The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Time To End Species-Endangering Fur Industry

DEAR READERS: Anti-fur demonstrations need to make a comeback, considering the rising demand for such animal products -- especially in Asian countries, which now receive much of what is “harvested” in North America and Europe.

Hundreds of thousands of caged mink have been destroyed in several countries because they contracted the COVID-19 virus from infected workers. These mink then infected other workers, along with cats and wildlife near some of the fur farms. Mink are either being quarantined or “depopulated” in the U.S., Canada, Russia, South Africa and all over Europe, to date.

The crowded conditions on mink and other fur farms, and the stress on the animals from their lifelong cramped confinement, are not only grossly inhumane, they create ideal conditions to establish zoonotic (animal-to-human) diseases. But the fur industry is profit-driven, and prohibition is a political hot potato. It is up to consumers to say “no.”

They should also say “no” to any furs and skins from wild animals -- like baby seals -- who are clubbed to death, and the millions of others who are trapped and snared, such as beaver, coyote, fox, bobcat and pine marten. Trapping and snaring (death by strangulation) is not only extremely cruel, it is also indiscriminate, often catching non-target species.

These non-target species can include people’s cats and dogs, and even endangered species such as the Canada lynx, of which there are 50-200 left in northern Minnesota. To prevent the latter, the Center for Biological Biodiversity filed a lawsuit in December against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for allowing trapping and snaring methods that do not include “lynx exclusion devices” in the northern part of the state -- the last stronghold for the federally protected lynx.

Globally, wild animals now represent about 15-20% of all furs used in the trade. In North America, the largest producer of high-quality wild furs, the proportion is closer to 50%. Species include muskrat, beaver, raccoon, marten, fox, coyote, bobcat and lynx. Smaller quantities of wild furs also come from Russia (sable), Europe (fox), South America (fox, nutria) and other regions. Many of these species provide environmental and public health services by controlling rodent populations that can harbor plague, Lyme disease and other illnesses.

Most fur sold globally comes from farmed animals, such as mink, foxes, raccoon dogs, rabbits and chinchillas. To preserve the pelts, animals on fur farms are killed by inhumane methods, such as gassing and head-to-tail electrocution. An additional source of fur for the apparel industry comes from street-harvested cats and dogs in some countries, their fur being dyed and patterned to look like it came from a wild animal. It may be sold as faux or synthetic fur.

It is unlikely that the U.S. government, or any other, will ever move to prohibit the export of wild furs and other wild animal products and parts until a new paradigm of global trade is established -- one based on international agreements over animal and environmental protection. Yet this is ultimately in the best interests of public health and a sustainable economy, which depend upon a healthy ecosystem and optimal natural biodiversity.

Consumers can facilitate such change by voting with their money and refusing to purchase any fur garments, accessories or products.


Canine inflammatory bowel disease can be caused by bacterial infection/dysbiosis, which can cause chronic vomiting and diarrhea with intestinal inflammation. But some dogs and particular breeds may be suffering from sensitivity to proteins called gliadins, which come from the gluten in their diet, especially wheat.

Grains are still an important source of various minerals, nutrients and beneficial fiber in dogs’ diets, so gluten-free grains and other sources of fiber should be provided. These include teff, sorghum, quinoa, amaranth, whole-grain brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, millet, chia, flax, tapioca (from cassava root), uncontaminated organic oats (meaning, not milled with wheat) and unsweetened shredded coconut.

Dogs with intolerance to glutens are comparable to people who suffer from Crohn’s and celiac disease. Human nutritionists have reported that while corn (maize) is one of the most commonly consumed grains in the gluten-free diet, it could be responsible for persistent mucosal damage in a very limited subgroup of celiac patients. This same issue may well apply to some dogs and cats.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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