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.
BRUSSELS, 26 OCTOBER 2016 – The Walloon ban on fur farming is consistent with the Constitution, according to a ruling of the Belgian Constitutional Court which was published earlier today. The decision follows a request for annulment by Belgian fur farmers and European fur traders. They argued that the Walloon ban adopted last year was unconstitutional. ‘The Constitutional Court now confirms that animal welfare and fur farming are not compatible,‘ says Michel Vandenbosch, President of GAIA:
‘We are very pleased to hear this. What keeps the Flemish Government and the Flemish Animal Welfare Minister, Ben Weyts, who supported his Walloon colleague in this matter, from following the good example of Wallonia and put an end to the 16 remaining fur farms in Flanders?’
Read the full verdict (EN-FR) here.
In their complaint the fur farmers and traders argued that the decree unlawfully restricted their right to property as defined in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Constitutional Court disagrees and deems animal welfare more important. ‘A European precedent,‘ states Anthony Godfroid, the lawyer of GAIA, who represented the animal rights association. ‘Animal welfare is not only a legitimate criterion to restrict the right to property, the ruling of the Constitutional Court sets an important European precedent to safeguard the basic rights of animals. Moreover, it is quite remarkable that Flemish Animal Welfare Minister Ben Weyts supported his Walloon colleague in this matter.’ Michel Vandenbosch is pleased:
‘The successful collaboration between both Animal Welfare Ministers makes me feel hopeful about a future ban on fur farming in Flanders following the example of Wallonia, Brussels and several European countries. 85% of the Flemish population agrees that animals should not suffer or be gassed or killed in any other way for their fur. So when will fur farming end in Flanders?’
In Belgium, only mink are bred and gassed for their fur. Every year, 160.000 mink are locked up in small, barren ‘shoebox’ cages. The 16 existing Belgian fur farms are all located in Flanders.
PRAGUE, 25 OCTOBER 2016 – Last Thursday an international seminar took place in the Chamber of Debuties in Prague to discuss legislation concerning fur farming bans. The seminar, which was organized by animal protection organization Svoboda Zvirat and supported by the Fur Free Alliance, gathered experts on the political and legislative process, and the scientific grounds, of banning fur farming in support of a new bill in Czech Republic. The event was held under the patronage Robin Böhnisch, member of parliament and Chairman of the Committee on the Environment, who proposed the bill.
There are currently 9 fur farms in Czech Republic where minks and/or fox are bred. In spring of this year, a group of 50 deputies, led by Chairman of the Committee on the Environment Robin Böhnisch, submitted a draft law that would completely ban these farms:
‘Breeding and killing animals primarily for fur is no longer acceptable in the 21st century. Species like mink and fox can not be successfully domesticated. Therefore I welcome the powerful coalition across the political spectrum that the Chamber of Deputies has formed to support this proposal.’
Among the speakers was globally recognized expert on the ethology of foxes Professor Stephen Harris and Maria Eagle, former UK Minister, who introduced the private members bill to ban fur farming in the UK:
‘Breeding animals for fur is cruel. Civilised society should not tolerate this unnecessary suffering, and I believe politicians will pay due attention to the topic and that the Czech Republic will join the other European countries and have banned these antiquated practices.’
View the presentation ‘Case against Fur Factory Farming’ by Professor Stephen Harris.
Other speakers at the seminar included Dr. Holger Herbrüggen – veterinary inspector in Austria, where fur farming was banned in 2005 – and Inez Staarink, Policy Advisor on Agriculture, Nature, Animals and Food in The Netherlands, who was involved with the parliamentary process of passing the mink farming ban into Dutch law:
‘Vanity as a goal does not justify the suffering and killing of animals.’
Read the presentation ‘Why fur farming is being banned in the Member States’ of Inez Staarink,
According to opinion polls the majority of the Czech and the European public considers killing animals for fur unacceptable. A fur farming ban in Czech Republic would therefore be in line with public interest, according to Lucie Moravcová from Svoboda zvířat, the hosting organization of the seminar:
‘The aim of this seminar is to provide the Czech legislator, the State Veterinary Administration and professional public with the information and experience regarding the approval and implementation of laws banning fur farms in countries where similar legislation already exists.’
The first reading of the bill will take place on the 8th of November. Fur farming is already banned in 8 European countries and 5 more countries are currently having parliamentary debates about fur farming bans.
LITHUANIA – 17 SEPTEMBER 2016 – A recent investigation on a Lithuanian mink farm in August revealed serious violations of environmental and animal welfare laws. The undercover footage, that was conducted by Lithuanian Fur Free Alliance member Open Cages in August, showed gravely injured animals, dead animals burned on trash piles and improperly handled manure. Gabrielė Vaitkevičiūtė, the head of the Lithuanian branch of Open Cages, says:
‘Probably the most shocking finding is that the State Food and Veterinary Service is not checking farms as often as they claim and that they apparently warn farmers prior to every inspection. They are supposed to regularly inspect farms and make sure animal welfare standards are implemented. As they weren’t, it is not entirely surprising that injured animals were not being treated, and animals with stereotypy were not taken care of as the law prescribes’
Watch the undercover footage here:
The farm was inspected by both the regional Food and Veterinary Service and the Environmental Protection Department. The Environmental Protection Department confirmed the mink farm was in violation of the law, while the Veterinary Service workers were not willing to comment on the inspection at all. Gabrielė Vaitkevičiūtė says:
‘The investigated farm has about 30 000 minks. Two Veterinary Inspection officers spent less than 2 hours inside, that means less than half of the second could be spent inspecting one animal. We seriously question the quality of such inspection, mainly because to observe a stereotypy it takes more than half of the second and injured animals usually might try to hide their wounds. Also, we know for sure that some cages in the farm were less than 30 cm in width which is illegal and to measure two sheds with these cages would also take them a lot of time’
The abuses revealed by the undercover investigation:
– Sick animals are not treated.
When asked, what should be done about a seriously injured animal the worker was told that there is nothing to be done about it. A week later the mink died.
– Dead animals are burned with trash.
The farm had already paid a fine for this type of infringement some time ago but it seems that fines are not having any effect. The fur breeders seem to knowingly continue violating the law.
– Manure is not properly taken care of.
Manure under the cages formed cesspools after some rainy days. This is not allowed according to 2 different laws, not to mention it is an ideal environment for diseases to spread.
– Workers are not qualified to work with minks.
We have recorded one worker hitting a mink because she wanted to take its dead counterpart out of the cage. Workers seem to not know anything about stereotypy; moreover, they seem to neither know nor care that the mink breeding regulations require to adjust the conditions for animals with stereotypy so that their welfare is improved.
– Minks have been noted to escape cages and sometimes even get out of the farm territory.
Canadian mink is an invasive species in Lithuania and may pose a threat to the local ecosystem. We have documented at least two minks escaping the territory of the farm during 10 days of filming. There were many more who escaped cages during that time.
Please sign the online petition for a fur farming ban in Lithuania.