"It took me ages to wash the blood out of my jeans. I couldn't help but cry as I was scrubbing them in the hotel room sink. I just don't understand how people don't see the suffering behind this cruel industry." This is what PETA Asia's investigator told me after returning from a fur farm in Northern China. In recent years, China has become the world's single largest fur exporter, but Europe still kills approximately 30 million fur-bearing animals a year for their pelts.
I'll be thinking about these things on Fur-Free Friday (23 November) - the day on which animal advocates all around the globe educate holiday shoppers about the cruel fur industry.
To put it bluntly, there is no kind way to rip the skin off an animal's back, no matter where the animal comes from. PETA staff have visited fur farms all over the world, and we have never found anything but unmitigated misery and suffering.
When PETA Asia's investigator arrived at the most recent fur farm that she visited, the first thing to hit her was the stench - a sickening combination of urine, faeces, blood and freshly removed skins left to dry in the sun.
Hundreds of foxes were packed individually into cages made completely of wire that were not much bigger than the animals' own bodies. Every part of the farm was filthy. Frozen piles of urine and faeces had accumulated beneath the cages. Many animals did not have food or water.
Some foxes had gone insane from the solitary confinement and deprivation and repeatedly spun in circles or threw themselves against the sides of the cages. When most people think about the fur industry, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the terrifying slaughter of the animals. Few people consider that the animals also suffer from mind-numbing boredom, neglect and loneliness, day in and day out, usually for months and sometimes for years, before that final moment comes.
Being an investigator takes its toll on you. "I really have to build myself up before heading to a farm", the investigator told me. "I have to come to terms with the suffering I'm about to see and that there is nothing I can do about it. And I also have to worry about my own safety."
PETA Asia's investigator saw foxes on this farm being killed in one of two ways. They were beaten or electrocuted, depending on the number of workers available. One person can club a fox to death, but two are needed for electrocution - one person to secure the fox in a vice on the electrocution table and another to position the electrocution rods on the animal's face and anus.
Electrocution sends a current through the heart and immobilises the animal, but it does not stop brain activity. When animals are electrocuted without prior stunning, they suffer the crushing, agonising pain of a full-blown heart attack until their hearts finally stop beating.
I write this as I finish editing down the hours of animal suffering that have been documented by the investigator on video into something that is short enough for consumers to watch. I keep wondering if the day will come when we'll go to a fur farm and not see animals suffering. But, of course, the real victory will be when there are no fur farms for us to visit at all.
I have a challenge for the few holdouts who still wear fur - and for any designer who still works with it. Visit PETA.org.uk and watch the videos of animals on fur farms pacing in barren cages and being beaten and skinned alive. Then decide if you can still turn a blind eye to these animals' suffering or if you're ready to join the millions of kind consumers who have turned their backs on fur forever.
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