What’s heavier:A tonne of dead minks or a tonne of dead people?

Caleb Dixon
4 min readNov 10, 2020

The 2020 bingo card has been a frequently employed analogy for the unexpected events we’ve been confronted with this year. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be confronted with the possibility of the cutest holocaust ever.

Denmark has, thankfully, not passed their bill to cull 17 million mink due legal challenges, not to mention backlash from locals rightfully wanting the 4.9 billion danish Krone from the industry to be protected. Sadly, they’re all going to die anyway, no outlet seems to care that this was always going to happen, the only difference is someone might have missed out on making a buck. Cull season is near, if anything the covid 19 caveat probably just would have driven the price up for the dying breed of fur coat owners. A minority group whose feelings aren’t worth protecting.

So, we are still confronted with a tonne of dead mink, pink, squishy and skinless at that. Although, empirically, a tonne of rotting biomass is identical regardless of its origin we can agree that a tonne of human beings carries far more moral weight. (pray god we never see the latter).

Dead minks might not upset you depending on your moral disposition, entertaining the logistical idea of ending so many sentient lives, for nothing, should provoke an intuitive reaction that something has gone wrong.

Where most of the arguments defending industrialised farming hold, here they bend. Slaughtering one cow for beef causes misery to a single being, to create a single mink coat between 60–80 minks must suffer and die. The utilitarian argument is most often invoked for perpetuating our meat habit, rightly so. One cow yields 430,000 kcal calories, sustaining 1 human (with non-fussy preferences for cuts of meat) for approximately 6 months. It is harder to justify the value in death for superfluous fashion.

Is it superfluous though? Is clothing not functional? The obvious counter here would be that many alternative, better clothing options exist which are cruelty free. Perhaps this is true in the short term or saliently but let us return to the tonne of human bodies and the utilitarian argument when thinking about modern clothing.

Long term preservation and utilitarian principles are quintessential tenets of pro-climate change arguments. Fast fashion is the newest public enemy №1 in climate change. Microplastic excretion, pollution, direct dumping of synthetic fibres into the oceans and contaminants entering the food chain all the way to humans. This activity is unsustainable, it poses an existential threat, while synthetic, mass produced clothing may be cruelty free now, who can say of the potential cruelty it could cause in the decades to come? So, to retain the utilitarian argument the search for materials which take and give back to the earth equitably continues. Materials which are biodegradable and plastic free like: Cotton, wool, leather…. wait.

Logic circumnavigates us back to traditional, animal based fashion. Even the most pious animal activist must agree with the pragmatic, low green impact benefits of a product (if well managed) which produces nothing more than a biodegradable carcass. Yes, it creates suffering, but far less suffering than the eventual mass extinction climate change may produce.

Critics would also, rightly, refute this solution by pointing out that animal agriculture is currently one of the main drivers of climate change and pollution. Yes, only when employing industrialised practices though. Traditional farming methods developed, through scarcity and necessity, to integrate harmoniously with ecosystems. What we took we gave back, be that the creatures and their produce which sustains us or our very bodies.

Of course, the issue with these practices are that they are ‘dumb’ in the sense of the modern industrial capitalist paradigm. They don’t offer ‘smart’ solutions to exponentially accommodate for our exponential growth. Except they can, they have to.

The question underlying all these issues is not one of ethics or sustainability but one of scale. Industrialisation would be of minimum detriment if it had not proliferated wantonly and we had not become overly populated. It is not to fall into the neo-malthusian trap that a human cull is in order. The population boon has put more joy and potential into the world than ever known. However, concerted effort needs to be made to restructure our values and focus on a scalable, sustainable system that reconnects us to traditions whilst preserving the fruits of progress. A system which prevents macabre thought experiments like deciding between 17 million dead fluffy things or a mutant plague entering humans from becoming a reality.

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Caleb Dixon

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown