People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have launched their latest campaign targeting the Chinese fur market: ‘Fur Hurts‘. In it, the American-based animal rights group focuses on an oft-repeated claim that animals are ‘skinned alive’ in China.
Of course, accusing Peta of lacking credibility is like accusing ice of lacking heat, but the idea that Chinese fur farmers skin animals alive (an idea usually put forward with lots of exclamation points and OMGs and a severe lack of sourcing) is a pervasive one and worth discussing.
An important caveat: I’m not disputing the veracity of the horrific video of a raccoon being skinned alive, produced in 2005 by Swiss Animal Protection and allegedly recorded in Hebei province. I’ve seen that video, it’s horrible, but it doesn’t mean that it’s common.
Once you’re past the shock factor and repulsiveness of the photos/videos purporting to show animals skinned alive, the practicality of doing so — particularly at an industrial level — fails the bullshit test. While we would never cite the Chinese authorities as a reliable source, it’s hard to argue with the China Fur Commission when they say that: “All those with common sense would not choose this slaughter method to attain fur.”
In its latest campaign, Peta asks potential fur consumers to “imagine being skinned alive”. Since we’re imagining things, imagine if you would, trying to quickly and efficiently cut the pelt from a struggling wild animal, especially one that is flailing around in pain. Sure, if you were committed enough, you could do it, but the idea that this would be a quicker and more efficient method (as animal rights groups purport) than killing the animals beforehand is absurd.
The Swiss Animal Protection video promoted by Peta and other groups disproves the claim that the animals are easier to skin alive because the process makes them go into shock. As other critics* have pointed out “the animal tries to bite the man and struggles aggressively, making the process extremely difficult.”
Beyond the danger posed to the skinner themselves by an animal fighting for its live, the process is also more likely to damage the pelt and therefore render the whole process useless.
Racism also plays a significant role in the popularity of the ‘live skinning’ myth. Chinese people are inhuman and uncaring, happily torturing these cute furry animals for a few bucks. Animal cruelty and animal abuse certainly does take place in China, we’ve highlighted more than a few examples of it ourselves, but at the same time pet ownership is more popular than ever. There are assholes who are cruel to animals of course (such as the inhuman scumbag who willingly skinned an animal alive on video and kicked off this myth) but that is true in every country. No one suggests that Americans regularly set cats on fire, or Croatians gleefully throw puppies in rivers, but both of these things happened, as horrific video evidence available online demonstrates.
As I said at the beginning of this post, it’s more than likely that some animals have been skinned alive in China, but to extrapolate from that that all or even the majority of fur farms in this country do so (without the slightest shred of evidence) is wrong. Faced with a choice between rational argument and sensationalist shock tactics, Peta always chooses the latter.
If you want to see an example of animal rights campaigning done right in China, check out Wild Aid.
*Note: while obviously the Fur Commission has a pretty big stake in this fight, unlike Peta the claims they make are backed up by independent sources.