At last September’s board meeting of the Fur Commission USA, Executive Director and soul patch-wearer Michael Whelan lamented, “A lot of people aren’t sure if there’s still going to be ranching this time next year.”
CAFT USA ordinarily hesitates to praise Whelan in any capacity, but with the recent release of the USDA’s 2020 Agricultural Statistics Survey for Mink, we are overjoyed to give credit where it is due. The fur industry is in existential danger.
A race to the bottom
In 2020, mink production in the United States fell 49%, the largest change in recorded history. It fell to 1.4 million pelts, the lowest in recorded history. Nearly one and a half million minks were spared lives of misery and terror, as compared to the prior year.
Just one decade ago, in 2011, industry revenue was at an all-time high of $292 million. In 2020, it hit $47 million, its all-time low. In that period, the value of a mink pelt dropped from $94.30 to $33.70, beneath the cost of production for many farmers, who are operating at a loss, if they remain in business at all.
Setting the record straight
For decades, the fur industry has stumbled through a balancing act of its own lies. On the one hand, snowflake fur farmers howl about animal rights activists destroying their way of life. On the other, urban charlatans front a propaganda operation depicting fur as a trendy, thriving industry with a bright future.
But the current situation is so abysmal that even the goons at the Fur Commission and the American Fur Council can’t spin it. Since the numbers came out, they have been completely silent, aside from excusing themselves at work to cry in the office bathroom. In fact, the production statistics proudly displayed on the Fur Commission’s web homepage haven’t been updated since 2018.
Still, because lying is their raison d’être, it is inevitable that when asked by the historians (and psychopathologists) of the future, they will cite the global Covid-19 pandemic as the cause of their downfall. The truth is in the data. Production and revenue have been declining for years, with farmers across the country condemned to the tough justice of financial ruin. In 2019, the industry put 48% fewer female minks into breeding production than the year before. In other words, well before Covid hit, the fur industry was in free-fall.
In 2020, the number of female minks put into breeding production fell once again, by another 10%. This was in spite of the fact that fur farmers siphoned off millions of dollars of Covid relief money from public coffers to keep their failing operations afloat.
We have a message for these fur farmers: Wal-Mart is hiring.
A message for the movement
Our message to activists lies in movement history. In the early 1990s, activists made similar progress against fur, setting the prior record for decreased pelt production (-27%). With the exception of a few groups, a self-assured animal rights movement wrote the industry off as dead and shifted focus. The result was an industry comeback.
The takeaway is clear: the latest numbers are a call to action, not a case for apathy. What we are doing is working. We have the opportunity to literally end an entire sector of animal exploitation.
As stated by Whelan, the Fur Commission does “have the reserves to operate for another two years, probably, without any revenue. And we will continue to operate as long as we can, just like I know the ranchers want to continue to operate as long as they can.”
It is our job to make sure that they can’t.
Unfortunately, due to decreased supply, price per pelt is rising sharply, offering an opportunity for the industry to rebound. The way we stop this is to decrease demand – continuing to hammer the fashion retail sector.
In the fur industry, a trapper never takes his foot from the neck of an animal until they stop moving. Now is not the time to take our foot from the neck of the fur industry – it’s the time to press down harder, and do away with fur once and for all.