We at Shanghaiist are committed to providing people we write about the right of reply, what follows is a response from Peta Asia Pacific to a piece I wrote last month criticising their latest advert campaign for repeating unverified rumours about animals being ‘skinned alive’ in Chinese fur farms.
In my piece I maintained (and still do) that these rumours are an example of dog-whistle racism, relying as they do on negative opinions about Chinese people for readers to believe the account of animal rights activists that these practices take place (despite frequent and vociferous denials from industry). Obviously Peta disagree.
I respect and thank Peta for getting in touch, here is their response:
The Real Truth About the Fur Industry in China
By Layla Wen
James Griffiths’ article “Peta still pushing the idea that animals are ‘skinned alive’ in China” ignores the real message of PETA’s “Fur Hurts” campaign: There is no kind way to rip the skin off an animal’s back. The millions of animals who are killed for their fur each year suffer in ways that would horrify any compassionate person.
PETA is not suggesting that animals are routinely skinned alive, but it does happen, a lot. It happens because the welfare of an individual animal is not important enough to slow down fur farm workers, who may slaughter and skin hundreds of animals a day. Skinning animals alive is not a practical way to do things, and PETA has never suggested that animals are intentionally slaughtered this way. We have, however, made clear that because of the carelessness of fast-working fur farmers, animals are often not killed—only rendered unconscious—prior to skinning. Meaning that some of these animals wake up while their skin is being torn from their body.
But the animals who are spared being skinned alive are not lucky. Instead, they might have their neck snapped by an unskilled worker, who may or may not complete the task quickly. They might be repeatedly beaten with a metal rod or stomped on. They might have a metal clip attached to their face and then a poll inserted into their rectum before being electrocuted or be stunned, hung upside down, and decapitated. No matter how they die, their deaths are anything but humane.
PETA Asia’s staffers have risked their safety to investigate fur farms and markets in China, and we have never found anything but unmitigated misery and suffering. When PETA Asia’s investigator arrived at one fur farm, the first thing to hit her was the stench – a sickening combination of urine, feces, blood, and freshly removed skins left out to dry.
Hundreds of foxes were packed into individual cages made completely of wire that were not much bigger than the animals’ own bodies. Every part of the farm was filthy. Frozen piles of urine and feces had accumulated beneath the cages. Many animals did not have food or water. Some foxes had gone insane from the solitary confinement and deprivation and repeatedly spun in circles or threw themselves against the sides of the cages. When most people think about the fur industry, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the animals’ terrifying slaughter. Few people consider that these animals endure mind-numbing boredom, neglect and loneliness day in and day out, usually for months and sometimes for years, before that final moment comes.
Nothing about PETA’s anti-fur campaign is related to racism, as Mr. Griffiths suggests. We agree that cruelty to animals happens all around the world, and PETA and its affiliates campaign against the fur industry all around the world. An investigation into a fur farm in the United States found that foxes were killed by anal electrocution, literally frying their insides. Exposed broken bones, upper respiratory infections, and cancerous tumors were among the wounds and diseases endured on this fur farm without veterinary treatment. Another investigation, conducted at a fur farm in Maryland, uncovered that minks being killed with injections of weed killer. At mink farms in Denmark, animals were found to be missing legs, tails, and ears and with oozing wounds covering their faces. Dead minks were cannibalized or left infested with maggots and rotting in cages with live minks. In Canada, many animals are cruelly trapped in steel-jaw traps for days, starving and enduring excruciating pain from the metal clamped down on their limbs. Some, especially mothers with babies, chew through their limbs in a futile attempt to escape and get back to their young ones, something any mother should empathize with.
The reality is that China is both the largest producer and the largest consumer of fur, so it’s to be expected that PETA and other animal rights groups would be working hard and using powerful imagery to make sure that Chinese consumers are aware of the cruelty behind every fur coat, collar, and cuff and every bit of fur trim.
Layla Wen is a campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). You can see more about the work of PETA in Chinese at PETAAsiaPacific.com/CN or follow us on Weibo at Weibo.com/PETAAsia to stay up to date on our campaigns.