Although the majority of animals slaughtered for their fur come from notoriously cruel fur factory farms, trappers worldwide kill millions of raccoons, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, opossums, nutria, beavers, otters, and other fur-bearing animals every year for the clothing industry.
How a Trapped Animal Dies
There are various types of traps, including snares, underwater traps, and Conibear traps, but the steel-jaw trap is the most widely used. The American Veterinary Medical Association calls these traps “inhumane.”1 This simple but barbaric device has been banned by the European Union and in a growing number of states across the United States, including Colorado, California, Florida, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Washington state.2,3 Arizona does not allow the use of steel-jaw traps on public lands.4
When an animal steps on the spring of a steel-jaw trap, the trap’s jaws slam on the animal’s limb. The animal frantically struggles in excruciating pain as the trap cuts into his or her flesh, often down to the bone, mutilating the animal’s foot or leg. Some animals, especially mothers desperate to get back to their young, fight so vigorously that they attempt to chew or twist off their trapped limbs. This struggle may last for hours. Eventually, the animal succumbs to exhaustion and often exposure, frostbite, shock, and death as well.
If trapped animals do not die from blood loss, infection, or gangrene, they will probably be killed by predators or hunters. Victims of water-set traps, including beavers and muskrats, can take more than nine agonizing minutes to drown.5
Because many trapped animals are mutilated by predators before trappers return, pole traps are often used. A pole trap is a form of steel-jaw trap that is set in a tree or on a pole. Animals caught in these traps are hoisted into the air and left to hang by the caught appendage until they die or the trapper arrives to kill them.
Conibear traps crush animals’ necks, applying 90 pounds of pressure per square inch. It takes animals three to eight minutes to suffocate in these traps.6
Every year, dogs, cats, birds, and other animals, including endangered species, are crippled or killed by traps. Trappers call these animals “trash kills” because they have no economic value. State regulations on how often trappers must check their traps vary from 24 hours to one week. Some states have no regulations at all. Animals can suffer for days before they die or are rescued.
In one case, a dog named Delilah was trapped for 48 hours in Pennsylvania after a steel-jaw trap snapped down on her leg; the local paper said she “used her free legs to scrape a hole to sleep in and gnawed on bark, hoping for nourishment.” Her leg had to be amputated.7 Another dog suffered for at least five days in Nebraska, where trappers are legally supposed to check traps daily.8
A Montana couple’s beloved Great Pyrenees was shot dead by a trapper when the man found the dog in one of his traps.9 A woman walking her dogs on public land in the same state struggled frantically as her canine companion screamed and writhed in agony after he suddenly became trapped by a baited Conibear trap. She unsuccessfully tried to release the clamp as the dog slowly suffocated. “I’ve never seen anything as traumatic as this girl trying to raise the dog from the trap,” said a witness who heard the woman’s screams for help. Later, it was discovered that another dog had been caught in a Conibear trap on the same trapline only six days earlier.10 In Middleboro, Massachusetts, the body of a skinned dog was found with his front paw missing. Evidence led the investigating officer to believe that a trapper caught the dog in a trap, then shot and skinned him.11
Animal Populations Self-Regulate
Contrary to fur-industry propaganda, there is no ecologically sound reason to trap animals for “wildlife management.” In fact, trapping disrupts wildlife populations by killing healthy animals needed to keep their species strong, and populations are further damaged when the parents of young animals are killed. Left alone, animal populations can and do regulate their own numbers. Even if human intervention or an unusual natural occurrence caused an animal population to rise temporarily, the group would soon stabilize through natural processes no more cruel, even at their worst, than the pain and trauma of being trapped and slaughtered by humans.
A Dying Industry
As trapping becomes less profitable, the number of trappers has dropped. In Minnesota, a state that historically has been a top “producer” of wild fur, the number of licensed trappers has plunged from 24,000 in 1980 to fewer than 5,000.12 Virginia has seen an equally dramatic drop in trapping licenses: from about 5,000 in the 1970s to fewer than a thousand.13
The European Union has banned the importation of furs from countries “that catch [wild animals] by means of leghold traps or trapping methods which do not meet international humane trapping standards,” although enforcement of the ban is minimal at best.14 Meanwhile, public distaste and anti-fur activism keep the pressure on, as a suffering fur industry continues to try to find ways to make its cruel product appealing to consumers.
What You Can Do
Don’t wear fur! And tell your friends to ditch all animal skins in favor of cruelty-free clothes!
When you see people in fur, tell them the facts about trapping; many people incorrectly assume that animals are killed humanely. If you already own a fur garment, please consider giving it to PETA as a tax-deductible donation for use in educational displays, anti-fur protests, and fur giveaways to the homeless. Write or call businesses that sell furs or give furs away as prizes, and ask them to stop promoting cruelty.
1American Veterinary Medical Association, “AVMA Positions Address Animal Welfare Concerns,” 15 Jul. 2001.
2Aileen McCabe, “Canada, Europe Reach Trapping Accord,” The Gazette 23 Jul. 1997.
3Louisiana Fur and Alligator Advisory Council, “2003-2004 Annual Report,” 2004.
4Louisiana Fur and Alligator Advisory Council.
5John W. Ludders et al., “Drowning, Euthanasia, and Carbon Dioxide Narcosis,” Wildlife Society Bulletin 27 (1999): 666–70.
6Tom Reed, “Is Trapping Doomed?” High Country News 12 Apr. 1999.
7David Reynolds, “Dog’s Sweet Spirit Still Intact After Surviving Trap, Losing Leg,” Daily News-Record 10 Feb. 2005.
8Connie Jo Discoe, “Negligent Trapper Puts Dog Through Ordeal,” McCook Daily Gazette 11 Dec. 2003.
9Ginny Merriam, “Victor Couple Go on the Offensive After Tragic Trapping Death of Their Dog,” Missoulian.com, 9 Feb. 2005.
11Franci Richardson, “MSPCA Probes Dog’s Death,” Boston Herald 26 Jan. 2003.
12Doug Smith, “State of Fur; Minnesota Is a Top Producer of Wild Furs, but the Number of Trappers Has Declined in Recent Years to a Record Low. Still, Trappers Insist Their Activity Isn’t Dying,” Star Tribune 26 Aug. 2001.
13Sue Anne Pressley, “Muskrat Love Losing Appeal; Fewer Trappers Are Hunting Area’s Coastal Waterways,” The Washington Post 11 Jan. 2003.
14The Commission of the European Communities, “Commission Regulation (EC) No. 35/97 of 10 January 1997 Laying Down Provision on the Certification of Pelts and Goods Covered by Council Regulation (EEC) No. 3254/91,” Official Journal L 008 (1997): 0002–4.