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Foxes Should Be Foxes, Not Fashion

The fox family in my backyard is a poignant reminder that millions of animals like them are suffering on fur farms

Two of my fox pup neighbors came out of their family den. Photos: Jennifer Mishler

Looking out my window, I saw a familiar sight just beyond my backyard. At first I could just see a fluffy tail rustling through the leaves, then a flash of red moving up and down. Finally a small face turned in my direction and a snout rose up, sniffing the brisk autumn air for scents my human nose would likely miss. I smiled.

Each year, I look forward to seeing the red foxes who make their home just behind mine. I have seen a mom and dad patiently watch over their pups as the little ones learn to play, hunt, and simply be the foxes they will so quickly grow up to be. Red foxes typically mate in the winter, and by the following autumn, their pups are heading out of the den on their own.

Especially now, with an eight-month-old baby of my own, whose first year on Earth is seemingly going by faster than any year that has passed before this one, my heart is warmed by this latest glimpse of one of the members of the fox family, who I’ve named “the Mulders.”

These animals rarely pose a danger to humans, despite often living so near to us. The same can not be said in reverse.

At the same time of year when the Mulders can be seen frolicking near my house, I also find myself surrounded by the sight of fur — not on foxes but on coats, hats, gloves, and boots. This fur came from once living animals like my neighbors, whose babies I’ve seen playing together and nestling up against their mother while she rests in the sunshine.

Long hunted for sport, red foxes are also among the animals most commonly farmed and killed for their fur. A natural fur coat keeps the fox family next door protected from harsh weather. Winter wear made from fox fur will keep you warm, too, but it comes from a cold-hearted industry turning foxes into fashion and minks into money.

Globally, around 100,000,000 animals are farmed for fur and fur trim each year. Most commonly killed are minks, foxes, rabbits, chinchillas, and raccoon dogs. The vast majority of fur sold in stores comes from animals raised on farms, so these staggering death tolls don’t account for the wild animals who fall prey to the vicious jaws of traps.

On fur farms, foxes and other animals will spend their entire lives confined in small wire cages. In this unnatural existence, stress can lead to self-harm or to biting others crowded in with them.

Death brings the only escape, but it is a brutal ending. Killed in ways that will leave their valuable pelts intact while sparing neither pain nor fear, animals often endure electrocution, gassing, or their necks being broken. Those who are not immediately killed by these methods may face the horror of being skinned alive.

In some countries in Asia, dogs and cats are farmed for fur, too. This sparks outrage in some parts of the world, but dogs and cats are far from the only animals who are capable of suffering and have a will to live. The difference lies only in which animals our cultures views as companions, and which are treated as mere commodities.

And while it may be easy to point a finger at another country’s fur farming practices, it is global demand that drives the fur industry. China is the world’s top exporter of fur.

In the U.S., there are no federal laws protecting animals on fur farms, which means the fur industry can largely regulate itself in terms of animal welfare. Now that’s the fox guarding the hen house.

Bans on fur farming or sales are starting to become more commonplace in cities around the world, designers are leaving fur off the runway, and many companies are committing to take it off their racks. Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s recently announced they will stop selling fur. California has recently passed a ban on the sale and production of fur products statewide, going into effect in 2023.

These are encouraging signs. Still, the consistent popularity of fur trim means that millions of animals are still suffering and dying just to become a fluffy lining on coat hoods. It’s time for all fur to go out of fashion.

There are kind ways to use that old fur coat you still have, if you are able to donate it. For example, wildlife rehabilitation centers often accept fur clothing, which can provide orphaned baby animals in their temporary care with a soft, warm, and comforting bedding in which to snuggle. Contact a wildlife shelter near you, or a national organization may have a donation program, such as BornFree USA’s Fur for the Animals campaign.

Snow will soon start falling, covering red and orange leaves and blanketing my backyard, and making the Mulders, with their fluffy red fur, easier to spot. As I watch them run and jump, I’ll hope they remain safe; that they’ll never encounter a hunter’s gun or a colliding car. In a world of human dangers like fur farming, I feel glad they’re free of the cages that could be their entire world.

I’ve seen for myself, just watching from my window, that foxes bond with their families; that fox pups play and learn together; that they joyfully explore the world around them if they have the freedom to do so. If I have the means to stay warm this winter without harming an animal, why would I choose to be so cold?




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Jennifer Mishler

Jennifer Mishler

Jennifer Mishler is a writer, editor, and herbivore.

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