A Quebec first: Fur farm owner charged with cruelty, negligence
For the first time, a Quebec fur farmer has been charged with animal cruelty.
Jean-Luc Rodier is alleged to have been keeping minks and foxes in small, overcrowded cages- in squalid conditions at a farm in Saint-Jude, on the South Shore.
He has been charged with six counts of animal cruelty and negligence.
The SPCA has been investigating Jean-Luc Rodier and his mink and fox farm since May 2014, where he kept 90 foxes and 10,000 minks in what the SPCA described as horrifying conditions.
“Just seeing these wild animals living in wire cages just circling round around going crazy living on piles of excrement and urine,” explained SPCA Montreal director Alanna Devine. “We are talking about ammonia smell that was burning my eyes and my throat. These animals are forced to live in these conditions year-round.”
In August, the animal protection group asked the provincial government to intervene.
At the time the SPCA said the animals were kept in small, overcrowded cages and many had their skin rubbed raw.
"We were able to take action because certain of these animals were in circumstances that allow us to apply the criminal code," said Alanna Devine of the SPCA.
In August the animal welfare organization seized 16 foxes and several other animals, and euthanized six foxes and minks.
The Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks began visiting the farm twice-weekly in July, and fined Rodier $5,200 for improper paperwork.
Now he is facing 18 months in jail with a possible fine of $10,000 per offence.
Devine said she hopes Rodier is also denied the right to ever own an animal.
Despite repeated lobbying from the SPCA the Ministry has refused to seize the remaining animals.
Devine denounced the fur industry throughout Canada as cruelty that exists solely for a "meaningless luxury."
"Approximately three million animals are killed every year in Canada solely for their fur," said Devine, adding that most fox fur comes from Quebec, where she said regulations are lax.
“Fur farming is not regularly inspected in Quebec. There are no regular inspections done by any entity. It's simply on the basis of complaint,” she said. "They're raised in wire-bottom cages with no ability to live out any of their behaviours."
The Fur Council of Canada argues, however, that most farmers are clean, largely because that produces higher quality furs.
“You have to take very good care of the animals or you simply can't produce the quality of fur that you need today for the world market,” explained Alan Herscovici of the Fur Council of Canada.
In fact, he said, fur is an environmentally conscious choice.
“PETA and the activists say we don't need fur (because) we have great chemicals but they're mostly made from petrochemicals,” he said.
The SPCA remains bothered that people continue to wear animal pelts.
“Mink are gassed to death and that's considered legal and acceptable practices,” said Devine. “We're seeing fur trim all over the place. We want people to know what the animals are forced to endure for this luxury item.”
Soon after the reports about the Saint-Jude fox and mink farm were made in August, one or several people broke into the farm and removed 3,000 animals from their cages, and destroyed the watering system.
The Ministry condemned that act, saying most of the animals let loose would likely starve to death or be hit by cars, since they were domesticated animals.
Rodier was previously convicted in 1996 on 32 counts of animal cruelty that stem from his operating a puppy mill after authorities found sick dogs, minks and foxes at the farm.