Millions of animals suffer and die every year in Canada for the sake of the fashion industry. Whether they are furry animals farmed, trapped, or clubbed for their fur, birds who die for their down, cows killed for leather, or sheep sheared for wool, they all endure tremendous suffering for the sake of textiles.
Over four million animals are killed for their fur every year in Canada. To obtain fur animals like wolves, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, beavers, otters, and wolverines are trapped in the wild. Other animals like foxes and minks are raised in inhumane confinement conditions on large-scale factory fur farms.
Most fur worn these days is not the full-length fur coats that became unpopular decades ago; rather the fur industry has tricked consumers into wearing fur trim. It can be seen on the hoods of parkas or as dangling trinkets on accessories, and many people wrongly assume that the fur trim lining their hoods must be fake. The fur industry knows that consumers are wary of wearing fur, which is why it tries hard to market fur as “humane.” Yet fur industry practices are inherently inhumane. That’s why jacket manufacturer Canada Goose is currently the subject of a consumer protection investigation by federal advertising regulators for allegedly making false claims that their use of coyote fur is humane.
Trapping animals for their fur is an inherently violent practice that is as unnecessary as it is cruel. All body-gripping and snare traps are designed to hold or kill a wild animal who does not want to be caught. As such, many animals die trying to free themselves, as well as from dehydration, blood loss and hypothermia. Many animals become so desperate after being trapped that they resort to chewing or wringing off their own limbs in an attempt to escape, sometimes breaking teeth and bones in the process.
In Canada, traps are often left unchecked for days at a time. Regulated timeframes for checking traps vary depending on whether or not the trap is designed to restrain an animal (e.g. leg-hold traps) or designed to kill an animal (e.g. Conibear crush traps or snares). Although trappers must check restraining traps once every 24 hours in some provinces, there are no legal requirements to check restraining traps with regularity in other jurisdictions. This means animals can suffer indefinitely and even die from thirst, hunger, exposure, or predation.
Meanwhile, animals who are caught in so-called killing traps do not die immediately in many cases, and are often left to suffer for days at a time before traps are checked. Unlike restraining traps, killing traps often have no regulated timeframes in which they must be checked. As if this isn’t haunting enough, the trap-checking regulations that do exist are difficult to enforce due to the remote, wilderness conditions under which trapping and snaring occur, and the lack of enforcement personnel.
Shockingly, animals often suffer serious, painful injuries both in traps designed to restrain them and traps designed to kill them. Traps approved for use in Canada must meet only a minimal standard: a restraining trap will be approved if research shows that a mere 80 percent of animals caught in it do not show signs of poor animal welfare. This means 20 percent of animals in approved traps do show signs of poor welfare, including fractured bones, severed tendons or ligaments, bleeding, spinal cord injury, organ damage, or amputation.
Likewise, kill traps are legally approved for use in Canada if 80 percent of animals are killed within a species-specific time frame, ranging from 45 seconds to five minutes. This means that at least one in every five animals trapped may suffer a long, drawn-out death from painful injuries instead of dying instantly.
Snares are still used in Canada, despite being considered extremely inhumane by veterinarians and animal advocates. Snares are metal nooses that tighten around an animal’s leg or body for restraint, or kill an animal by strangulation. As the animal struggles to get free, the snare tightens. According to a government-funded body, “snares do not have the potential to consistently produce a quick death.”
In 2009 a reported 730,915 animals were trapped for their fur. On top of the animals the fur industry targets, untold “non-target” animals including endangered species and countless domestic dogs and cats are caught, maimed, and killed by these traps and snares every year.
More than three quarters of Canadian-produced fur comes from fur farms, where mink and foxes are forced to spend their entire lives confined in tiny, filthy wire cages, with no room to run, play or hide. As a result of their extreme confinement, these curious and playful animals routinely develop severe physical and psychological conditions, including deformed limbs, organ failure, depression, and cannibalism.
Undercover investigations into Canadian fur farms have revealed appalling conditions, with minks and foxes trapped in tiny cages in their own waste and among the decomposing bodies of their dead cage mates.
Even death is not kind to furbearing animals. Before their first birthday when the fur industry decides that their pelts are ready for “harvesting,” mink and foxes are typically killed by being gassed or anally electrocuted.
In 2014 a reported 3.4 million animals were killed on fur farms. Despite the millions of animals confined and killed for their fur every year, law enforcement officials often have limited ability to inspect fur farms and cruelty charges are almost unheard of.
The commercial seal hunt in Atlantic Canada is one of the largest slaughters of marine mammals anywhere on the planet. Every spring, sealers target baby seals, the vast majority of whom are less than three months of age and have not yet taken their first swim or eaten their first solid meal. These gentle babies are repeatedly bludgeoned to death with hakapiks, or else shot to death with high-powered rifles.
The seal kill is a hunt for fur and fur alone. Skinned seal carcasses are nearly all left to rot on the ice because there is no market for seal meat. And increasingly, countries around the world – including the U.S. and the entire E.U.—are closing their borders to seal fur, too, making the brutal seal kill less profitable every year.
Observers of the commercial seal hunt have consistently witnessed conscious seal pups impaled on hakapiks and dragged across the ice; wounded seal pups choking on their own blood and slipping below ice floes to drown; and live, conscious seal pups cut open and skinned.
Sealing is inherently inhumane due to the conditions under which it takes place—in remote, icy areas in the middle of the ocean with shifting ice floes and poor weather conditions. It is difficult and often impossible for sealers to quickly kill animals under these conditions, often resulting in suffering and slow deaths for the seal victims of this brutal kill. Because of the vast area in which sealing takes place, authorities are unable to effectively enforce the minimal humane killing standards that do exist.
The Canadian leather industry is a multi-million dollar enterprise that assists the cruel and inhumane factory farming system to generate more profits.
Most leather comes from cows who are slaughtered for food, including cows killed for beef, calves killed for veal, and cows used for dairy who are slaughtered when their bodies give out and they cease to be profitable as milk producers. Other animals like goats, pigs, and sheep may also be used for leather. Shoes, handbags, and belts are the most common products made from leather.
It’s easy to forget about the material inside the lining of a comforter or winter parka, but it’s important to remember that down is another byproduct of the factory farming industry and causes birds to suffer immensely.
Down is the soft, fluffy layer of feathers on geese and ducks that lays closest to their skin. Geese and ducks often endure painful live plucking for their feathers, sometimes becoming seriously wounded. And down that isn’t live-plucked is still generated by factory farming, including the foie gras and meat industry. Selling goose and duck down assists the meat industry to increase its profit margins.
Rabbits are gentle, social creatures who are often kept as cherished companions. They are also raised by the fashion industry for their hair and fur, doomed to spend their short lives in tiny hutches in factory farm-like conditions. Rabbits used for their hair endure painful hair-pulling or shearing procedures. There are hundreds of registered rabbit breeders in Canada.
Sheep are kind, sensitive, and social animals who are kept not only to be slaughtered for meat, but
also to be sheared for their wool. Sheep are typically sheared once per year, and the process of shearing is incredibly stressful for sheep and often painful; sheep risk serious injury while wool is being removed with sharp power tools. Undercover investigations into the wool industry have exposed workers abusing sheep—a common finding in any industry that reduces animals to commodities.