Coronavirus fears as China plans to protect vast mink and fox fur industry from backlash at wildlife trade

Coronavirus fears as China plans to protect vast mink and fox fur industry from backlash at wildlife trade

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China is considering moves that would entrench its vast fur industry further into the country’s economy, raising worries over the spread of among animals crowded together in small spaces.

The country’s agriculture ministry is proposing to reclassify , raccoon dogs, silver foxes and blue foxes as domestic livestock, rather than wild animals, which they are now.

Animal-welfare lobbyists say the change is to protect the industry from the global pressure to end the farming of wild species because of the coronavirus pandemic.

China breeds and kills more than 50 million animals on fur farms a year, according to Humane Society International, which has written to President Xi Jinping objecting to the plan during its consultation phase.

The industry was worth 389 billion yuan (about £48bn) in 2016, according to a Chinese study.

The letter, seen by The Independent, points out that mink were recently found to be infected by at fur farms in the Netherlands, and raccoon dogs in a wildlife market in Shenzhen, China, were found to have been infected with Sars, also a type of coronavirus.

It says animals that are crowded together in unhygienic, cruel and stressful conditions such as fur farms are more susceptible to viral infection, and these “appalling conditions” are found across all sectors of the .

The letter adds: “Ending the trade in wildlife for all purposes, including , medicine and the tourism/pet sectors would substantially reduce the risk of another pandemic.”

Black and silver mink kits in a small cage at a fur farm in , Canada, 2014 Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory
A black mink chewing at the bars of their cage at a fur farm in British Columbia, Canada, 2014 Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory
Mink kits lying atop a dead mink in a nesting box at a fur farm in Sweden, 2010 Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurrattsalliansen
Mink crammed into a filthy cage at a fur farm in Quebec, Canada, 2014 Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory
Injured mink kits at a fur farm in Sweden, 2010 Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurrattsalliansen
A mink in small cage at a fur farm in British Columbia, Canada, 2014 Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory
Orylag rabbits at a fur farm in Vandre, France AFP/Getty
Mink living in cages over piles of feces at a fur farm in Sweden, 2010 Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurrattsalliansen
An employee carries a blue at a fur farm near Babino, a village in AFP/Getty
Fox cubs at a fur farm in Zhangjiakou, in China’s Hebei province AFP/Getty
An employee carries a blue fox at a fur farm near Lesino, a village in Belarus AFP/Getty
Several mink, silver and albino, crammed into a filthy cage at a fur farm in Quebec, Canada, 2014 Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory
Rows of filthy mink cages at a fur farm in Quebec, 2010. On a tip that the animals were being treated poorly, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the SPCA were granted a warrant to perform an inspection and seize animals from a fur farm in Quebec. They rescued and re-homed several animals, but had to euthanize many that were too sick, old, injured, dehydrated and starving. This seizure led to the first ever criminal charges against a fur farmer in Canada Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory
Pile of dead mink on old, broken cages behind a fur farm in Sweden, 2010 Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurrattsalliansen
Aerial view of a large fur farms in Nova Scotia, Canada Nova Scotia, Canada, 2014 Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory
Mink kits crammed in to a small cage at a fur farm in Sweden, 2010. The paper notes that there were ten in this cage and now two have died; eight remain Jo-Anne McArthur / Djurrattsalliansen
Aerial view of a large fur farms in Nova Scotia, Canada Aerial view of a large fur farms in Nova Scotia, Canada, 2014 Jo-Anne McArthur / #MakeFurHistory

A spokeswoman said: “The conditions on China’s fur farms are very similar to conditions observed in wildlife markets, and of course fur-bearing animals are also traded in wildlife markets.

“The fur trade represents an unacceptable risk considering the output is non-essential ‘fashion’.”

Dr Teresa Telecky, HSI vice-president of wildlife, said the reclassification was concerning. “Rebranding wildlife as livestock doesn’t alter the fact that there are insurmountable challenges to keeping these species in commercial captive breeding environments, and that their welfare needs simply can’t be met.

“In addition, there’s clear evidence that some of these species can act as intermediate hosts of viruses, such as Covid-19, which is why we’re urging governments around the world to stop trading in wildlife.”

Peter Li, a China policy expert, said the country’s industry reportedly employed 7.6 million people but the number could be inflated as he estimated at least half of those were part-time or seasonal workers or hired by the hour.

The number of mink, raccoon dogs and foxes farmed in China has been falling as the market has shrunk ⁠— down from 87 million animals in 2014 to 50.45 million animals in 2018. Footage has shown animals in a state of distress from being permanently confined to small cages.

Most in modern times, from the 1918 flu pandemic onwards, have had animal origins, and can also infect other species.

China’s public consultation closed on Friday and agriculture chiefs will consider the responses.

The Independent is campaigning for tougher regulation of the world’s wildlife trade and an end to live-slaughter markets at the centre of the pandemic.

Lead Image Source: A fox at a fur farm in Pushkino, Russia – AFP/Getty

This article was first published by The Independent on 11 May 2020.

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Irene Leggett
Irene Leggett

Once again that vile, depraved country CHINA is hitting the headlines. These heartless, gutless, soul-less masses have been abusing, torturing, and killing many animals for their fur. These sick masses kill dogs and cats as well for their fur and MOST of the animals are skinned whilst they are STILL ALIVE AND CONSCIOUS. This truly is a nation that is at the bottom of the cess-pit for cruelty, brutality and depravity. Shame on ALL who work in this torturous industry and all who wear fur, skin and feathers. Animals NEED their fur, skin and feathers, we DON’T….

Arlene Steinberg
Arlene Steinberg

No one in their right mind is fool enough to try to justify the fur industry.

Arlene Steinberg
Arlene Steinberg

I suggest that you take a walk to Oz and ask the wizard to give you a brain and a heart, both of which you clearly lack. No matter by what method, and NONE of it is humane, these animals are killed for frivolous items that can be obtained from man-made sources or are not necessary at all.

Lynne Morrissey

Cant let excuse to cause pain and suffering to the defenseless
And oppressing the Tibetans. Lowrst forms of subhumans.

Janice Chapman

Def boycott

Eve Ross-Donohoe

it’s NOT an industry. These are living, feeling beings. Just stop.Boycott. Boycott. Boycott.

Eve Prussner

No, there isn’t. As long as you enjoy seeing animals skinned alive, and tortured their entire lives. You are either a troll, or a person who wears fur. Either way, your statement tells everyone exactly what kind of a person you are.

Arlene Steinberg
Arlene Steinberg

FYI – The troll has been reported and removed.

I am a good person
I am a good person

What did the troll say?

Kathy Lawrence

all countries stop this! its cruel and wrong. wild life are not on earth for this torture! No soul in men, animals have souls. The natives had more respect at one time than these assholes do now. Once again Thanks for the covid you bastards!


If people stopped wearing fur, then there would be absolutely no need for fur farms. The buck stops with the consumer. Stop giving these barbarians reasons to keep these wild animals in captivity to provide the fashion world and consumers with the opportunity to wear a dead animal skin. It’s outrageous.

Berry Robin

It’s like they’re not even human. I mean you figure a culture that thinks it’s okay to boil cats and dogs alive to eat them would be the type of people to spread this Chinese virus yes I say it came from China it’s not Prejudice but it did come from China LOL. There’s not a question in my mind that they did this on purpose cuz they did not like the tariffs and the fact that they were getting less powerful

Lynne Morrissey

O think they are getting more powerful as not one country challenges them
They must know they are now the most hated country In the world for a number of reasons, not least of all animal torture, the corona virus, and their oppression and torture of Tibetans, but they seem to enjoy that fact

Maureen Jones

Berry Robin yes and many people said that right in the beginning.

Linda George

Berry Robin Absolutely.

Maxine Sheehan

This country should be making financial reparation to anyone, worldwide who has lost a loved one. This is at the very least the 3rd pandemic that has come out of that hell hole. Hit them where it hurts, in the pocket. They will and do ignore anything else. FYI I haven’t lost anybody, thank God, so I wouldn’t benefit.

Sara Leonard

Trying very hard to not buy things from or support China. Not easy, its everywhere.

Marilyn R. Meier Obrien

Michelle Powers Well said!

Nancy Collins


Karen Lyons Kalmenson

Fur belongs on whom it was born not by the vain and frivolous worn

Heidrun Baar

The industry kills 50 Millions animals for Fur per year. THE CHINESE ARE A SICK DEPRAVED RACE.

Janet Kenedy

Quebec are as Notorious as well. They never believed in the need for any Animal Rescue Associations either. There had to be signatures sent to the Feds in hopes of having an SPCA there.

Willy Frans Devoldere

nogmaals een poging geld te schooien

Robert Piller
Robert Piller

We are producing a China File. This link will be included in it. Out at the end of the month.

Ai Nicole

Tell you what dude, China is going to discuss about banning wild life trade completely next week, and their president is the one propose that which means 99% possibility could make it. Stop demonizing China or u will embarrass yourself

Robert Piller
Robert Piller

China Kills!!! Get the message ‘dude.’

Janet Kenedy

China Kills Anything!!! that…..Walks-Crawls- Slithers-Swims-or Blinks!!!.

Diane Pizza

China kills- everything!

Lesley Blaylock Roberts

A country that cannot be trusted and still barbaric.

Linda George


Maureen Jones

Horrible thing to do to animals. God will punish.

Sue Curtis