I live in Newcastle, Great Britain. In the main shopping streets, a
common sight is a stall manned by depressed-looking shabby people with
conventionally unconventional haircuts. They have banners announcing
their intention: to get a local fur farm closed. Fur farms, one
learns from them, are cruel and evil.
Why are they trying so hard to get this business closed down, and some
people made jobless? One would hope that it is for good reasons,
and that the reasons they give are true: that fur farms are cruel,
and therefore bad.
So what is bad about a fur farm? When asking them, one learns that
fur farms are bad because they are fur farms. But what, one asks, is the key fact about fur farms which makes them bad?
They farm fur on them, for goodness sake, is the reply. Fur
is disgusting, apparently, and farmers go to some effort to be cruel
to their animals. Why? Because they are evil. How do we know them
to be evil? Because they are fur farmers. What do they do which is
cruel? They pen up animals which should be roaming free. This sounds
much like all stock farming. When you farm cattle, you don't want
them straying. As for the "should", well, these animals wouldn't
exist were it not for the fur farm, surely, so who says what these
animals "should" be doing? The reply is that fur farming is evil.
Let me think: fur farms farm fur. If animals are unhealthy, it will
show in their fur. If animals fight each other, it will damage the
fur, and lower its value. If animals are killed in a nasty messy way,
it will damage their fur. So, one can quickly establish these things:
that a fur farmer has a very strong vested interest in making sure
that his animals live non-violent, well-fed, low-stress, healthy
lives, and that their deaths are quick and clean(1). Does any wild
animal have such a man looking after their welfare? Also, minks and
the like are vicious little predators, and if they were to roam free,
would this not encroach on the rights of other animals to live a long
and healthy life? Is not a fur farmer doing the local wildlife a
favour by keeping the mink in secure accommodation?
More thoughts: all furry animals have fur. Only cows produce milk,
only ewes produce lambs. Half the population of other farmed animals
gets a short straw from farming. All mink, though, are welcome to join
the farm, produce fur, and rut to their hearts' content(2). Other farmed
animals are more selectively bred.
So what is evil about fur farming? We are told that fur is
This last argument I find the most perplexing. Surely the whole
reason for the existence of a fur farm, is the fact that there are
people willing to pay very large sums of money for fur coats and the
like. These are people who will not freeze for lack of fur coats.
They can afford central heating and anoraks. The reason they want
fur, is that they think that fur is very nice. I have never owned a fur coat, and
don't think I'd pay that amount of money for one. I'd rather buy a
cheap coat, and spend the rest on a nice holiday. Once, though, I was
in a fur shop in Stockholm, and I felt one of the coats. I never knew
anything could feel so fabulous. It made sheepskin feel like
sandpaper. At that moment, I understood why some people might shell
out the cost of a car to buy a coat. The argument that fur is itself
disgusting does not bear even the tiniest scrutiny. Fur is fabulous,
which is why it is valuable.
So why do people object to fur farms? My best guess is that it is the
acceptable tip of the iceberg. At the moment, political fashion
allows, or even obliges, people to believe that fur farming is bad,
even though it is no more cruel than any other stock farming. If fur
farms get banned, then meat farms will be next. Leather, wool, milk,
each will become the evil that the previous one was, until we all have
to be vegans, and we all die of misery. Those who oppose it do so
because it makes them feel good to do so, because it gives them some
political power. There is no other reason, unless there is one as-yet
unpresented to me.
Can anyone tell me why fur farming is cruel but dairy farming okay?
I have done some more research on fur farming since writing the above, and can add these two facts:
(1) In Britain, animals farmed for fur are killed on the farm, to avoid the stress of transportation, by gas which puts them to sleep before killing them. No animal, wild or domesticate, has a kinder end than this.
(2) In fact, even with mink and similar animals, some males are weeded out while young, but the proportion of males of fur-farm animals which reaches adulthhood is still far greater than for other types of farmed animals.
UPDATE October 2002
Since writing the above, I have learned that fur farming has been made illegal in Britain, and all our fur farms are to close. The state has decided that it is its right to forbid people to carry out an activity that created wealth and harmed no one. The same protesters I encounted in the street now have a new hobby: trying to ban hunting. Each time something like this gets banned, then some other activity will appear to be the most disapproved-of thing, and governments will think that there are votes to be gained by banning it. Where will this end? You may feel safe now, but one day the thing you do will be the most disapproved of thing. Protest now, before they ban you from doing what you like. Boxing will go, then fishing, and eventually the keeping of cats (because they go hunting every time you let them out the back door, so by keeping a cat you are murdering the local population of cute little things).