Before you slip into your mink, read this
"The stench of ammonia filled the air. Trees and bushes downwind of the farm were covered in thick moss - feeding off the nutrients carried downwind from the animals' waste.
As an Independent on Sunday investigator drew nearer to the collection of sheds and dilapidated farm machinery at a clearing in Norway, it was plain that the conditions at this mink farm rarely come under scrutiny. It was a scene of squalor, just days before the animals were to be skinned for sale as evening wear.
Animal welfare campaigners question whether people who buy fur would still do so if they saw the conditions under which the animals live, and die.
Kate Moss and Madonna have come under fire for wearing animal furs. Yesterday, Sharon Stone became the latest celebrity fur wearer to attract the attentions of animal rights activists. The 48-year-old Hollywood actress was photographed wearing a full-length mink coat during a visit to Norway last week, where she attended a Nobel banquet at Oslo's Grand Hotel.
A spokeswoman for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) condemned the star, saying: "Sharon craves attention, any kind of attention. She likely flaunts fur to ensure her photo makes the papers."
The campaigners point out that more than 60 mink would have been killed to make a coat like the one Stone was wearing.
The conditions in which those animals may well have lived before they were gassed, strangled or electrocuted are not pleasant. At the farm near Oslo we found a collection of five long sheds about three yards wide and 50 yards long. The sheds were crammed with animals. Cages were stacked next to each other on each side with just a narrow walkway in the middle. The cages were tiny - about 18 by 40 inches - and did not have any bedding material, just an open mesh bottom.
Some of them had up to four animals in each one, maddening for animals such as mink, which are highly territorial. Mink in the wild like to roam along waterways, something they are unable to do in the confines of a cage. Furriers stress that the animals they farm are 200 generations removed from their wild ancestors.
While the place was called a farm, many are really more like animal warehouses, where the animals are there for one reason only - to be killed for their coats.
The floor below each row of cages was piled with excrement, up to half a yard deep in places. There was mess and rubbish everywhere. Cages were covered in old food and fur and the corrugated iron roof was rusting and full of holes.
The smell inside was nothing like a normal farm smell, bad enough to induce gagging. All around was the sound of mink biting on the bars of their cages, the same cages shaking. Any movement made the cage rattle and the animals claws scrape constantly on the bars that they perch on. Other animals jump around, repeating the same movements over and over again.
There was no evidence of food. The mink had water troughs but there had been a frost that morning and some of them were still frozen over.
Some of the animals just lay there; they'd had enough. In one dimly lit cage in a corner of the shed was a large mink. Hanging down from the wire mesh of the bottom of its cage was a mixture of rotting food, excrement and bits of fur.
The animal could barely move; it seemed to have resigned itself to its fate and lay still, its eyes swollen from the ammonia fumes from its urine and faeces and a large open wound on its head.
Sunday, 17 December 2006