Is PETA’s Angora Rabbit Video Staged?

Angora rabbit, PETA, wool
The Angora rabbit has been bred for its wool for more than 2,000 years without fuss. But PETA can’t leave well enough alone. Photo: Oldhaus.

Sensationalized videos claiming to show “animal abuse” are sadly a fact of life these days for animal agriculture, and they’re often promoted (if not actually filmed) by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. One such video, dealing with wool production from Angora rabbits, premiered in 2013 and has gone unchallenged – until now. An Angora farmer in the US contacted us to raise some real concerns about this video, which we think are worth sharing.

Before dissecting the video, let’s start with a backgrounder on Angora wool production.

There are two distinct types of Angora rabbit: those that moult, and those that don’t.

Those that moult have their wool plucked every three or four months, just before moulting begins. Plucking produces the best wool because most of the guard hairs are left behind, but it is time-consuming. Plucking leaves in place the incoming coat, although one breed, the French Angora, can be fed a depilatory which results in the exposure of bare skin. Here’s a video showing how to pluck an Angora properly.

Angoras that don’t moult are sheared. Because the guard hairs are included, the wool is not such high quality, but collecting it is quicker and the yield is higher because wool can be sheared even from sensitive areas of the rabbit’s body. Shearing is therefore more common in commercial operations. The most important commercial breed is the high-yielding and virtually mat-free German Angora. Ninety per cent of Angora wool production today is in China, and almost all Chinese farms raise German Angoras. Here’s a video showing how to shear an Angora properly.

Show Time

OK, it’s time to watch the main attraction. If you find videos of animal cruelty hard to stomach, just give it a miss and take my word.

 

0:10 – 1:03: This rabbit is almost certainly a non-moulting German Angora, even though it looks very similar to a moulting French Angora. We can tell it’s a non-moulting breed because its legs are tethered to what is called a stretching board. These are sometimes used, but not always, when rabbits are sheared.

PETA describes the stretching process as follows: “During the cutting process, their front and back legs are tightly tethered – a terrifying experience for any prey animal – and the sharp cutting tools inevitably wound them as they struggle desperately to escape.” In reality, while rabbits being stretched for the first time might be nervous, they soon learn to relax. Stretching keeps the rabbit still and pulls the skin taut, thereby preventing nicks and cuts from the shears – the total opposite of what PETA claims. Here’s an excellent video demonstrating how stretching is done.

Angora rabbit, PETA, wool

Oh, but what’s happening now? Having set the rabbit up for shearing, the man is plucking it right down to its skin! He is also applying far greater force than is ever needed to pluck a moulting breed. This is all wrong for two reasons. First, the rabbit is obviously in pain. Second, as US Angora farmer and advisor on this blog post Dawn Panda says, this could be called “worst business practice”. “We see the wool being yanked off, guard hairs included, in a manner that will ruin the coat for several cycles,” says Dawn. “It will damage the hair follicles and greatly reduce the quality and value of future harvests as new coats will grow in coarser and hairier. No one trying to make money would do that.”

This raises a disturbing question. Are we seeing a non-moulting German Angora being forcibly, and very roughly, plucked just for the camera?

READ ALSO: “Saving Society from Animal ‘Snuff Films;”. Fur Commission USA.

1:04 – 1:17: Here a rabbit is being sheared, so we don’t see any pink skin. It appears calm. At this point in the video, it is not clear whether this footage and the footage of a rabbit being violently plucked were shot on the same farm. We’ll come back to this because, if all the footage is from one farm, the question is raised why one rabbit would be plucked and one sheared.

1:18-1:22: Here a rabbit that has just been sheared is shown suspended in the air by its front legs. This makes no sense, Dawn assures us. There is no part of Angora husbandry in which a rabbit would ever find itself in this situation. It can’t even be claimed the rabbit fell off its stretching board because it’s far too high. Once again, we can’t help but wonder if this bizarre scene was staged for the camera.

Angora rabbit, PETA, wool

1:36-2:02: Here we see a parade of seven rabbits in their cages. Of these, the first three still have hair on their torsos and have been sheared. The next three have been plucked right down to their skin. The last rabbit cannot be seen clearly.

This scene suggests that the violent plucking at the beginning of the video and the shearing that followed took place on the same farm. And since commercial farmers generally don’t have mixed herds of moulting and non-moulting rabbits, we can also suppose that all the rabbits shown are non-moulting German Angoras. The burning question is now unavoidable: Was the violent plucking of a non-moulting rabbit in the opening sequence staged for the camera? It would not be normal practice on a commercial Angora farm, insists Dawn.

“If animal lovers would use their heads, they wouldn’t be taken in by sensationalist publicity stunts,” she says. “However, the addition of poignant music seems to ensure that one’s heart is going to overrule one’s head and voila! Misinformation is spread exponentially, the lie repeated until it’s accepted as fact. There are a number of excellent teaching videos on plucking and/or shearing Angora rabbits on YouTube; the lack of screaming, struggling or any pain is the norm, not the exception. This PETA video certainly does not reflect the reality of Angora farming as I know it!”

Postscript

If PETA’s Angora rabbit video was indeed staged to misrepresent normal practice, we should not be surprised. This ignominious tactic by animal activists traces its roots all the way back to 1964, when the urban myth about seals being “skinned alive” began with a film that was later proven to have been staged.

While people have a right to believe that humans should not kill or use animals in any way, they lose all credibility when they manipulate images to attack the reputations of those they disagree with.

17 Comments

    • It’s quite simple. Staged videos of animal cruelty are intended to fool the public into thinking these acts are standard practice in the fur industry.

        • Hi Dennis, I’m sorry your responses have been deleted, but there is a reason. It’s been our experience, particularly with our post “5 reasons why it’s ridiculous to claim animals are skinned alive” (http://www.truthaboutfur.com/blog/5-reasons-animals-are-not-skinned-alive/), that readers such as yourself expect us to review a whole slew of videos of alleged animal cruelty. Aside from being a very unpleasant job, it has also proved pointless. Out of, say, 100 video links, half are to the same videos. Most have nothing to do with the fur trade (no matter what they say). And those very few which are related to the fur trade are well known to the industry and appear to be staged. Trust me, the industry has looked at those ones very closely. Should you, or anyone, come across a video that shows cruelty (especially skinning alive) in the fur industry that has clearly not been staged, you should, of course, report it to appropriate authorities, and we would like to know too. But if such videos even exist, they’re very rare, and bombarding us with links to highly suspect or irrelevant videos is not the way to grab our attention. Hope you understand.

          • Here is a success story regarding pigs… “A worker jabs mother pigs with electric prongs and even uses them on one apparently stunned pig’s abdomen and/or genitals. Sentient, intelligent, and gentle creatures cry out in distress before being rendered insensible and hung upside down by one leg to have their throats slit. Blood pours out as other pigs—about to endure the same fate—look on in terror.

            Thanks to a whistleblower, we exposed these atrocities and others at the Southern Quality Meats, Inc. (SQM), slaughterhouse in Mississippi. After news about the mistreatment went public, SQM announced that it was closing its doors—for good. That’s the power of PETA’s campaigns—and the power of supporters like you”

            So would you consider the investigation conducted by PETA too also be staged? What about all of the other investigations they do? Is it some kind of coincidence that the only staged investigation done by PETA is the one about Angora Rabbits in China?

          • Let’s be crystal clear on a few points here. (1) All responsible members of the fur trade deplore cruelty to animals as much as anyone. (2) It is only logical to assume that abuses do take place in animal husbandry. (3) We have suggested, based on the advice of Angora rabbit breeders, that the video footage of Angora production in China might have been staged. Without access to the full, uncut footage and sound track, it is usually impossible to state categorically that video has been staged. (4) Besides not stating categorically that the Angora video has been staged, we also have not stated that it is the only investigation staged by PETA or anyone else. Perhaps it is important to point out that these “investigations” are rarely carried out by the animal rights groups that publicise them. More often than not (we suspect), they amount to nothing more than video footage shot by a private individual who then submits the footage to an animal rights group which then endorses it.

  • If it was staged or not, poor rabbits were suffering during the video. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it and only watched about 20 seconds before I got sick to my stomach. Whoever was doing this needs to be put in jail, or worse.

    • We agree, Joyce. It’s worth noting that since this video was published, no similar videos have surfaced of Angora production, that we know of. This strengthens our belief that it was staged.

  • Anyone who thinks that skinning animals alive is OK (or not so bad) he or she is a soul-less psychopath. Same goes for all the people who support the brutal, torturous practice of plucking geese for down and the systematic mutilation of “farm” animals. Shame on “humanity”. We are the real (and only!) beasts.

    • The good news is that no one thinks skinning animals alive is ok, which is why this never happens in the fur trade. That’s a fact. As for plucking ducks for down, most down now comes from birds slaughtered for meat. For “mutilation” of farm animals, can you be more specific?

  • Anyone that has actually worked with any rabbits would immediately know that this is impossible to have done. You cannot rip their fur out like that, down to the skin, without actually tearing the hide off them. Bunny hide is very fragile, and if pulled on like that, it would tear completely off. In other words, you would be seeing their meat and sinew, not bare skin.

  • Really? I clicked on and switched off a video and felt physically sick to see a rabbit scream.The sounds of that haunted me for days.

    Animals are not commodities and should not be kept prisoner for fur,wool or leather.Leave them alone !

    • You make two different points here really. Yes, that screaming rabbit is haunting, and raises a key question: Is it acceptable for animal rights groups to stage violence against animals just to further their agenda? We believe the answer is absolutely not.

      Whether it is ok for humans to use animals for clothing is a much broader issue, and one that is worthy of debate. Unfortunately staged videos of animal cruelty distort the debate, and actually set it back, because they don’t reflect reality.

    • 1) Utilizing natural resources has been a human way of life since our existence. Animals have been bred to produce wool so we can clothe ourselves. This has been the most natural and sustainable way of life. Until petro products arrived on the scene, we have utilized plants and animals for this purpose. With synthetics, we have a slew of problems in terms of carbon footprint, fast fashion, and filling landfills with clothes that won’t biodegrade.

      2) Raising rabbits for wool is a lot of work, time, money, and requires a heightened love for the animal. Shearing, spinning into yarn, knitting or weaving into a finished product heightens the reverence for the rabbit. The rabbit is NOT a commodity and a greater appreciation is had for both the animal and the finished garment (that will last). Even if you don’t personally raise the rabbit, wearing animal products should give you a greater appreciation for the product and animal if you know everything that goes into it.

      3) The angora rabbit is not a “prisoner” and would die if left on its own or “set free” in the wild. The wool needs to come off or would matt, cause the rabbit to overheat, or disable the rabbit so that it would become prey to something else.

  • Having seen the video in question, I too am wondering just why various methods would be used in one barn unless there were molting and non-molting kinds present–which doesn’t make sense in a well established fiber production line. The non-molting German *may* also be given the feed-administered ‘depilatory’, but what this feed does is to weaken the hairshaft so much that it breaks very easily—IF the dosage is correct. If the dose is off, or the proper interval after administration isn’t observed, you’re going to be trying to rip off fur that isn’t ready to come, and that, I suspect, is a significant part of the problem in wool harvest in this film. And any way you look at it, a method which creates so much stress and pain as is shown is simply WRONG.

    Most angora wool from reputable sources is sheared or gently plucked, as unlike this piece of film as one can get. The dangling rabbits break their backs with appalling regularity, guaranteed. Not exactly a good practice if you want to make money!

    I’ve seen some major wool producers shear and their abilities are awesome. The rabbits are used to the handling required and do not show stress or wind up with cuts.

    So yes, something in this film is very wrong. Is it staged? Hard to say. But it certainly has been produced to show the absolute worst of this industry, and a responsible onlooker would not have continued filming after the first distress became obvious.

  • It is absolutely staged. When it came out I googled “Angora farmer”. NO ONE rips the hair out, they ALL just cut it off with scissors. THINK about it-what happens when you repeatedly rip hair out? Ever heard of waxing or epilation? It grows back finer until it does not grow at all. The angora people would be putting themselves out of business! You really only have to spend a few minutes to uncover the truth-PETA kills and abuses animals. http://www.petakillsanimals.com

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