The best kept secret – fur is big business

The Toggler blog
Published:  10 March, 2014
The Toggler

I read that there are 1400 mink farms in Denmark. 6000 fur farms in Europe. 50-75 million fur animals harvested annually. There may be a billion rabbits slaughtered every year. I always thought the fur business was not much more than a cottage industry, but the numbers are so large – it needed checking. 

One source indicated that a million people are employed. Another interesting fact was that 85% of the fur animals are farmed (Nordic countries, China and the USA listed as higher volume producers). Different sources give similar data. What’s more the total fur business is worth $14bn in 2010 and maybe worth $15.6bn in 2013. These figures are staggeringly large and a surprise to me. The leather industry (through perceived wisdom) is a separate sector from the fur industry for the simple reason that leather is made from a by-product from the meat industry; fur is harvested from animals as the fur bearing skin and the meat is generally not used – quite a different scenario. The World Trade Organisation puts leather and fur in the same category so should we be concerned?

After Claudia Schiffer and friends posed without clothes under the strap line “We’d rather go naked than wear fur” and with a whole host of celebrities promoting negative propaganda regarding the use of fur, one could assume that the fur industry would be in decline or at best under stress. It is easy to find negative (and graphic) press on the internet to support the idea that the sector is under attack. Under attack, maybe, but the data seems to confirm that the industry is going from strength to strength. The sales data for 2010 indicates a 70% growth from 2000 and the figures for 2013 (up again from the 2010 data) might indicate that this positive growth is continuing.

The fur industry provokes a wide range of arguments; the negative eg the business is cruel (and there must be instances, it is easy to find disturbing images on the internet), and synthetic options are available. The “middling” eg an animal is not really concerned if it killed for food or its skin (it is still killed). And the positive eg the farming community generates 85% of the animals are well managed and legislated, this is a traditional industry providing gainful employment in environments that maybe too harsh to support other industries and so on. I don’t intend to jump off the fence; I am neither for nor against fur. I was genuinely surprised at just how large the sector is, and that it is growing. What I do think is that the fur sector has nothing to do with the leather sector and maybe it would be sensible to keep our distance, and make it clear that we are the leather sector.

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