Terrified animals are being kept in tiny cages, electrocuted in agony and then skinned in front of their still-living cage mates at fur farms in China.
Investigators exposed horrifying scenes at 13 farms in northern China that they visited last year and which were raising raccoon dogs, foxes and mink for their fur.
They found workers ignoring basic guidelines for raising and slaughtering the animals, exposing them to torment and stress, along with painful deaths.
Staff also ignored Covid guidelines, risking outbreaks and mutations by exposing animals which can contract the virus to infection.
Activists uncovered horrifying scenes at 13 fur farms in northern China between November and December last year as thousands of foxes, raccoon dogs and mink were slaughtered
Raccoon dogs and foxes were found inside tiny wire cages that provide little protection from the elements and no stimulation while they wait to be slaughtered
Animals were filmed pacing and making repetitive movements, which is a sign of stress and trauma due to the conditions they are being kept in
Workers at the farms also failed to follow Covid safety precautions – which is particularly concerning since they were rearing mink (pictured) which are susceptible to infection
One farmer even claimed that the meat from slaughtered animals is being sold to nearby restaurants and served to unsuspecting diners, putting them at risk.
The investigation was carried out by Humane Society International as part of its #FurFreeBritain campaign, calling on the UK to end the import of fur from overseas.
Animal workers visited 13 farms spread across north and northeastern China between November and December 2020, though did not reveal exactly where they are located to protect their investigators.
Two of the farms were classed as large institutions, meaning they house more than 1,000 animals each, while the rest were ‘medium-sized’, meaning up to 500 animals.
Roughly 80 per cent of those animals will be killed each year, between November and December once they have grown to size.
The remaining 20 per cent will be kept as breeding stock. That means, of the farms investigators visited, at least 5,600 animals were slaughtered over two months.
Video taken at some of the farms reveals foxes, raccoon dogs and ferrets kept in tiny wire cages that are barely big enough for them to stand or walk around in.
The animals are deprived of all stimulation, with only a water and food bowl stuck through the bars of the cage, and nothing else to keep them occupied.
Footage reveals the animals howling, pacing in their cages, and making repetitive movements which are a sign of trauma and distress.
Animals were inexpertly electrocuted – leaving them writhing in agony and suffering prolonged and painful deaths instead of being knocked out
A fox is seen inside its bare wire cage with the only stimulation being a bowl of food poking through the bars before being slaughtered
Of the 13 farms investigators observed, they are thought to have slaughtered at least 5,600 animals between November and December
A mink is seen in a bare wire cage at one of the fur farms before being taken to be slaughtered
Workers are then captured electrocuting the animals – a method of slaughter that is meant to guarantee the most humane death by knocking them unconscious while stopping their hearts.
But staff at the farms administer the jabs in a haphazard way, randomly stabbing animals in their bodies before passing a high-voltage current through them.
Professor Alastair MacMillan, a vet who advises HSI, said the method bypasses the animal’s brain – leaving them fully conscious while they are given the shocks.
Instead of passing out the animals are stunned and suffer prolonged and agonising deaths as their hearts shut down, similar to suffering a series of heart attacks.
The dead animals are then skinned in full view of their still-living cage-mates, causing further distress to the animals.
China is home to the largest fur producing industry in the world, rearing 14 million foxes, 13.5 million raccoon dogs and 11.6 million mink in 2019 including for export overseas to countries including the United Kingdom.
The carcasses of dead animals are piled up in front of their still-living cage mates to be skinned
The pelts of some of the foxes are displayed before being sold. The UK imports some £5.3million worth of fur from China each year
In 2019 the UK imported £5.3million of fur from China alone, and over the past five years imported furs worth £25.5million.
The top five countries exporting furs to the UK in terms of volume are Italy, France, China, Turkey and the United States.
Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, said: ‘This is the sickening reality of life and death for animals on fur farms, a million miles from the glamorous image the fur trade tries to portray.
‘It is heartbreaking to know that the first and only time these raccoon dogs see the world outside of their cage is the moment they are wrenched from it with the agony of a high voltage electric shock paralysing their bodies.
‘In addition to the cramped conditions, our investigators also witnessed an almost total lack of disease control and health protection measures on fur farms, which is extremely worrying considering that mink, raccoon dogs and foxes are all capable of contracting coronaviruses.
‘The UK imports millions of pounds worth of fur from China as well as many other countries, and there is absolutely nothing to stop fur from farms just like those we filmed at from being sold in UK shops and webstores.’