EXCLUSIVEThe bloody block where raccoon dogs are bludgeoned to death for the fashion industry: Shocking footage shows distressed animals suffering in cramped cages on Chinese fur farms before horrific death

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Horrific footage captured on Chinese fur farms has shown how distressed animals are suffering in ‘cramped, barren cages’ before they are bludgeoned to death.

An investigation of five fur farms in north China housing foxes, raccoon dogs and mink has revealed that ‘mentally disturbed’ animals are densely packed into small, empty cages with wire mesh floors and surrounded by ‘piles of filth’.

The farms in China’s northern Hebei and Liaoning provinces each held between 2,000 and 4,000 animals in intensive conditions, said animal protection group Humane Society International (HSI) who conducted the study at the end of 2023.

Animals on fur farms are most commonly slaughtered through an electric shock to the mouth and rectum. Although the probe found some farm operators kill mink by smashing their heads against a metal pole or beating them over the head with a club.

Campaigners allege the ‘squalid and cramped conditions’ on fur farms are ‘dire for the tragic animals trapped in them’, with HSI having now renewed its call for a global end to the fur trade and an import ban on fur in Britain.

The animal protection group also estimates that the amount of fur imported into the UK over the last five years equates to approximately seven million animals brutally killed for the fashion industry.

Horrific footage captured on Chinese fur farms has shown how distressed animals are suffering in 'cramped, barren cages' before they are bludgeoned to death

Horrific footage captured on Chinese fur farms has shown how distressed animals are suffering in ‘cramped, barren cages’ before they are bludgeoned to death

An investigation of five fur farms in north China housing foxes, raccoon dogs and mink has revealed that 'mentally disturbed' animals are densely packed into small, empty cages with wire mesh floors and surrounded by 'piles of filth'

An investigation of five fur farms in north China housing foxes, raccoon dogs and mink has revealed that ‘mentally disturbed’ animals are densely packed into small, empty cages with wire mesh floors and surrounded by ‘piles of filth’

The probe found some farm operators slaughter the animals by smashing their heads against a metal pole or beating them over the head with a club

The probe found some farm operators slaughter the animals by smashing their heads against a metal pole or beating them over the head with a club

The alarming footage provided exclusively to MailOnline shows how thousands of terrified foxes, dogs and mink are kept outdoors through intensive conditions in rows of barren cages.

The small cages were packed so closely together that in some cases the mink or raccoon dogs could touch animals in neighbouring cages through the wire walls.

Many animals could be seen pacing up and down repetitively, an action linked to psychological distress, according to veterinary experts. 

‘The fur farms we visited were typical of fur farms across China,’ said investigator Xiao Chen. ‘These are naturally inquisitive, energetic animals but they are reduced to this sad existence in a wire cage with nowhere to go and nothing to do.’

‘I cannot imagine their frustration and boredom, all to produce something as trivial as fur fashion,’ he said, adding that the ‘cruelty and indifference’ the animals endure made him ‘feel ashamed to be a human’.

Alastair MacMillan, a visiting professor at Surrey University’s Veterinary School, added the high stocking density of the animals facilitates the rapid spread of viruses on droplets from one to another, and potentially to humans. 

Food preparation areas on several fur farms were found to have large quantities of frozen fish, chicken meat and liver, eggs and milk powder would then be ground up into paste.

The paste is then used as animal feed, according to HSI, despite EU experts having identified feeding raw chicken meat to animals on fur farms as a biosecurity risk.

The small cages were packed so closely together that in some cases the mink (pictured) or racoon dogs could touch animals in neighbouring cages through the wire walls

The small cages were packed so closely together that in some cases the mink (pictured) or racoon dogs could touch animals in neighbouring cages through the wire walls

Veterinary experts say the animals on the farms demonstrated signs of psychological distress

Veterinary experts say the animals on the farms demonstrated signs of psychological distress

A raccoon is caged on a fur farm in Pulandian, located in the south of Liaoning province, China

 A raccoon is caged on a fur farm in Pulandian, located in the south of Liaoning province, China

The investigation has also revealed that on some farms animals slaughtered for their fur are kept in close proximity to poultry, despite the potential for zoonotic disease spread. 

‘The rapid circulation and mixing of different strains of virus from animal to animal facilitates their adaption to a mammalian host, the development of mutant strains of concern and a greater likelihood of a threat of human infection,’ MacMillan said.

The veterinary microbiologist explained that from a disease transmission and public health perspective the footage was extremely worrying as it is well known that animals farmed for their fur are susceptible to respiratory viruses that can infect humans. 

‘I am deeply concerned by the apparent lack of biosecurity and potential for transmission of avian influenza due to chickens and ducks moving freely between cages of raccoon dogs,’ he said.

‘That demonstrates a ready route of transmission via direct contact or faecal contamination. Cases of avian influenza have already been documented on European fur farms and such close proximity between species significantly heightens the risk of avian-to-mammal transmission.’

MacMillan has also raised concerns about the number of markets in the region selling animal carcasses from fur farms for approximately 2 to 3 yuan (about £0.22 to £0.33) per kilogram.

He added: ‘The sale of raccoon dog carcasses and cooked meat for human consumption also raises concerns about the potential for zoonotic disease transmission.’

At one local restaurant visited by investigators, boiled, fried and marinated raccoon dog meat was being sold to local customers for around 20 yuan (£2.22), HSI said.

Staff reportedly confirmed that the establishment cooked roughly 42 raccoon dogs each day.

Photos and footage from HSI showed animals densely packed in small empty cages with wire mesh floors at farms in China's northern Hebei and Liaoning provinces. Each farm held between 2,000 and 4,000 animals

Photos and footage from HSI showed animals densely packed in small empty cages with wire mesh floors at farms in China’s northern Hebei and Liaoning provinces. Each farm held between 2,000 and 4,000 animals

Experts also said the high stocking density of the animals facilitates the rapid spread of viruses on droplets from one to another, and potentially to humans

Experts also said the high stocking density of the animals facilitates the rapid spread of viruses on droplets from one to another, and potentially to humans

Data from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic briefly uploaded to a database by Chinese scientists last year suggested raccoon dogs may also have been involved in coronavirus reaching humans. 

MailOnline has approached China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs for comment regarding the conditions on the fur farms and the risk of disease spread. 

Even as China’s fur production has fallen in line with global trends, down 50 per cent from 2022 to 2023 and a near 90 per cent decline in the past decade, there appears to be still robust demand for fur. 

Dr Peter Li, HSI’s China policy expert, said: ‘Because of the rejection of fur by so many designers and consumers, fur farming in China has seen a dramatic reduction in recent years. But the end of this cruel, environmentally damaging and dangerous industry cannot come soon enough.’ 

Fur farming has been banned on ethical grounds in Britain since 2003, however fur from countries including China is still imported into the country, HSI claims.

The UK Government in May 2011 launched a Call for Evidence on the UK fur trade, but almost three years on, but officials are still withholding the results.