One of Minnesota's many fur farms, Fur-Ever Wild, has been in the headlines recently. It's not a quiet operation. It offers tours of caged wildlife; lessons for Boy Scouts and other interested parties on trapping, skinning, and fur production; "education" for the urban public on how farm animals and captive wildlife are kept and processed; fur and taxidermy sales; hog, goat, and horse meat production; horse and dog boarding; and feed sales.
Blogs and Articles.
An index of some of the articles and documents about Fur-Ever Wild is available on the Petition site "Stop fur farm from exploiting and killing Endangered Gray Wolves for Their Fur" (Kosel 2015), including a 2012 court deposition in which the various legal entities associated with Fur-Ever Wild and their operations are described in detail (Petter 2012).
Another general introduction is available in a personal narrative of a tour of the wild-animal exhibit (Welcome to MN 2015), including links to legal documents (USDA APHIS 2012, HSUS 2013) and other articles.
Many blogs and short articles have been written about Fur-Ever Wild. Basic complaints center on the inadequate space the operation provides for its captive wild animals, inadequate sanitation, and inadequate barriers between people and wildlife. Further complaints include the illegal keeping of species (i.e. Gray Wolf and Canada Lynx) that are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), the public exhibition of young animals that are later privately killed for their fur, and the solicitation of funds for the public exhibitions without reference to the private operations.
The Fur Industry.
Several good reviews, analyses, and FAQs of the fur industry are available online (Born Free USA 2009, Change for Animals Foundation 2012).
A couple of the common misconceptions in these blogs and articles is that 1) Fur-Ever Wild kills every animal for its fur, and 2) Fur-Ever Wild has ever claimed that it doesn't kill any animal for its fur (i.e. that it only sells the fur after the animal's natural death).
To the contrary, the actual arrangements seem to be that 1) certain, popular and photogenic wild animals are kept for exhibition until their natural deaths (at which time, they're skinned for their fur) and 2) other wild animals (which might or might not have previously appeared on exhibit) are routinely bred, raised, and killed for their fur (and, presumably, their meat).
Why clarify the misconceptions? To get to the actionable issues, and take action on them.
What are the "actionable issues?" Two of them seem to be 1) The confinement of wild animal species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), and 2) the confinement of "Protected Wild Animals" that are normally protected as "Game" animals.
And the flip side of that question: which issues don't seem to be actionable? Those seem to include 1) the publication and presentation of misleading information in the guise of "educational" material; 2) the captive breeding of certain wild animal species (e.g. mink, fox, bobcat) according to agricultural standards on fur farms; and 3) the simultaneous operation of A) a public wildlife exhibition by a non-profit "educational" organization, B) a private fur-production facility by an affiliated organization, C) a private meat-production facility by an affiliated organization, D) a private boarding, breeding, and sales facility for horses and dogs by an affiliated organization, etc.
Why are some issues not actionable in court?
Because as long as there's a market for farmed fur, there will be fur farms. As long as people are willing to pay admission to roadside animal exhibits, captive-wildlife petting zoos and photo shoots, etc. there will be exhibits of this kind. As long as people seek out or are willing to settle for incomplete and misleading "educational" experiences, those experiences will be made available by the lowest bidder.
Why are other issues actionable in court?
Because of National, State, and Local Laws, Statutes, Rules, Codes, Ordinances, etc. (including U.S. Endangered Species Act, U.S. Animal Welfare Act, U.S. Lacey Act, and MN Statute Sections 97A.105, 97A.041, 346.155, 97A.401--see more about these in the References section below)
How are current laws lacking?
I haven't caught up on all of the blog articles, legal documents, etc., and I'm not a lawyer or anything like that; but the picture I'm starting to see is one of permanently-constructed "loopholes" in our government regulations concerning the treatment of "protected wild animals" on fur farms. Big loopholes. Not bigger than the ESA, but bigger than, say, the hunting and trapping programs that the MN DNR operates to regulate the taking of "protected wild animals."
In other words, wild animals are often protected more in the wild than they are in captivity. That's a problem.
Wildlife-based industries, including the fur industry, are big business; and the farmed-fur industry is by far the largest part of the fur industry. The fur industry seems to be able to hold its own in court against the conflicting concerns of fish & game management, wildlife management, non-game wildlife management, management of wildlife in the Public Trust, etc.
These court cases and other actions we've been reading about in connection with Fur-Ever Wild have been, and will be, revealing this subject to much-needed public examination. Concerned citizens need to learn, to moderate our own consumer behaviors, and to speak up on the subject of the management of wildlife in the Public Trust.
Approximate chronology of events at Fur-Ever Wild. The literature reference is "Petter 2012" unless otherwise noted.
Adler, Erin. 2015. "Lakeville-Area Fur Farm Fur-Ever Wild Sparks Controversy with S.D. Expansion." Star Tribune. July 21. http://www.startribune.com/lakeville-fur-farm-fur-ever-wild-sparks-controversy-with-south-dakota-expansion/317665251/
Backus, Megan. 2015. "Wolf Pup Exhibitor Endangers Animal and Human Health." Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF). May 19. http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/wolf-pup-exhibitor-endangers-animal-and-human-health/
Born Free USA. 2009. "Cruelty Uncaged: A Review of Fur Farming in America." Born Free USA. http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-cruelty-uncaged-furt.pdf
Change for Animals Foundation. 2012. "Ten Things Everyone Should Know about Fur." Change for Animals Foundation. http://www.spca.org.sg/documents/tenthingsfur.pdf
Chick, Jennifer. 2013. “Proposed Zoning Ordinance Changes Have Eureka Township Residents Questioning What Animals Can Be Allowed.” Sun This Week, March 1. http://sunthisweek.com/2013/03/01/proposed-zoning-ordinance-changes-have-eureka-township-residents-questioning-what-animals-can-be-allowed/
Conrad Pearson, Jackie. 2015. "Deadwood Adopts Dangerous Wild/exotic Animal Ordinance." Black Hills Pioneer, July 22. http://www.bhpioneer.com/article_2a082022-3088-11e5-be5f-939bc791d200.html
Cronin, Aisling Maria. 2015. "Minnesota Petting Zoo Exposed for Killing Endangered Gray Wolves for Their Fur." One Green Planet. December 13. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/minnesota-petting-zoo-exposed-for-killing-endangered-gray-wolves-for-their-fur/
Hanson, Hillary. 2015. "Petting Zoo Accused Of Slaughtering Endangered Animals For Fur." Huffington Post. December 10. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/petting-zoo-fur-ever-wild-wolves-fur_56687c8ce4b0f290e52199a2
Griffith, Tom. 2015. "Wildlife Attraction to Close; Property for Sale." Rapid City Journal, August 12. http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/wildlife-attraction-to-close-property-for-sale/article_e394f570-7fba-5243-af91-f754b41a6e02.html
Heidelberger, C. A. 2015a. "USDA Called to Investigate Minnesota Wolf-Fur Farm on Eve of South Dakota Hearing." Dakota Free Press. May 19. http://dakotafreepress.com/2015/05/19/usda-called-to-investigate-minnesota-wolf-fur-farm-on-eve-of-south-dakota-hearing/.
Heidelberger, C. A. 2015b. "Township Orders Removal of Exotic Animals from Minnesota Fur Farm." Dakota Free Press, June 12. http://dakotafreepress.com/2015/06/12/township-orders-removal-of-exotic-animals-from-minnesota-fur-farm/
Heidelberger, C. A. 2015c. "ALDF Ultimatum to Petter: Quit Exploiting Pelting Wolves or We Sue." Dakota Free Press. December 2. http://dakotafreepress.com/2015/12/02/aldf-ultimatum-to-petter-quit-exploiting-pelting-wolves-or-we-sue/
HSUS, WWF, Born Free USA, et al. Petition to USDA APHIS. 2013. "Petition for Rulemaking to Prohibit Public Contact with Big Cats, Bears, and Nonhuman Primates," January 7. http://bigcatrescue.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Public-contact-petition-amended-1-13-and-comments.pdf
Kirby, David. 2015. "Activists Move to Sue Operator of a Gray Wolf Fur Farm." TakePart. December 7. http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/12/07/activists-sue-operator-wolf-fur-farm
Kosel, Shari. Petition to Eureka Township, MN. 2015. "Petition: Stop Fur Farm from Exploiting and Killing Wolf Pups," May 1. https://www.change.org/p/stop-fur-farm-from-exploiting-and-killing-wolf-pups
Lemmons, Chad. Affidavit. 2015. "Affidavit of Eureka Township v. Fur-Ever Wild, Exhibit 8" December 30. https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B2JsJ39wDt3KZ002cnhhVk80bWc&usp=sharing
Lima, Natalia. 2015. "Animal Legal Defense Fund Files 60-Day Notice of Intent to Sue Fur-Ever Wild." Animal Legal Defense Fund. December 2. http://aldf.org/press-room/press-releases/animal-legal-defense-fund-files-60-day-notice-of-intent-to-sue-fur-ever-wild/
MN Statutes Section 97A.105: Game and Fur Farms.
MN Statutes Section 97A.041: Exhibition of Wildlife.
MN Statutes Section 346.155: Possessing Regulated Animals.
MN Statutes Section 97A.401: Game & Fish Special Permits for Possessing Wild Animals.
Petter, Teresa. 2012. "Deposition of Teresa Lynn Petter, Fur-Ever Wild." MN District Court, Dakota County, First Judicial District. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2JsJ39wDt3KYkd2eDh0Y1NIUGs/view
USDA APHIS. 2012. "Violation by Wolves Woods & Wildlife: Puma Cubs Exposed to Public Contact." U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS). https://www.aphis.usda.gov/foia/enforcement_actions//2012/September/Animal%20Welfare%20Act%20(AWA)/7060s/MN120073%20T.%20Petter%20Wolves%207060%20Redacted.pdf
U.S. Endangered Species Act.
U.S. Animal Welfare Act.
U.S. Lacey Act.
Welcome to MN. 2015. "Minnesota Allowing Farmers To Breed Gray Wolves For Their Fur?" May 29. http://welcome2mn.blogspot.com/2015/04/minnesota-allowing-farmers-to-breed.html
Zurowski, Cory. 2015. " 'Tis the Season for Slaughtering Gray Wolves at Fur-Ever Wild in Lakeville." City Pages. December 17. http://www.citypages.com/news/tis-the-season-for-slaughtering-gray-wolves-at-fur-ever-wild-in-lakeville-7901098
Wolf at Fur-Ever Wild. Photo credit: Welcome Minnesota.