The other side of the coin

Learn facts about Finnish fur farming that rarely reaches the news. These are facts that live in the shadow of sensationalism. On this site the responsible breeders themselves get to speak up and they get a chance to show everyone what life at a fur farm is really like.

Special report: Intrusions at fur farms in Finland – concerned breeders interviewed

Fur farmer about the intrusion:
“Comparable to someone breaking into my home”

Ostrobothnia

A British journalist, possibly accompanied by others, recently unlawfully entered a fur farm with almost 13 000 animals in Ostrobothnia, Finland. The act violates Finnish law. The journalist arrived at night and equipped with lights he filmed and photographed the animals using a flash.

The fur farmer experiences the incident as offensive and alarming. When an outsider unlawfully enters a farm, animals might deviate from normal behaviour, stress is a natural reaction in these cases. It’s very probable that the injuries and the behaviour the journalist surreptiously photographed is a sign of stress among the animals.

The incident also entails a risk of the highly infectious mink virus, plasmacytosis, spreading among the animals. The fur farm in Ostrobothnia was at least previously completely free from the virus. A person carelessly going from farm to farm might carry the infection with them and easily transfer the blood disease to healthy animals. This is the reason why protective wear such as shoe covers are always worn on normal visits to a fur farm. If the fur farm has been infected with plasmacytosis the business owner could experience a financial loss of up to half a million euros.

South Ostrobothnia

In the beginning of October, a fur farm in South Ostrobothnia discovered they had had nightly intruders. A group of people with a flashlight walked around the farm surreptitiously photographing the animals. The infringement violates Finnish law.

The breeder says the incident has made him lose sleep. It’s an uneasy situation. He knows that the farm and the animals are to be taken care of in the best way possible, and now someone’s accusing him of not doing so. Every day he makes sure things at the farm are in order. Of course an animal can suddenly fall ill, and it’s not necessarily noticed immediately, but as soon as it is, the animal will receive treatment.

The incident also makes the breeder worry about the animals since they seem stressed, restless and are acting in a disturbing manner.

Hear the fur farmer share his experience of the event in the video.

Q&A

Ask us, we answer

Why is it possible that sick animals might be found on a fur farm?

Animals can get sick just like us humans. However, care is always available. We visit the doctor and the fur animal is examined by a veterinarian. A sick animal may already be medicated or treated, you would never be able to tell from a photograph. A certified fur farm has very likely already contacted a veterinarian or the treatment has already begun. With this in mind, photographing sick animals and spreading the photos in order to blame fur farmers and stain the trade feels quite unfair.

How do the animals react to unexpected situations?

The animals are familiar with the farmer who cares for them daily. Sudden, unexpected events can cause stress reactions and the animals might start to behave completely differently. In such cases, it has been found that the animals e.g. can attack other animals or harm themselves as a result of being frightened.

A stress-free environment is important for the animals. Visits to fur farms should always be agreed in advance with the farmer. Many farmers will gladly accept visitors to show them around, answer questions and share details about the everyday life on a farm.

Always visit farms during day and according to agreement – never in the darkness of night, agonizing the animals.

Why shouldn’t outsiders enter the animal housing without the breeder’s allowance?

The highly infectious virus plasmacytosis composes a big risk at mink farms. When outsiders carelessly go from farm to farm they might carry the easily transmittable disease with them and this can have catastrophic consequences for the fur animals’ health. At large farms the disease might cause substantial financial loss and the treatment procedure as well as monitoring and testing take time. This is why fur farmers have to be very cautious when letting people enter the animals’ shelter houses. It’s not a question of them trying to hide something – they’re only protecting the animals’ health and well-being.

Are the fur animals able to exercise species-typical behaviour?

Yes, for instance, stimulating toys and shelves for the animals to lie on are part of the everyday life on farms. Minks always have access to a den and foxes have access to a den for large parts of their life cycles. The animals also keep each other company, during parts of the life cycle the animal lives with its mother or its siblings. In addition to the shelf, foxes in particular use the den’s roof as a lookout. Even the small fox puppies can climb up on the shelf by using the wall netting as a ladder. On a lot of mink farms, they use so called climbing cages where the animals can move between two partially overlapping cages.

The animal bedding in the minks’ den is not just there for the sake of cleanliness and heat regulation, it also gives important stimulus. Some minks work hard to arrange the bedding in a certain manner, while others hardly care to take it out of the den. Stimulating chewing blocks are found in the fox and finnraccoon’s cages. Particularly puppies enjoy gnawing on these when they’re losing their milk teeth.

Why is it possible to come across dead animals on a farm?

Animals on farms can die just as well as animals in nature. Even if you find 4 dead animals on a farm, like the journalist did on the farm in Ostrobothnia, these 4 animals only make out about 0,033 % out of 12 000, which is the total population. In other words, the death rate was very low in comparison to the general statistics of the livestock industry. The death of an animal rarely relates to any remarkable cause. Why the media reports about these occurrences surprises those who work with the animals every day.

Why are fur animals bred in cages?

Breeding in cages and the size of the cages is based on research. Even if fur animals in nature move around a lot, there’s always a reason for them doing so, such as looking for food or finding a suitable partner to mate with. These needs are fulfilled on the farms in the breeding cages. All fur animals live in a world of scents and the open shelter house makes it possible for them to explore the surrounding smells.

Why is the cage floor made from netting?

There have been attempts to breed fur animals in cages with dirt floors, but for the sake of animal health a switch to netting floors was made. A dirt floor promotes pathogens and parasites and quickly becomes unhygienic. For example, the mink virus plasmacytosis can be found in the ground and can potentially be passed on to another farm via a visitor’s shoes. This is why fur farms have hygiene regulations.

What do fur animals eat?

The fur animal feed primarily consists of by-products from the fish and meat industry as well as trash fish caught in the Baltic sea or in lakes. The animal feed formula and its energy amount varies depending on season and depending on the animals’ developmental phase. Small puppies have other needs than adult breeding animals. In cold weather the amount of energy is increased and in hot weather it’s decreased.

A well-managed farm ensures the industry’s future

A well-managed farm is a matter of dignity, Finnish fur animals are in good health. To monitor, regulate and develop the fur industry, a system of certification is used. A fur farm that’s been certified needs to meet certain criteria and the production must be carefully documented and transparent. A majority of Finnish fur farms are nowadays certified. This ensures that the animals’ health and wellbeing are in order, as well as the breeding conditions.

The fur farms are regularly audited and it’s in the breeder’s own interest to manage the farm in the best way possible in order to keep the certification. A lost certificate can mean substantial financial loss since the Finnish fur auction house Saga Furs Plc only sells fur from certified Finnish farms. This poses a risk no farmer wants to take.

A fur farm business is often passed on to the next generation, therefore it would be very strange if someone deliberately risked both their own and the following generation’s source of income. Unfortunately, only the remarkable exceptions reach the news and even then the public rarely gets the whole truth. The industry is in general very well-managed.

Still questioning fur farming?

A critical mindset is good – that’s what brought you here. If you’re still questioning fur farming, here are some things to keep considering after you’ve left this page.

Fur is an organic, recyclable and sustainable natural product. Fur products last for generations and, unlike clothing of plastic origin, real fur molders when you’ve discarded it. The durable fur coat is a better choice for the environment and a counterweight to our wear and tear culture. It’s also a necessary garment in our climate.

The fur industry in Finland is doing well. Many farms are family businesses and the trade is often passed on to the next generation. Today’s young farmers have a positive outlook on the industry’s future. The fur industry helps vitalize the countryside and the tax income from the farms contribute to financing education and elderly care. It creates summer jobs and provides young people and immigrants with work experience.

Fur farming is possibly Finland’s most eco-friendly industry. Everything is recycled – nothing goes to waste. Even the animal droppings are utilized. Sulphur-free biodiesel is made from animal fat and fur animal feed is produced using fish waste. At the same time the industry is doing the Baltic Sea a big favour since one of the substances causing eutrophication, phosphorus, is removed through fishing. By-products from the fish and meat industry are also utilized in the fur animal feed, these are ingredients not consumed by humans.

Trust true facts and share it with others.