Fur-bearing animals have been hunted in the wild throughout history, and in the past few centuries, they have also been raised on farms. Fur was an important trading device in Russian and North American history, and today it is considered to be a fashion statement. The majority of fur is obtained from animals raised on fur farms because it is easier to ensure that these animals, through strict diets and breeding, will have a high-quality pelt. Mink and fox are the two most common animals that are bred for their fur. While fur farms used to be prevalent in the U.S., now China holds an increasingly large part of the market.
There are very few U.S. federal statutes concerning fur animals. Laws such as the Lacey Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Fur Seal Act and the Endangered Species Act deal with protecting animals in the wild, and do not concern fur farms. The U.S. has a Fur Products Labeling Act, which mandates that garments containing fur be properly labeled, and it has a Dog and Cat Fur Protection Act, which prohibits dog and cat fur trade in the U.S. This is due, in large part, to the alleged killing of dogs and cats in China for their fur.
States also have very few on-point laws concerning fur animals. Many states have laws concerning trapping animals (such as license requirements and legal hunting seasons), and some prohibit certain types of traps. There are few laws concerning fur farming, besides some states requiring a license to operate a fur farm. Some states designate animals raised on fur farms to be regulated by the Department of Agriculture, similar to other farm animals. There are some anti-cruelty statutes that purport to apply to all animals, but many contain exceptions for hunting wildlife and animals used for farming purposes. Finally, some states have labeling laws and prohibit the dog and cat fur trade, similar to the federal law.
International laws are diverse in strength, but some are much stronger than U.S. federal and state laws. China has virtually no regulations to protect fur animals. However, a few countries have strictly regulated or completely banned fur farms, (Austria, the United Kingdom, and Croatia have bans, the Netherlands has a ban on fox and chinchilla farming, and New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland have strict regulations), over 60 countries have banned certain types of traps, and some countries have labeling laws. Israel has a bill pending which would outlaw the importation, exportation, and sale of fur within its country lines.
There is a significant illegal fur trade, especially for tiger fur within Asia. CITES is an international agreement between over 175 nations that works to protect endangered and threatened species. While China has tiger farms, many other countries are working to eliminate poaching and increase law enforcement.
It is likely that fur farming will continue to be the main source of pelts for the fur industry, since farming the animals makes it possible to regulate their reproduction and coat quality. The U.S. is lagging behind the rest of the world in regulating the treatment of these animals, but China’s increasing role in the industry and its lack of regulations are the areas that need the most improvement in order to instill better treatment for fur animals.