Back then, as the global market demand exploded, many fur farms were exploring standardized production modes to raise mink. Some fur farmers also raised mink at home to maximize their profits, with hundreds of minks cramped in small cages, according to Huang.
"We've made mistakes in the past. But the achievements that Western countries have made in animal welfare also weren't accomplished in one day. As long as we find remedies, it's still a good thing," said Xu.
According to a Chinese industry guideline released in 2016, mink should be executed via a "smothering method" or "medication," while raccoons and foxes should be killed via "electric shock" to alleviate their pain.
At Xu's fur farm, mink are "mercifully" killed with carbon monoxide, 200 mink at a time, which suffocates them within five minutes. The dead animals are then skinned for their pelts.
According to the guideline, skinners must wait 30 minutes to make sure the animal is truly dead before removing their hide.
When reporters visited a fur market in Suning county in November, sellers of fox and raccoon furs said that the animals had been executed via "electric shock."
"Raccoons die quickly without suffering, so it saves our time," said a seller.
In 2016, Xu showed a video of his fur farm at an international fur exhibition in Greece, which he hoped would change the international society's negative opinions toward China's fur industry.
On the policy level, China's first animal welfare guidelines were released on November 11, which stipulated evaluation principles and methods for animal and fur farms.
Huang said that the government made a similar guideline before, but it lacked any punishment or enforcement mechanisms. "Also, it's important to educate farmers and guide them."
To motivate farmers, different appraisals are being enacted. One appraisal is to choose international models for fur farms. Chinese fur farm owners were invited to visit countries like Denmark, Finland, Canada and the US to learn from and communicate with their foreign peers.
To satisfy customers' demand for transparency, model farms in China are also pushing forward a traceability system based on the type used by their Western counterparts.
But Guo Li, spokesperson for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in China, said that the "fur industry has nothing to do with humanity."
Guo believes that animals caged in small spaces their entire lives suffer from mental and physical disorders. "They often eat their own limbs and hit their heads against the cage. Some mothers even kill their own babies right after they are born," he said.
Xu agreed that minks must be raised in a quiet, peaceful environment. If they are disturbed by human breeders, the mothers may instinctively eat their pups. "With a scientific breeding method, this is avoidable," he said.
Who is right?
Many detractors say that the only reason people are showing compassion toward small animals like mink and fox is because of their cute looks.
Fashion tycoon Karl Lagerfeld likewise said in a 2009 interview that "In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish."
He said that hunters in the north "make a living having learnt nothing else than hunting" and "killing those beasts who would kill us if they could."
Guo said that it is impossible to avoid abuse in the fur and leather trade. "It's also cruel to kill animals with poison gas or electric shock."
He said that, as the attitude of China's younger generations toward fur has undergone fundamental changes in recent years, people no longer see hurting animals as cool or fashionable. "The power of consumers should never be underestimated," he added.
Guo's team proposes zero-tolerance of all fur as fashion and has called on the Chinese people to resist any use of animal pelts and hides in their daily lives.
Some animal rights activists have been wearing animal-shaped clothing dyed in scarlet to symbolize animals whose furs are ripped off. Others have constructed sculptures of animals with thousands of needles injected in them to protest their torture in the trade.
Huang hopes that these animal rights activists "don't make use of moral standards to bring other people physiological pressure."
"I think most people don't agree with abusing animals. But for farmers in this industry, it's a way for them to make a living. Most Chinese fur farms are located in economically backward regions, where life is hard," he added.
But consumer resistance has taken effect worldwide.
Huang emphasized that, while consumers have the right to make their own decision and animal rights activists have the right to express their opinions, they shouldn't place these opinions on others.