13 FEBRUARY 2017 – Last month Lithuanian citizens took the streets to protest the extreme animal cruelty in the fur industry. Around 1000 participants gathered on the Gediminas Avenue in Vilnius to raise public awareness on the ethical problems associated with fur industry. The march was an initiative Fur Free Alliance member Open Cages (Tusti Narvai).
The march was meant to support the action of the member of Lithuanian Green Party, Linas Balsys, who recently registered an amendment of the Animal Welfare and Protection Law which would essentially ban rearing and killing animals for fur if it was introduced. The amendment in question will likely be voted on during the Parliament spring session.
The march for animals attracted people to join from all over Lithuania, as well as international participants from Germany, UK, Denmark and Latvia. Supporters of both the Green party and the Liberals could be seen holding protest signs. And several Lithuanian celebrities joined in.Gabija Enciute, one of the founders of Open Cages in Lithuania, commented after the rally near the Parliament:
“We are happy that so many people came. There must be some kind of political and social maturing going on. More people than ever seem outraged enough with the failing of the law to go out into the streets. Seeking to defend the weak – in this case, the animals – is a true sign of a mature society. We are trying to change the legislation, and we’re hopeful that Lithuania too will join the growing group of European countries that have banned the intrinsically unethical practice of fur farming”
Currently there are about 200 fur farms operating in Lithuania that altogether cause about 2 million animal deaths every year. The rally was organised in order to encourage the Lithuanian MPs to vote for the amendment in animal welfare legislation and draw their attention to the environmental and animal welfare problems in the fur industry. A 2016 representative poll shows that two thirds of the Lithuanian citizens don not support fur farming.
ISRAEL, 3 FEBRUARY 2017 – Next Monday, the Ministerial Law Committee is due to discuss a bill that would ban the sale of fur and fur products in Israel. The proposed law imposes a six-month sentence or monetary fine to anyone who sells fur or fur products. The bill exempts the shtreimel – the fur hat worn by Hasidim on Shabbat and Jewish holidays – and all other fur products “that are used for religious needs or religious tradition”.
Previous attempts to advance similar legislation that did not make such exemptions failed due to opposition from the ultra-Orthodox factions. To avoid objections from the ultra-Orthodox parties, the shtreimal is not included in the new ban proposal.
At the same time, the bill would permit the use of fur products from cattle, sheep and camels, and the use of fur for scientific research. The bill has garnered the signatures of 25 more MKs from coalition and opposition alike. The bill’s sponsor, Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli says:
“The days are gone when people didn’t understand that animals suffer too and that humans have an obligation to protect helpless creatures that cannot defend themselves. Cruelty to animals was prohibited in the Torah, and the time has come now for Israeli law to ban the sale of fur. Skinning animals in order to sell their fur is one of the cruelest, most horrible ways to kill animals. Today there are all kinds of synthetic fur available, and there is no reason for us to continue putting animals through such agony.”
The explanatory material for the bill says that each year hundreds of millions of animals are executed by the fur industry:
“The fur industry entails indescribable cruelty and suffering for animals, which are bred in inhumane conditions, brutally captured in the wild, and killed. Often, animals are stripped of their fur while still alive. … Fur is mainly used in the fashion industry. In a warm climate like Israel’s, fur is mainly purchased not out of need but as a status symbol. In the 21st century, there are synthetic fabrics that are warmer than fur.”
If Israel passed the law, it will become the first country in the world to ban the trading of fur. The city of West-Hollywood decided to ban the sales of fur in 2011, and a similar ban was passed in the Brazilian state of Sao Paolo in 2015. In January this year India decided to ban the import of fur.
20 DECEMBER 2016 – In a historic ruling the Dutch Supreme Court has decided that the mink farming ban does not conflict with human rights, as was claimed by the Dutch mink farmers, and shall be upheld. This final verdict concludes a long ongoing battle in court of the Dutch Federation of Fur Holders against the government in an attempt to defy the ban and sets a significant precedent for other EU countries that are currently considering fur farming bans.
Read the verdict of the Supreme Court in English.
Read the verdict of the Supreme Court in Dutch.
The Netherlands is the fourth biggest fur farming country in the world after China, Denmark and Poland. On 160 mink fur farms, employing some 1400 people, nearly 6 million animals are killed for fur each year in The Netherlands. The law states that is illegal to breed and kill animals for fur since it can not be ethically justified. In 2024, after an 11-year changeover period, the needless suffering of animals on fur farms will finally have come to an end in the Netherlands.
Ever since Dutch Parliament voted for a ban in 2013, mink farmers have set out to defy the ban in court. According to the Dutch mink farmers the ban is in breach with their fundamental rights of protection of property – as it is set out in the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. Their claims are rejected by both the verdict of the court in The Hague and the verdict of the Supreme Court .
According to the Dutch Supreme Court a fur farming ban is not in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. There is a fair balance between the protection of the fundamental rights of the fur farmers and the public interest served by the law. The law allows fur farmers enough time for a return of investment during the transition period and thus includes sufficient measures to compensate farmers for financial loss. Therefore the Supreme Court decided to maintain the earlier ruling of the court.
The final verdict means a huge victory for animals and will have a far-reaching impact on fur farming debates worldwide. Parliamentary discussions on similar fur farming bans are currently taking place in Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic and Luxembourg.
JAPAN, 29 NOVEMBER 2016 – Mink fur farming in Japan has come to a definite end now that the country’s last remaining fur farm in Niigata has closed its doors. In recent years the Otsuka mink farm was repeatedly reported by Animal Rights Center Japan for operating without a license and violating the Japanese Invasive Alien Species Act of 2006. Now the farm has ended its operations, Japan joins a growing number of countries that are leaving fur farming behind.
Since the Invasive Alien Species Act in 2006 it became illegal to build new mink fur farms in Japan. The damage to biodiversity caused by escaped American mink from fur farms had become a significant problem in preceding years. In reaction, the 2006 Invasive Alien Species Act restricts the breeding of the non-native species American mink, raccoon and coypu to but a few purposes – as science and education. According to the Act, mink farms built prior to 2006 are allowed to continue their operations under license compliance. The closure of the Otsuka mink farm therefore puts a downright end to Japanese mink fur production. Since the Otsuka farm was the only remaining fur farm in Japan, the country’s fur production has now ended entirely.
In recent years the unlicensed fur farm in Niigata had received multiple warnings of the Ministry of Environment for violating both the Invasive Alien Species Act and the Act on Welfare and Management of Animals. In 2015, after observing serious welfare issues at the Otsuka farm and spotting escaped mink, Animal Rights Center Japan again reported the unlicensed illegal activity of the farm. A new warning, this time, made the mink farmer decide to end its operations. According to the farmer, due to the decreased consumer demand and the high building costs to meet the licensing requirements his farm was no longer economically viable.
The popularity of fur clothing has significantly decreased in Japan due to a growing consumer demand for more ethically manufactured products. Since its peak in 2006 fur import figures have dropped a staggering 80% in Japan.
The end of Japanese fur production is a huge victory for animals and in line with international developments. Due to ethical, environmental and welfare concerns an increasing number of countries are turning their back on fur farming. Since 2000 eight European countries have decided to outright ban fur farming and currently three more countries in Europe are having parliamentary debates to end fur farming. Fur farming bans are in line with the public interest since the majority of society opposes the breeding and killing of animals for a non-essential luxury item as fur.
PRAGUE, 10 NOVEMBER 2016 – Fur farming will no longer be allowed in the Czech Republic by 2019 according to a bill that the Chamber of Deputies passed in first reading yesterday. The amendment prohibits the breeding and killing of animals solely or primarily for the purpose of fur and was submitted by about one fourth of the members of the 200-seat Chamber. They say the conditions at fur farms meet the given standards but they do not meet the needs of wild animals.
Nine fur farms operate in the country, breeding mostly minks and foxes. Approximately 20,000 animals are killed at the farms a year. The number of farms has been declining for a long time. Lucie Moravcová, head of Fur Free Alliance member organization Svoboda Zvířat, says:
“Today’s vote is a huge step towards victory for minks and foxes, which are bred in the Czech Republic and cruelly killed just for fashion items. Although it is not yet won, we are very happy with the outcome of today’s vote and thank all members who supported this significant step forward for the protection of animals. There is no reason to continue to allow fur farming – the public wants fur farming to be banned and the demand for fur products is negligible.”
The bill was submitted in the spring of this year by a group of 50 deputies headed by Chairman of the Committee on the Environment Robin Böhnisch. Operators can apply for financial compensation for having closed down their fur farms, but the state need not compensate them. Opponents of the bill say the ban on fur farms may lead to the establishment of illegal fur farms that will not be supervised by the State Veterinary Administration Authority. Even though illegal fur farms have not been reported to emerge as a problem caused by fur farming bans in other European countries. The bill will be discussed in the lower house agricultural and environmental committees now.
Read more about fur farming bans.
OSLO, 27 OCTOBER 2016 – Norwegian fur farms are facing a highly uncertain future after repeated reports of negligence and injured animals in recent years. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) states their inspectors were shocked by high level of violations and injuries on Norwegian fur farms during recent inspections. This week Norwegian Fur Free Alliance member NOAH delivered a petition to the Ministry of Agriculture of 143000 signatures of Norwegians that favour a phasing-out of fur farms in Norway.
Now state regulators have found more suffering minks, and say it’s difficult to secure animal welfare at the farms. Torunn Knævelsrud, chief of the animal welfare division at the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, says:
‘When there’s been so much attention paid to the injured animals that have been found, it’s sad that we continue to uncover so many serious cases.’
One mink nearly skinned itself alive
New figures from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority show violations in nearly half of the inspections conducted, despite all the harsh criticism that’s been directed at the industry not only from animal rights activists but also from government officials and Members of Parliament. Many of the violations are technical in nature, but inspectors remain shocked by the animal injuries and neglect they continue to find.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that five recent cases highlight “serious negligence” on the part of the fur farmers involved. One of them, located in Rogaland County, was fined NOK 30,000 after several of his caged minks were found with such large open sores that they had to be put to death at the scene.
According to the inspectors’ report obtained by NRK, the Rogaland fur farmer was charged with a lack of supervision of his animals, including one that had crawled into a plastic pipe and all but skinned itself alive in its efforts to free itself. “You had not seen that this mink was stuck in a pipe before Mattilsynet came for inspection, even though the extent of the injuries indicate that it had been stuck for many days,” wrote the inspector:
“We also point out that we found several of your animals with extensive sores that hadn’t been attended to (…) you have not followed up on your sick and injured animals in a good manner (…) you have shown a lack of empathy.”
The fur farmer denies he’s guilty of cruelty to animals and his attorney told NRK he will likely appeal the fine.
Fur farmers on the defensive
The fur farmers’ trade association and lobbying group, Pelsdyralslaget, also defends its members, claiming that many farmers have improved their practices and that most violations involve “technical deficiencies.” The group’s communications chief, Guri Wormdal, argues that animal welfare is no worse within fur farming than other farming operations. “We are also inspected the most often by Mattilsynet,” Wormdal told NRK.
The fur industry has been given many chances to reform and improve operations, and major state reviews have been undertaken, but now its fate is more uncertain than ever.
The state agriculture ministry is due to deliver its assessment to Parliament this fall, which is expected to determine whether the ministry will allow yet another chance for “sustainable development” or order a phase-out over the next several years. Many politicians, including several from the government parties, are already supporting the latter option. The opposition Labour Party has also supported a phase-out of the controversial industry.