Fur farming represents significant threat to human and animal health, linked to at least 18 potentially deadly infectious diseases

A research paper examining the damaging impact of fur farming has recently been published in Frontiers in Animal Science (Frontiers). This first close review on fur farming, commissioned by ACTAsia, highlights the significant threat to human, animal and environmental health.

Frontiers is the third most-cited and sixth largest research publisher and open science platform. Frontiers research journals are community-driven and peer-reviewed by editorial boards of more than 280,000 top researchers and their research articles have been viewed more than 2.5 billion times.

The 26-page study takes an in-depth look at the global issues surrounding fur farming from a One Health perspective. Whilst all their findings are highly relevant, ACTAsia found the following of particular significance:

Fur farming as a threat to human and animal health

  • Fur farms globally harboured at least 18 infectious agents of potentially deadly diseases, including COVID-19, botulism, MRSA, rabies and salmonella
  • In China, 10% of raccoon dogs at one farm died from H5N1 influenza after being fed contaminated chicken carcasses
  • Contaminated feed is indicated as a source of botulism (mink, ferrets, and foxes) and influenza virus. The feeding of ‘recycled’ dead fur farm animals and livestock offal to living fur farm animals can lead to a cycle of perpetual recontamination

Environmental damage

  • Fur farming leads to major environmental damage, including toxic chemical release, eutrophication of water bodies and invasive species
  • Chromium compounds used in fur processing are toxic to the environment and public health. Chromium stunts crop growth and affects human health and fertility
  • The production of a mink coat has four times the impact on climate change versus a faux mink coat. Mink remains the most in-demand type of fur among the highest-spending consumers of fur in China

Impact on animal welfare

  • The global fur farming industry leads to the captive-breeding, rearing and killing of 85 to 100 million animals every year. This multi-billion-pound industry is still continuing despite increasing positive sentiment towards fur free campaigns around the globe
  • China is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of animal fur products 
  • Sixteen categories of animal welfare concern (including deprivation, stress, abnormal behaviours, insanitary conditions, forced obesity and high morbidity and mortality) 
The global fur farming industry leads to the captive-breeding, rearing and killing of 85 to 100 million animals every year. Photo: Oikeutta Eläimille

ACTAsia’s response to the report 

ACTAsia’s CEO and co-founder Pei commented: “This report highlights the damaging impact of fur farming not only on animal welfare but also on human and environmental health. According to the World Health Organization that ‘spill over’ from fur farmed animals to humans poses a serious public health and socio-economic threat and requires a One Health approach to manage”.

What is One Health and why is it important?

The research paper examines the impact of fur farming on One Health considerations. A total of 280 reports and 190 open access images of current fur farming operations were used as part of the research paper.

One Health is not a new concept, but it has become more recognised and understood in recent years. ACTAsia has been working tirelessly to promote a One Health concept and is delighted that research has been conducted into the impact of fur farming on One Health.

One Health is an approach that recognises that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment. To quote the World Health Organization (WHO):

‘One Health is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes. The areas of work in which a One Health approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonoses (diseases that can spread between animals and humans), and combating antibiotic resistance.’

“This report highlights the damaging impact of fur farming not only on animal welfare but also on human and environmental health,” – ACTAsia CEO and co-founder Pei Su.

Recommendations following the report

The study authors made the following recommendations:

  1. Animal welfare issues. Complete prohibition of fur farming is required in order to resolve inherent animal welfare problems.
  2. Zoonoses and public health issues. Intensive government mandated regular inspection and screening should be adopted for all animals and workers at fur farms for the presence of relevant (zoonotic or cross-species) pathogens, diseases, or toxic contaminants.
  3. Environmental issues. Existing fur farms should, under mandatory governmental conditions, adopt proper management and treatment of manure. Strict government approved biosecurity measures should be implemented to control escapes of potentially invasive species.
  4. Wider awareness should be raised regarding animal welfare, zoonoses and public health (including biosecurity), and environmental issues and risks associated with fur farming in order to further reduce product demands.
  5. International cooperation should be increased to develop consensus for a legal framework on fur farming consistent with the One Health umbrella.

ACTAsia’s Research into Fur Consumption

ACTAsia conducts regular consumer surveys regarding fur usage. This multi-billion-pound industry is still continuing despite increasing positive sentiment towards fur free campaigns around the globe. China is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of animal fur products, so tracking consumer habits in China provides a vital insight into the industry. 

ACTAsia recently published the findings of our Consumer Fur Survey results which is the most comprehensive survey of its kind regarding Chinese fur consumers since 2018.  The 2023 findings revealed concerning shifts in attitudes towards fur. 

The study’s findings have been transformed into 10 infographics to highlight the significant threat the global fur farming industry presents to human, animal and environmental health. ACTAsia’s research is vital in educating consumers and steering the industry towards a more compassionate and informed future.

Addendum:  

ACTAsia has recently signed an open letter written on behalf of the Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime, in collaboration with other members of the International Alliance against Health Risks in Wildlife Trade 

The letter urges states to “follow the scientific advice, and directly address spillover prevention – including the role of the wild animal trade and markets – within the new WHO Pandemic Agreement”. 

Intensive government mandated regular inspection and screening should be adopted for all animals and workers at fur farms for relevant (zoonotic or cross-species) pathogens, diseases, or toxic contaminants.

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Banner photo: Oikeutta Eläimille