guilty. Well, it won’t work. Minks are very well-treated in farms, much better than the battery chickens you eat, and I wear my Canadian furs PROUDLY.

  • jennyjo

    i don’t eat battery chickens, I don’t eat chickens at all.

    I never used the word “torture”.

    I said it I think it is animal abuse to breed wild animals in captivity – like minks, with or without a toy – merely for fashion purposes.

    I know how fleece is made. I fail to see how that makes the fur industry ok.

    You say people need fur to keep warm, but that’s not what is shown in your latest post.

    I think minks belong in the wild, not on depressing farms and ending up in silly garments. If you think that’s ok, then I agree with Andrea R. that you’re delusional.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Ugh, the same “arguments” but no facts. Just because fur is turned into beautiful “materials” doesn’t make it any less functional. I’ll leave the tacky fleeces to you, and I’ll stay warm and support local farmers and trappers by wearing beautiful fur.

  • jennyjo

    Are you really that stupid? It was YOU who said fur is essential to keep warm and it was YOU who show garments that do not help to keep warm at all.

    Wild animals belong in the wild, not in traps or tiny cages on farms where they lead a short life of stress and boredom. Trapping and hunting to provide people with their coveted fashion items has been and still is the cause of the extinction of many animals and it’s high time that stops because it ruins the environment. I also think people consume far too much meat, much more than they need or is healthy, and I think we should invest much more money and energy on research into sustainable food, energy sources and fabrics. I prefer to support those causes instead of supporting the fur industry.

  • jennyjo

    Species that have been greatly reduced in numbers and/or completely exterminated due to the fur trade: Falk Island Fox and North American Sea Mink: extinct.
    Nearly exterminated: Otters, Vicuna, spotted cats; also threatened are: Canadian Lynx, Bobcat, River Otter and Fisher.

    Each year over 20 million fur bearers are trapped and killed in the USA alone.

    The main reasons for animal extinction are destruction of habitat and commercial hunting. The fur trade is bad for animals, bad for the environment and thus ultimately bad for humans too.

  • Amanda

    Just stop making up excuses. The fact that you like wearing fur doesn’t mean it’s any less painful for the animals, and I don’t mean physical torture only. Are you getting paid to promote this stuff or are you just indifferent? I get it must be the latter. You seem very defensive also, whenever you talk about fur, you talk about “people who eat meat”. I, for one, don’t eat meat or any other animal made product so your argument is invalid.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    Good for you – if you choose not to consume animals then that is your choice and I respect it. What I don’t respect is people spreading lies about this industry – and I am defensive about this because there are a ridiculous amount of myths about fur that are circulated on the internet.

  • Jim

    Danish fur farms, though morally acceptable they may be, account for a minimal
    percentage of fur products. Don’t let this little fairy tail fool you
    into believing that to wear fur in general in not completely unacceptable.

  • alexandrasuhnerisenberg

    No, it is not a minimal percentage, they account for quite a substantial percentage of global fur output. Look at this article: http://www.furcommission.com/world-mink-output-climbs-for-second-straight-year/Denmark accounts for the largest output of mink in the world (28% vs.
    China’s 25%) and it is also interesting to note that most of the other countries on that list are European and North American – which follow very strict farming guidelines with regards to welfare, etc… And mink is one of the most used animals in the fur industry.