Impact on rural areas

Intensive fur farms produce tons of manure, producing greenhouse emissions, nutrients flows, loss of biodiverstiy and attracting armies of flies. Waste runoff from intensive fur factory farms is a major pollution problem, contaminating soil and waterways.

Protests of rural communities against the negative impact of fur factory farms on their regions are common around the globe. Complaints by local residents centre on issues as smell, flies, noise and water pollution, disrupting rural life and lowering property values and tourism revenues.

Exploitation

To increase low-cost production, the fur industry targets countries where environmental regulations are weak and enforcement is less strict. Johan Kaarens, one of the first mink breeders to invest in Poland in 2000, typically said:

‘People accept you here. In The Netherlands you are starting to feel more and more like a criminal.’

Foreign investors set out to exploit countries with poor economies, such as Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, by building intensive fur factory farms in rural areas, degrading local ecosystems and village life.

Over 90% of fur produced in Poland is exported to foreign markets. Barbara Skubiszewska, resident of Bronowice, a rural village where one of Europe’a largest mink fur farms was built in 2015, said:

‘Polish women can’t afford these coats. What we can afford, though, is to smell the stench coming from the farm, and to put up with flies.’

Waste pollution

Fur farms worldwide are consistently reported to violate environmental regulations. Manure, extra feed and carcasses get thrown into wetlands while run-off from fur farms seeps into watersheds.

In 2015, following complaints from Lithuanian residents of the intensively fur farmed district Siauliai, 31 local fur production facilities were inspected. Alarmingly, each of the 31 fur farms were found in breach of waste disposal regulations and causing severe ecological damage. A follow-up investigation in the same region in 2016, reported 12 out of 19 fur factory farms in violation of environmental regulations.

Mrs. Nijole, resident of Smilgiai, a Lithuanian village with 8 fur farms within a 3 km radius, said:

‘Since the establishment of the fur farm we noticed not only the increase in the number of flies but also other pests – we’re unable to manage the mice at home (…) Our entire village has a negative opinion about the farm!”

The nearest neighbors (approx. 100 meters from the fur farm) of fur breeder Kęstutis Riškus said that their house stands without selling:

‘Who would want to buy real estate in such an area?’

It’s terrible, in the summer, with the heat. There are so many flies. You can not open the windows, they are closed all the time.

Citizens' protests

Between 2012 and 2017, 141 protests of local residents against fur farms were reported in Poland, world’s third largest producer of fur pelts.

Since the emergence of intensive fur factory farms in the Polish rural district of Gmina Zorowina, local residents are publicly speaking out against the negative impact of the farms on local communities. Maciej Zatonski, a local resident of Wegry, was appalled to find out about the large-scale mink breeding facility built near his village by the Dutch-Polish breeder Far-ko, a company controversial for violating environmental regulations in Poland:

The sickening stench is detectable as far as several kilometres away from the fur farm.

Audits conducted in 2011 and 2014, by the Polish governmental Supreme Audit Office (NIK), reported 15 out of 20 farms in breach of environmental requirements, such as provisions of the Water Resources Act, causing a direct risk of groundwater contamination.

  • Rufin Bostyn (67), resident of Flanders, Belgium (2013)

    'I am here for the residents of South Flanders. I might not have protested a small mink farm, but this mammut will make the area unliveable. We can not tolerate it.’

  • Jerry Byrne, chair of the Trinity Bay South Environmental Committee, Canada (2017)

    'It's been a real problem in the area. Not just for the businesses in the area, but the flies and the smells have really been egregious at times.'

  • Barbara Skubiszewska, resident of Bronowice, Poland (2015)

    'Polish women can’t afford these coats. What we can afford, though, is to smell the stench coming from the farm, and to put up with flies.'

Water pollution

Nutrients in manure runoff from fur factory farms leads to growth of toxic algea in waterways, causing loss of biodiversity and rendering lakes unswimmable. When algae blooms occur, it limits the amount of oxygen for other aquatic species and causes dead zones.

Mink farms are the most likely source of water quality problems in nine Canadian lakes in western Nova Scotia, according to an Acadia University report released by the province’s Environment Department in 2012. According to the report, by Mike Brylinsky of the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research, water quality surveys carried out between 2008 and 2012 showed lakes within the watersheds to be seriously degraded:

“primarily with respect to high nutrient over-enrichment resulting in the development of high algal concentrations.”

Canada produces around three million pelts a year, of which half come from Nova Scotia, a maritime province on the Atlantic coast. The pelts are mainly sold to China, Russia and South Korea.

Debbie Hall, a resident on Lake Fanning in Nova Scotia, said:

“We used to think of the classic cliché of fun at the lake, running and jumping off the dock. Now there are massive blooms from late May until November and when they die off, the bacterial decomposition uses up all the oxygen and we end up with huge dead zones.”

Colleen McGill, a Nova Scotian resident protesting building plans of a mink factory farm in her street, said:

“We want to ensure that neighbouring property owners don’t lose the use of their land or their quality of life through odours and flies. And we also want to protect our farmland from operations that do not support buy local, eat local. You can’t eat a mink. You don’t buy mink coats from these people. … In the true sense of farming, it’s not a farm.”