More than 85% of fur comes from animals that are raised in small, family-run farms. The most popular type is the American mink (Neovison vison, formerly known as Mustela vison) but also fox (Vulpes vulpes and Alopex lagopus), chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera), Finn raccoon and Asiatic raccoon (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and Rex rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).
Fur farming plays an important role in completing the agricultural nutrient cycle as well as providing important employment and income for rural communities at a time when many forms of agriculture are becoming increasingly problematic for small, family-run operations.
The large majority of fur farms are located in Europe and North America and this is also where the finest quality of fur can be found. The quality of fur depends completely on the welfare of the animal and farmers must provide excellent nutrition and care for their animals.
Fur farming is strictly regulated according to regional and national, welfare, agricultural and environmental standards. National codes of practice and operating guidelines provide further assurance that farmed animals are well cared for. For example, in the EU, European fur farmers abide by a European code of practice which incorporates the revised Council of Europe Recommendation on the keeping of fur animals.
Fur farming plays a valuable role in the recycling chain by making efficient use of the animal by-products of the fish and poultry industries. Each year over one million tonnes of these by-products are used in the EU alone.
Wild fur accounts for 15%-20% of the global fur trade. North America is the largest producer of quality wild furs (muskrat, beaver, raccoon, marten, fox, coyote, bobcat and lynx) with smaller quantities also coming from Russia (sable), Switzerland (Red Fox), South America (fox, nutria), and other regions.
The majority of wild species used by the fur trade are taken as part of wild life management programmes, necessary for the maintenance of biodiversity, healthy eco-systems, population and disease control. In this way, wild fur production helps maintain natural eco-systems and the economies of hundreds of remote communities around the world.
Trapping is an important conservation tool, used to:
- Manage the sizes of wildlife populations
- Limit the spread of diseases
- Protect property and natural habitat, for example from flooding caused by muskrat tunnels
- Control predation on livestock or endangered ground-nesting birds and their eggs.
Trapping is highly regulated in all of the major trapping countries (Canada, US, Europe and Russia) to ensure that it is sustainable and humane, controlling the types of traps and the seasons when they can be used for each species. Trappers generally take training courses before receiving their trapping licenses, and the sale and transport of fur pelts (nationally and internationally) is monitored and strictly regulated.