Letter: End this archaic and inhumane trade

Posted 6/14/22

To the editor:

Every year, the fur trade is responsible for the deaths of more than 100 million foxes, mink, raccoon, dogs, chinchillas and rabbits simply for fashion. The vast majority of these …

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Letter: End this archaic and inhumane trade


To the editor:

Every year, the fur trade is responsible for the deaths of more than 100 million foxes, mink, raccoon, dogs, chinchillas and rabbits simply for fashion. The vast majority of these animals are housed in huge factory farms, which leads to serious environmental and public health consequences.  This became clear when it was discovered that mink could transmit mutated COVID-19 variants to humans. I support ending this archaic and inhumane trade and strongly endorse passage of S.2646/H.7361, a statewide ban on new fur sales in Rhode Island.

Having extensive training in the fields of animal health and welfare, I recognize the cruelty inherent in the fur trade. Wild animals on fur farms spend their lives in excruciatingly tiny wire-floored cages. They are denied the opportunity to express natural behaviors such as digging and swimming. Unnaturally forcing wild animals to live in such close proximity to one another causes severe psychological distress, leading to repetitive behaviors, cannibalism, untreated wounds, foot deformities and eye infections. At the end of their lives they are killed by gassing or electrocution in order to keep costs low and not damage the pelt.

The inhumane conditions on fur farms are a serious threat to public health. During the global pandemic, the virus which causes COVID-19 in humans has spread through more than 470 fur farms in 12 countries, including farms in the United States.  This has resulted in the government-ordered killing of nearly 20 million mink in order to try to stem the outbreak and reduce the incidence of animal-to-human transmission of the virus. Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, and Michigan have recorded outbreaks in mink farms.  In fact, four people in Michigan who contracted the mink variant had no known links to fur farms, meaning the variant has likely spread far beyond the reaches of these farms. The virus has also spread to local wildlife, creating a potential reservoir for the disease, which creates a long-term risk of the virus recirculating, not only in mink, but in people as well. The environmental impact of fur, due to the intensive nature and energy costs of factory farms, cannot be understated, and fur has a greater impact on climate change than any other commonly used textile. 

Most fashion companies – including Macy’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Michael Kors, and Gucci – have recognized the cruelty and risks associated with selling fur.  They have shifted to more environmentally friendly and humane alternatives. Local businesses in Rhode Island can do the same, maintaining their place in the community while offering vintage or used fur, leathers/shearlings from animals killed primarily for food, as well as products made from more modern, fur-free materials. It is time for Rhode Island to  pass legislation that will protect public health and eliminate unnecessary cruelty to animals by ending fur sales for good.

Shelly Pancoast, DVM


Shelly Pancoast is president-elect for Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association.

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