: Investigation

Severe animal cruelty on Polish fur farms revealed

7 DECEMBER 2016 – For two months, an employee of a fur farm in Masanów, Poland, observed and recorded his everyday work, which included numerous cases of cruelty to animals. The farm breeds over 80,000 American minks each year, and in autumn they are killed and skinned for fur. The recordings from the investigation have now been published by Open Cages.

The shocking video reveals numerous cases of cruel handling of animals: the beating of minks by angry employees, throwing them against walls, trampling them during their escape attempts or tossing them into cages by the tail.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Note the video contains graphic scenes.

The recordings document the large amount of animals that are sick and left without any care. Some minks are partly paralyzed and have visible bloody wounds with protruding bones or hatching larvae. The former employee says that the only thing that can be done is to move the animals to separate cages or use a disinfectant:

“There is a special spray that can be used on sick minks, but in practice no one uses it because the system has no room for treatment. It’s all about the fur, not the animal. The hardest parts were witnessing the murder of animals and the senseless violence. The minks held in cages scream and squeal. For some workers, this is enough to beat them.”

Each day, workers remove dozens of dead minks from cages. The bodies of some of them show deep, painful wounds and severe damage. Paweł Rawicki from Open Cages, says:

“The recordings debunk one of the biggest myths of the fur industry – that the breeders take proper care of the minks because otherwise their fur would be of no use to them. As you can see, it’s not true.”

Animals that don’t make it to the autumn slaughter are skinned anyway, which can also be witnessed in the video by the former employee.

Cruelty polish fur farm

The farm is operated by Farm Equipment International and is part of the Dutch fur empire owned by the Leeijen brothers, who are said to be the biggest providers of mink furs in the world. The company owns 14 farms all around Poland and is only one of many Dutch businesses that are investing in the Polish fur industry. Due to a complete ban on fur farming in the Netherlands, leading fur makers are currently moving their operations to Poland and Lithuania.

This is not the first case of cruel animal mistreatment revealed to be taking place on this company’s farms. On 6th November 2016, two employees of a Farm Equipment International facility in Giżyn received a sentence of six months’ imprisonment suspended for a 2-year trial period. Recordings of animal rights activists from ‘Szczecińska Inicjatywa na Rzecz Zwierząt BASTA!’ show the employees as they brutally throw minks into gas chambers, hit them against cages and beat them severely.

Cruelty polish fur farm

On 15th November 2016, Open cages petitioned the Polish members of Parliament for the ban of canid fur farming, which includes foxes as well as racoon dogs. The petition has been signed by 120,000 people. It is the first step in the direction of ending the suffering of millions of creatures in these facilities, leading to a complete ban of fur farming of any kind of animals.

The petition to stop animal cruelty on Polish fur farms can be signed here.


High level of violations revealed on Norwegian fur farms

OSLO, 27 OCTOBER 2016 – Norwegian fur farms are facing a highly uncertain future after repeated reports of negligence and injured animals in recent years. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) states their inspectors were shocked by high level of violations and injuries on Norwegian fur farms during recent inspections. This week Norwegian Fur Free Alliance member NOAH delivered a petition to the Ministry of Agriculture of 143000 signatures of Norwegians that favour a phasing-out of fur farms in Norway.

Injured mink

Now state regulators have found more suffering minks, and say it’s difficult to secure animal welfare at the farms. Torunn Knævelsrud, chief of the animal welfare division at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, says:

‘When there’s been so much attention paid to the injured animals that have been found, it’s sad that we continue to uncover so many serious cases.’

One mink nearly skinned itself alive
New figures from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority show violations in nearly half of the inspections conducted, despite all the harsh criticism that’s been directed at the industry not only from animal rights activists but also from government officials and Members of Parliament. Many of the violations are technical in nature, but inspectors remain shocked by the animal injuries and neglect they continue to find.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that five recent cases highlight “serious negligence” on the part of the fur farmers involved. One of them, located in Rogaland County, was fined NOK 30,000 after several of his caged minks were found with such large open sores that they had to be put to death at the scene.

According to the inspectors’ report obtained by NRK, the Rogaland fur farmer was charged with a lack of supervision of his animals, including one that had crawled into a plastic pipe and all but skinned itself alive in its efforts to free itself. “You had not seen that this mink was stuck in a pipe before Mattilsynet came for inspection, even though the extent of the injuries indicate that it had been stuck for many days,” wrote the inspector:

“We also point out that we found several of your animals with extensive sores that hadn’t been attended to (…) you have not followed up on your sick and injured animals in a good manner (…) you have shown a lack of empathy.”

The fur farmer denies he’s guilty of cruelty to animals and his attorney told NRK he will likely appeal the fine.

Fur farmers on the defensive

The fur farmers’ trade association and lobbying group, Pelsdyralslaget, also defends its members, claiming that many farmers have improved their practices and that most violations involve “technical deficiencies.” The group’s communications chief, Guri Wormdal, argues that animal welfare is no worse within fur farming than other farming operations. “We are also inspected the most often by Mattilsynet,” Wormdal told NRK.

The fur industry has been given many chances to reform and improve operations, and major state reviews have been undertaken, but now its fate is more uncertain than ever.

The state agriculture ministry is due to deliver its assessment to Parliament this fall, which is expected to determine whether the ministry will allow yet another chance for “sustainable development” or order a phase-out over the next several years. Many politicians, including several from the government parties, are already supporting the latter option. The opposition Labour Party has also supported a phase-out of the controversial industry.

New trapping investigation reveals cruel, illegal trapping

USA, 26 SEPTEMBER 2016 – The ruthlessness of trapping in the United States is once again confirmed by a new undercover trapping investigation released early this month. The investigation “Victims of Vanity II” was led by Fur Free Alliance member Born Free USA and shows the extreme pain and suffering caused by the trapping of animals for unnecessary luxury products as fur. While more than 80 countries have already banned leghold traps, the United States continues to allow the use of these cruel devices.

(Warning: graphic footage)

The investigation highlights include:

Trapping on protected lands: The investigator of Born Free USA followed a trapper in Adirondack Park in upstate New York as he caught beavers and set traps for other furbearing animals. One beaver, caught in a Conibear trap, had the jaws slam on his abdomen, leading to a cruel drowning death.

Illegal trapping: The trapper broke several state trapping regulations in Adirondack Park, including damaging beaver dams and placing large Conibear traps on land.

Cruelty: The investigator followed a second trapper in Iowa. Here, two coyotes in leghold traps had fully exhausted themselves in their desperate attempts to escape. The trapper kicked one victim, laughed at the other, then shot both coyotes in the lungs to preserve their pelts for sale.

These animals were forced to suffer and die just to supply the fur industry. Nothing is worth this torture – especially not ‘luxury’ items. Don’t buy fur, and don’t shop at stores that sell fur! Instead, support the more than 400 retailers that have joined the Fur Free Retailer Program.

Read the full Victims of Vanity II report.

Trapping 26866915821_28e888431f_k

Shocking abuses revealed on Lithuanian mink farm

LITHUANIA – 17 SEPTEMBER 2016 – A recent investigation on a Lithuanian mink farm in August revealed serious violations of environmental and animal welfare laws. The undercover footage, that was conducted by Lithuanian Fur Free Alliance member Open Cages in August, showed gravely injured animals, dead animals burned on trash piles and improperly handled manure. Gabrielė Vaitkevičiūtė, the head of the Lithuanian branch of Open Cages, says:

‘Probably the most shocking finding is that the State Food and Veterinary Service is not checking farms as often as they claim and that they apparently warn farmers prior to every inspection. They are supposed to regularly inspect farms and make sure animal welfare standards are implemented. As they weren’t, it is not entirely surprising that injured animals were not being treated, and animals with stereotypy were not taken care of as the law prescribes’

Watch the undercover footage here:

The farm was inspected by both the regional Food and Veterinary Service and the Environmental Protection Department. The Environmental Protection Department confirmed the mink farm was in violation of the law, while the Veterinary Service workers were not willing to comment on the inspection at all. Gabrielė Vaitkevičiūtė says:

‘The investigated farm has about 30 000 minks. Two Veterinary Inspection officers spent less than 2 hours inside, that means less than half of the second could be spent inspecting one animal. We seriously question the quality of such inspection, mainly because to observe a stereotypy it takes more than half of the second and injured animals usually might try to hide their wounds. Also, we know for sure that some cages in the farm were less than 30 cm in width which is illegal and to measure two sheds with these cages would also take them a lot of time’

The abuses revealed by the undercover investigation:

– Sick animals are not treated.
When asked, what should be done about a seriously injured animal the worker was told that there is nothing to be done about it. A week later the mink died.

Dead animals are burned with trash.
The farm had already paid a fine for this type of infringement some time ago but it seems that fines are not having any effect. The fur breeders seem to knowingly continue violating the law.

– Manure is not properly taken care of.
Manure under the cages formed cesspools after some rainy days. This is not allowed according to 2 different laws, not to mention it is an ideal environment for diseases to spread.

– Workers are not qualified to work with minks.
We have recorded one worker hitting a mink because she wanted to take its dead counterpart out of the cage. Workers seem to not know anything about stereotypy; moreover, they seem to neither know nor care that the mink breeding regulations require to adjust the conditions for animals with stereotypy so that their welfare is improved.

– Minks have been noted to escape cages and sometimes even get out of the farm territory.
Canadian mink is an invasive species in Lithuania and may pose a threat to the local ecosystem. We have documented at least two minks escaping the territory of the farm during 10 days of filming. There were many more who escaped cages during that time.

Please sign the online petition for a fur farming ban in Lithuania.




Polish zoo adopts injured fox rescued from fur farm

POLAND, 12 SEPTEMBER 2016 – After a recent veterinary inspection a gravely injured silver fox was taken away from a Polish fur farm in Chodzież. The rescued fox, named Ferdinand, was examined by University Centre of Veterinary Medicine clinic in Poznań and found to suffer from grave skin problems and serious injuries. In an unexpected turn of events, the Poznań zoo – appalled to hear about Ferdinand’s condition –  offered to adopt the injured fox and take care of him for the rest of his life.

Ferdinand rescued fox

Watch the rescue operation by Fur Free Alliance member Otwarte Klatki here:

Exactly one year ago, in a similar rescue operation, Otwarte Klatki intervened when they found two extremely wounded young fox cubs during an inspection on a fur farm.  The fox cubs, named Hansel and Gretel, were hardly two months old and were both missing limbs. Injuries are unfortunately commonplace on fur farms. Animals kept on fur farms are wild predators and keeping them in small, wire mesh cages results in a number of stress-related health problems – as infected wounds, self-mutilation, bent feet and eye infections.

Similar to fur from Scandinavian and American fur farms, fur from Polish fur farms is sold as Origin Assured fur, a certificate that is supposed to reassure consumers about animal welfare regulations being in place. Fact is, Origin Assured does not give any guarantees regarding the standard of animal welfare on fur farms. After inspection it became clear that the fur farm in Chodzież was not even registered.

Watch more videos about Hansel and Gretel here:




Mink fur farm in Flanders shuts down

27 JUNE 2016,  BELGIUM – Last February, Belgian animal protection organisation GAIA together with sister organisations Animal Rights, Bite Back, Stop Dierenmishandeling and Animaux en Péril protested to demand the closure of the local fur farm in Langemark. Undercover footage from Animal Rights revealed neglected, injured and shrieking, agonized mink in deplorable conditions in the former brick-yard at Langemark.

Fur farm in Flanders shuts down

At the end of 2012, the owner of the mink farm was granted an environmental permit to expand the farm by the then current minister, Joke Schauvliege (CD&V), notwithstanding a formal appeal submitted by GAIA together with local citizens, and notwithstanding a refusal by the Belgian Conseil d’Etat.

A survey conducted by research bureau IPSOS in 2015, clearly shows that 85% of the Flemish population are in favour of a definite ban on fur farms.

“One mink farm less”, states Michel Vandenbosch, President of GAIA.  GAIA, as did the CD&V at an earlier stage, indicates that there is scarce public support of the slaughter of mink for fur.

GAIA will continue to fight for a total ban on fur farming in Flanders.  Although the owner of the mink farm in Langemark has decided to cease his activities, 16 fur farms still remain in operation in Flanders today.

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