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.
PRAGUE, 19 OCTOBER 2016 – This Tuesday the Fur Free Alliance visited the Parliament of the Czech Republic to show support for a new bill to ban fur farming. The new bill proposes to ban the breeding of animals solely or primarily for their fur. Existing farms would be phased out by the end of 2018 and a one-time payment would be provided to fur farmers as a form of compensation. The Czech Republic currently has nine registered fur farms.
A letter of support was handed over to the chairman of the Czech Committee on the Environment, Robin Böhnisch, who proposed the bill together with a group of more than 20 MEPs.
‘An increasing number of European countries are legislating against fur farming. The ethical concerns of a large majority of the European citizens and the inherent cruelty of fur farming have led more and more countries to close down fur farms in recent years. We are very pleased to see the Czech Republic is considering similar steps to become part of the forefront of a Europe that respects animal welfare.’
Read the full letter here.
POLAND, 12 SEPTEMBER 2016 – After a recent veterinary inspection a gravely injured silver fox was taken away from a Polish fur farm in Chodzież. The rescued fox, named Ferdinand, was examined by University Centre of Veterinary Medicine clinic in Poznań and found to suffer from grave skin problems and serious injuries. In an unexpected turn of events, the Poznań zoo – appalled to hear about Ferdinand’s condition – offered to adopt the injured fox and take care of him for the rest of his life.
Watch the rescue operation by Fur Free Alliance member Otwarte Klatki here:
Exactly one year ago, in a similar rescue operation, Otwarte Klatki intervened when they found two extremely wounded young fox cubs during an inspection on a fur farm. The fox cubs, named Hansel and Gretel, were hardly two months old and were both missing limbs. Injuries are unfortunately commonplace on fur farms. Animals kept on fur farms are wild predators and keeping them in small, wire mesh cages results in a number of stress-related health problems – as infected wounds, self-mutilation, bent feet and eye infections.
Similar to fur from Scandinavian and American fur farms, fur from Polish fur farms is sold as Origin Assured fur, a certificate that is supposed to reassure consumers about animal welfare regulations being in place. Fact is, Origin Assured does not give any guarantees regarding the standard of animal welfare on fur farms. After inspection it became clear that the fur farm in Chodzież was not even registered.
Watch more videos about Hansel and Gretel here:
The Fur Free Alliance is greatly dismayed that the story ‘Why Fur Is Back in Fashion’ (National Geographic, September 2016) does not fully reflect the often cyclical – boom and bust – nature of the international fur industry and, instead, presents the National Geographic readers with a most unsubstantiated and unbalanced view on the increasingly disputed practice of fur farming.
The article gives the impression that fur production is now at record levels quoting a figure of 84 million mink killed in fur factory farms in 2015 for their fur. As is pointed out, recent increases in demand for fur in Russia and China led to a dramatic increase in the price of a mink pelt at auction – the industry benchmark. But this led to enormous overproduction and an almost inevitable slump.
The Chronicle Herald in Canada (4 August 2016) recently reported that mink pelts that had previously fetched $100 were being sold ‘for only $40 last year and are now going for about $30.’
The article points out that because each pelt costs around $45 to produce, cut-backs in production were inevitable. As a result, as many as 35 mink farms will have closed just in Nova Scotia alone over the last two years.
This dramatic downturn is confirmed by the world’s largest auction house, Kopenhagen Furs that, in June 2016, reported that mink production has fallen from 72 million in 2015 to 54 million now with the greatest drop happening in China (18 million last year to 8 million in the current breeding/killing period).
These economic cycles in the fur industry have come to be expected but are often overlooked as the fur industry’s relentless efforts at public relations and marketing gloss over them through continuous portrayals of a world where fur is in fashion, designers are in love with fur and the welfare of the animals should not be of concern to consumers.
Of late, this same PR and marketing machine has taken on a more sophisticated but sinister turn. Using the same tactics as the tobacco industry it has found a way to introduce its version of science in its defence.
The industry-funded ‘Welfur’ program referred to in the article is an attempt to mimic the European Commission’s established and credible ‘Welfare Quality’ (WQ) initiative aimed at measuring and improving the welfare of hundreds of millions of livestock kept in European Union countries.
Omitting key elements of this WQ protocol and by adopting a ‘best current practice ceiling’, Welfur aims to maintain the status quo whilst pacifying the many critics of breeding animals for their fur.
The author’s repeated claim of animal welfare improvements in the fur industry is contested by extensive scientific evidence demonstrating that it is impossible to meet the most basic welfare requirements of undomesticated animals in factory fur farms. Mink and fox are unlike any other livestock. They are predatory carnivores, territorial and, in the case of mink, solitary by nature. They are also still wild animals. Fear of humans in undomesticated animals makes them fundamentally unsuitable for farming and causes serious stress-related welfare problems as self- mutilation, infected wounds, cannibalism and stereotypical behavior.
As long ago as 2000, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee of Animal Welfare and Animal Health (SCAHAW) in a comprehensive report (The Welfare of Animals Kept For Fur Production) concluded and recommended that ‘Since current husbandry systems cause serious problems for all species of animals reared for fur, efforts should be made for all s
pecies to design housing systems which fulfil the needs of the animals.’ Since the publication of the report the fur factory farm industry has ignored the central criticisms and recommendations and the conditions endured by the animals they breed, rear and kill remain largely the same: ‘The animal welfare in fur farming has shown little improvement over the last 15 years, despite the use of disproportionally large official resources both on research and inspection’ (Norwegian Veterinary Association, 2015).
The truth is, the push to increase animal welfare and ethical and environmental concerns have led eight European countries to outright ban fur farming in recent years: UK and Northern Ireland (2000), Austria (2004), Croatia (2006), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2009), The Netherlands (2013), Slovenia (2013), Republic of Macedonia (2014) and Spain (2015). Five more countries – i.e. Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium, Norway and Luxembourg – are currently having parliamentary debates about fur farming ban proposals. These bans are based on scientific research, the public interest and ethical grounds.
A statement of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs on fur farming in 2016 shows that the public opinion against fur farming is reflected by law in an increasing number of countries:
‘Causing suffering and taking the life of an animal for a non-essential and even trivial reason cannot be morally justified. It contravenes public morality in the Netherlands.’
However, author Conniff gravely and glaringly omits any mention of society’s increased ethical concerns about fur farming, and instead presents us with a one-dimensional view of the catwalk as representative of public morality. The truth is that society can and does see well beyond the bright lights of a fashion show.
The author’s argument against a fur farming ban, that ‘it just moves production to areas where no rules apply’, is not ethically valid, for the same reason that it is not morally justified to make child labor legal because of poorer conditions elsewhere. Furthermore, there is simply not a single fur farm in the world with rules or standards strong enough to make it an ethical practice: severe, tragic animal welfare abuses have been scientifically proven to be the standard on fur farms in Norway, China and everywhere else.
Richard Conniff concludes with the idea: ‘Instead of banning fur production, keep applying pressure to push out the worst farmers.’ While this sounds reasonable at first glance, this recommendation gravely ignores the serious, insurmountable welfare issues inherent to the industry.
Keeping and killing tens of millions of wild animals each year in tiny, barren wire cages for nothing more than the fur off their backs is offensive and wrong. It is surely time for us as a civilised society to consign this cruel practice to the dustbin of history.
Drastic drop of mink fur production (June, 2016)
Latvian fur farms downsized as industry takes a blow (March, 2015)
Collapse of mink fur prices on Scandinavian fur auctions (October, 2014)
Mink prices sink after slump in Chinese demand (The Guardian, October 2014)
BRUSSELS, 15 JULY 2016 – This month all eleven Croatian members of the European Parliament have spoken out against fur farming. Their statements come after a recent proposal to change the Croatian Animal Protection Act including the fur farming ban.
In 2007 the Croatian government decided to end the breeding and killing of animals for fur. The ban included a 10-year phase out period and thus would go into effect next year. Nine years into the transition, the ban is now put at risk due to a proposal that would exclude chinchilla’s from the ban. Chinchillas, ironically, are the only animals farmed for fur in Croatia.
Croatian MEPs in the European Parliament – Biljana Borzan, Ivan Jakovcic, Ivana Maletic, Marijana Petir, Tonino Picula, Andrej Plenkovic, Jozo Rados, Davor Ivo Stier, Davor Skrlec, Dubravka Suica i Ruza Tomasic – regardless of their political affiliation, have stated that their support for the existing fur ban is motivated by ethical and ecological reasons, the opinion of the Croatian and European public as well as by the direction indicators of the EU Member States’ legislation.
Member of Parliament Tonino Picula, representative of the Croatian Social-Democratic Party, states:
“I strongly believe that all arguments that were in favour of the fur farming ban ten years ago can still be applied today, and that cancelling that ban would take us as a civilisation a step backwards. A ten-year phase-out period stipulated by the Provision was and remains an expression of appreciation of arguments of the entrepreneurs who were given an entire decade to adjust their businesses. Everyone who understands business cycles even a little cannot deny that this is a very friendly and generous gesture by lawmakers.”
MEP Ruza Tomasic, member of the European Conservatives and Reformist groups, says:
“I give my support to the existing provision of the Animal Protection Act from 2006 which banned fur farming. I consider it unnecessary to exclude chinchillas from the ban solely for the purpose of personal profits of individuals or companies who torture and kill animals in immoral ways. Unfortunately, chinchillas have been brought to the verge of extinction in their natural habitats precisely because of the greed of individuals and for the purpose of selling their fur.”
Since 2007 the number of chinchilla fur farms in Croatia has dropped significantly. According to some sources there are now just 50 farmers left, which is only a fifth of the number of farmers at the time the ban was introduced. However, the Ministry of Agriculture itself recently confirmed that currently only 20 farmers are registered. It is unknown whether all of those farmers are still active or how many of them became active after the ban was introduced.
In the Netherlands the fur farming of chinchillas was banned in 1997, and last year, the National Court of Appeals in The Hague reaffirmed the ban on fur farming of all animals. Even though the Netherlands is the fourth-largest producer of mink fur in the world, the court decided the fur farming ban was justified on ethical grounds. The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs has expressed their support for the Croatian fur farming ban in a letter:
‘The recognition of the intrinsic value of animals by society and its enshrinement in law is considered to be a progressive step in the process of civilisation. In the past decades, philosophers, ethicists and sociologists have increasingly concluded that society has a clear interest in protecting the welfare of animals. People benefit from living in a society where unacceptable actions towards animals are discouraged and unlawful.’
In March the Fur Free Alliance sent a letter to urge the Croatian Minister of Agriculture to fulfill its commitment to end fur farming. Read the full letter here.
PRAGUE, 3 MARCH 2016 – A group of more than 20 MPs in the Czech Republic from six political groups, including well-known politicians from across the political spectrum, are supporting a new bill that would completely ban fur farms.
The chairman of the Czech Committee on the Environment, Robin Böhnisch, said:
“Breed and kill animals primarily for fur is in the 21st century hardly acceptable and conditions on farms are not at ethology farmed species. Species like mink and fox can not be successfully domesticated. Therefore I welcome that the Chamber of Deputies has formed powerful coalitions across the political spectrum to support this proposal.”
The Chairman of political party TOP 09, Jiří Koubek, added:
“An advanced society should be able to mature attitude to animals. Let animals suffer in wire cages just to have them subsequently to decorate wardrobe, me too does not seem mature. Therefore, I will be glad when the Czech Republic will be among the many European countries that have this kind of business can not tolerate.”
The proposed law would ban the breeding of animals solely or primarily for their fur. Existing farms would be phased out by the end of 2018 and the Ministry of Agriculture would also provide one-time payments from the state to fur farmers as a form of compensation.
The Czech Republic currently has nine registered fur farms. These farms have repeatedly been criticized both by NGOs and experts on animal welfare. Animals on fur farms are kept in small cages and killed by cruel methods that preserve the pelts – such as gassing and anal electrocution. On top of that, fur production is a heavy chemical process associated with high environmental costs and consumers’ health risks.
The suffering of mink and fox held in fur factory farms has been scientifically and comprehensively exposed in the report ‘A Case Against Factory Fur Farming’ by Fur Free Alliance member Respect for Animals, which was unveiled at the European Parliament late last year.
In November, an opinion poll found that 70% of Czech respondents opposed the use of animals for their fur. Similar fur farming bans have been adopted in the UK, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.