Terrible animal suffering revealed on huge Polish fur farm

Following last week’s revelations about the suffering on mink on French fur farms, we can also reveal a major undercover investigation in Poland.

Respect for Animals’ colleagues at the Fur Free Alliance, Otwarte Klatki, conducted a two-month long investigation using an activist as an undercover farm employee. The farm, in Goreczki, is considered to be the biggest mink farm in the world, with around 500,000 animals kept in small cages.

The worker documented shocking cases of cannibalism, open wounds and untreated sick animals. He also recorded the reality of working conditions on fur farms: low wages, little training and lack of employment rights. While many animal lovers may have little sympathy for workers on fur farms, this is of real importance because the fur trade is currently trying to reimage itself as sustainable and ethical. These claims are lies and this investigation is further evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the fur industry.

The undercover activist, called Yevhen, used a phone and hidden camera to document the conditions on the mink farm for two months.

Yevhen agreed to share his image and openly spoke on camera about his experiences of working on the fur farm.  The activist describes, among others, the dead minks, which he found every day in cages, and the “hospital” – supposedly for sick animals, but where they did not receive veterinary help, instead simply killed by gassing or died untreated and in agony.

Paweł Rawicki, President of Otwarte Klatki, said:

“We hope that the ban on fur farming will return to the political scene as soon as possible. Polish society does not want fur farming, and even the biggest players in the industry, despite loud assurances, are not able to guarantee appropriate conditions for animals and prevent their suffering. We expect a reaction from politicians on this matter.”

Mark Glover, Campaigns Director at Respect for Animals said:

“This is a shocking investigation. The suffering of these animals can scarcely be imagined.

I personally know what impact seeing these atrocities first hand and close up can have. As the undercover activist said in the video, some of the things he has seen will live with him forever. I still live with some of what I saw in UK fur farms more than 20 years ago and it is not easy, but is certainly one of the things that has driven me on to work to end this disgusting industry.”

This is the reality of industrial fur factory farming. This is why fur farming must be banned.

Watch the video of the investigation here, but please be aware of distressing images of animal suffering:

Help end the horror of fur factory farming in Poland by adding your name to our letter to the Polish Embassy:

Read the full account of the investigation here:

Yevhen came to Poland at the beginning of June this year and after passing a two-week quarantine because of the Covid-19 pandemic, he started working on a farm in Góreczki. Workers from Ukraine lived in a building on the farm and the farmer deducted the costs of accommodation from their small payments. From their salary the farmer also deducted costs of “damages” that occurred due to daily tasks, including damage to cages, even though there was a production plant for Wójciks’ cages on the farm. Despite a lack of experience with animals, Yevhen did not receive any training. He was given a pair of gloves and some basic information about his daily work. He did not learn anything from his superiors about animal welfare, how to care for sick and seriously injured animals, fire safety regulations or other regulations related to safe and hygienic work.

A large proportion of the workers, like Yevhen, came to work on the farm from Ukraine. They worked seven days a week, over 300 hours per month. According to Yevhen’s accounts, no more than 50 people work on the farm in Góreczki, which means that with a density of about 500,000 animals, one worker takes care of 10,000 minks. With the number of duties on the farm, there is absolutely no concern about welfare, proper handling of sick and injured animals or quick removal of dead animals from cages. This is confirmed by the drastic footage collected during two months of Yevhen’s work.

The lives of the workers on the farm had many inconveniences. Many people living in one room, the omnipresent smell of hundreds of thousands of animals crowded in a small area, the plagues of flies, which the workers would sweep from under the apartment building and were invading the social rooms and constant noise – especially at night. Minks are predators that are very active at night and their squeaks made it impossible for the workers to sleep peacefully after a hard, usually twelve-hour shift. More than once Yevhen complained about nausea and headaches caused by the stench coming from the hundreds of pavilions.

Deep wounds.

Among the most common welfare problems documented at Wojciech Wójcik’s farm were deep wounds from bites that the animals inflicted on each other while under constant stress. A mink is a wild animal, not very well domesticated, that leads a solitary lifestyle in nature. Forced to share small cages with other animals, they quickly begin to fight among themselves. The feed that was applied to the upper part of the cages often fell on their fur, encouraging others to bite the leftovers directly from the animals’ bodies. In Yevhen’s footage, we see many animals with deep, open wounds in the head and neck area. Often, however, the animals attacked each other for no apparent reason and the arrangement of adjacent cages even made it possible for animals that were separated to attack each other, which was usually the case when the limb or tail of a mink was hanging from a wire grid within reach of another mink.

A mink biting another mink’s tail 

Many cases of mutual mink aggression have ended with cases of cannibalism. Yevhen has documented numerous cases in which we see minks eaten almost entirely by their companions. Cannibalism and aggression are so common on farms that the farmers themselves often refer to the summer period as the ‘cannibalistic phase’, which ends in early autumn when the animals are already fattened up and become lazier, and thus less likely to attack. There is no way to eradicate this behaviour, which is directly related to a breeding system that contradicts the natural behaviour of minks.

Mink in convulsions, frothing at the mouth.

In addition to biting wounds and self-inflicted injuries, the employee also documented numerous eye infections, as well as poisoned, convulsive, paralysed and apathetic animals. None of the workers Yevhen worked with committed acts of aggression against animals in his presence. The occasional throwing of animals into cages, for example, during vaccinations, and the separation of the young from their mothers was the result of the high speed of work enforced by the industrial breeding system. The minks pulled out of their cages would defend themselves by biting the workers, and the special gloves used by the workers quickly became worn out and stopped protecting against bites after just a few days. Often the only way to avoid them was to throw the animal vigorously into the cage.

The most injured and sickly animals were sent to a so-called ‘hospital’. This pavilion was no different from the rest of the farm. The weakest animals that could not cope with the stronger ones simply ended up there. Unfortunately, they could still not count on professional care. Workers sent on rotation to work in the ‘hospital’ simply sprinkled the deep wounds with fodder chalk, which in practice only prolonged the animals’ agony. There was nobody with veterinary experience seen by Yevhen. When the animal no longer had the strength to take in food on its own, it was gassed. And so were mothers, who produced a small litter (less than 5 pups).

Here is the text of our letter to the Polish Embassy.

Your Excellency,

We note with horror the new investigation published by Otwarte Klatki, which documents the conditions of mink on the huge industrial fur farm in Goreczki, Poland.

The investigation reveals shocking cases of cannibalism, open wounds and untreated sick animals.

This footage, which is consistent with many other mink farm films, has shocked people from around the world.

Fur farming has been banned in many countries across Europe, with the UK being the first 20 years ago.

Serious animal welfare problems are inherent in fur production. There is simply no way to keep animals in tiny battery cages without causing extreme suffering.

We also note that, according to opinion polls, the majority of Poles support banning fur farming.

Science and public morality both strongly support a ban on fur factory farming.

We urge the Polish government to ban fur farming in Poland and end this shockingly cruel and unnecessary treatment of animals.