WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Shaking with fear, living in tiny, dirty cages and destined for a brutal death. This is the reality of tens of thousands of rabbits bred on fur farms across China.
Humane Society International's most recent undercover investigation reveals the horrors of two rabbit breeding farms and a slaughter facility in a major fur farming province in North China.
Up to 10,000 rabbits are killed every day in the province.
Images show animals crowded together in small, dirty barren cages with not even enough room for them to stand up properly.
With no bedding, they spend their entire lives standing and bearing their full weight on the slatted floors, which can lead to extremely painful sores.
Filmed by Chinese animal advocates, the footage shows large amounts of faeces on the cage floors and surrounding areas, and investigators witnessed clearly sick rabbits left unattended in their cages.
At the slaughter house, thousands of rabbits are processed daily in a killing production line that sees animals killed in front of each other.
Live rabbits are seen shaking in fear on the delivery truck as their cage mates are hung upside down and have their throats cut after a largely ineffective blow to the head.
Some rabbits can be seen writhing on the hook, meaning it is highly likely these animals had their throats cut whilst conscious.
Humane Society International's Executive Director, Claire Bass, said: "This is the grim reality of the fur trade that consumers need to see –fur trim hats, scarves or gloves bought this winter represent the immense suffering of animals languishing in squalid fur farms.
"There is no excuse for making these animals into our fashion victims.
"So we’re urging shoppers to always buy faux fur instead, but also to be extra vigilant in ensuring that the fake fur they buy is genuinely synthetic and not real fur in disguise. If in doubt, give animals the benefit of that doubt and leave the item on the shelf."
The undercover investigation revealed that many animals were conscious when they were skinned.
HSI's veterinary advisor, Professor Alastair Macmillan, said: "There is no question in my mind that these rabbits will have endured extremely severe and prolonged physical suffering, fear and distress, and a death that is both painful and frightening.”
Fur farming was banned in the UK in 2000, meaning that all fur sold in the UK is imported.
According to official statistics, last year £3.5million worth of fur skins and articles were imported into the UK from China, where 60 million minks, 13 million foxes, 14 million raccoon dogs and untold millions of rabbits die each year as part of the fur trade.
But HSI believes the true scale of Chinese fur imports could be underestimated due to the failure of animal fur labelling in the UK marketplace.
Claire Bass said: "We’ve uncovered an alarming number of items on sale in UK independent shops, markets and online stores, that are trimmed with real animal fur but either marketed as fake fur or labelled without any mention of fur at all.
"That means many British shoppers could be buying and wearing what they believe is a cruelty-free synthetic item when in fact it comes from an animal who will likely have endured the kind of deprivation and pain that we’ve uncovered at farms in China.
"Consumers will be horrified to learn that they’ve been conned into cruelty because of inadequate labelling, so we’re urging the government to remedy this situation quickly.
"And we’re also reminding retailers that they have a duty to implement and enforce rigorous buying procedures so that customers are never misled into buying real fur thinking it’s fake."
HSI’s “Make It Fake for the Animals’ Sake” campaign is urging consumers not to be caught out with real fur mislabelled as faux.
For more information, visit hsi.org/makeitfake