Musk: The Deadly Truth Behind the Common Scent

Target: Thomas C. Rainey, Chair of the International Fund for Animal Welfare

Goal: Protect threatened populations of Asian musk deer.

Musk, yeah you may have heard about it before, but were you aware that the intoxicating scent that is so often incorporated into male fragrances actually comes from the preputial gland of the musk deer?  The sad truth behind the scent is that while the musk deer utilizes its musky scent to detract enemies and lure mates, it also attracts hunters looking to make some money off of this very same valuable scent.

While chemists have worked hard to formulate an alternative to this species threatening practice of gland extraction, many more hurdles still remain that continue to put poachers at odds with conservationists.  Many traditional Asian medicinal treatments use musk to combat ailments pertaining to the heart, nerves, and respiratory system.  And although it is argued that no such benefits derive from the animal’s gland (or any other part of the animal), it is continuously sought.  Outside of the medicinal realm, musk is also used in common products like shampoos, detergents, personal hygiene products, and cosmetics.

As an ingredient in at least 400 Chinese and Korean medicines, the waxy substance can fetch a pretty hefty price of as much as $45,000 per kilogram. It is because of this that often times rules and regulations, instated to protect the animals, are ignored and/or causally looked over.  Because of the growing concern for the future of the animal, farms has been set up that would allow for the extraction of the gland without killing the animal. Yet, even in areas specifically designated to protect the animal from excessive and unnecessary hunting, the easier method of killing the animal is favored over that which would not require that the animal should be killed.

However even in areas like this, if the deer are not out rightly killed they can still die from disease and fighting…and killing the deer is still considered the most cost-effective method.  Today, the plight of the musk deer is hard to ignore.  Several different species of musk deer are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Redlist as endangered with populations everywhere currently in decline.  Despite best efforts to outlaw the poaching of the musk deer, as well as advancements in perfume and cosmetic science, the deer is still in need of stricter regulations and harsher punishments of criminals.


Dear Mr. Rainey,

The musk deer of Asia are currently battling for their future.  With the eagerly sought after musk gland and scent it produces, the deer have developed a costly price that often times results in their deaths.

While laws already exist that aims to protect the animals, they are too often looked over and are without strict enforcement.  In order to ensure that the musk deer will not become extinct, larger organizations like the International Fund for Animal Welfare need to get involved and act on their behalf.

The IFAW could and should provide a great service to these animal that so desperately need it, and it is because of this that I urge you and your organization to get involved with the conservation of the musk deer of Asia.


[Your name will go here]

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  1. China need to stop eating and killing any and evey animal!
    They are wiping out the sea and all the land mamals!
    Dirty people have no respect!
    And believe in bollox medicines.. You’d think china would have relised this by now or maybe they are just stupid?
    I hope they die from the medicines or meat and fish they consume!
    Down with china!

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