WelFur, a project initiated and funded by the fur industry, claims to ensure a high level of animal welfare on fur farms. However, numerous scientific reports demonstrate that WelFur is not able to address the serious animal welfare problems inherent in fur production.

A scientific review of WelFur

Case against fur farming WelFurIn November ’15 a new scientific review of animal welfare standards and WelFur, “The Case Against Fur Factory Farming”, was published by Fur Free Alliance member Respect for Animals (UK). The comprehensive report looks in detail at the conditions in which mink and foxes are kept in fur farms and examines the scientific evidence regarding their welfare. It concludes that fur farming contravenes European legislation covering animals kept for farming purposes and fails to meet the standards set by the Council of Europe.

The report examines the labeling and animal welfare scheme WelFur and finds it inadequate and unable to ‘address the major welfare issues for mink and foxes farmed for fur’. Professor Stephen Harris of Bristol University, co-author of the report, says:

“Foxes and mink farmed for their fur are wild animals, not domesticated and it is impossible to meet their most basic welfare requirements in factory fur farms”.

The report concludes that fur bans are the only legitimate solution to the serious animal welfare problems in the fur industry.

Non-domesticated animals

The most important welfare aspect of domestication is the unique ability of domesticated species to interact with humans in a positive way. On fur farms, the emphasis is on selection for traits associated with pelt colour and quality, body size and litter size. Animals on fur farms are not adapted to close contact with humans and cannot be considered in any way domesticated.

‘Fear of humans in the undomesticated animals used by the fur industry makes them fundamentally unsuitable for farming.’

Animal Welfare problems

Due to their inability to perform many natural behaviours – as hunting, foraging, running, swimming, climbing – and their fear of humans, animals on fur farms demonstrate a high number of stress-related symptoms and serious health problems. The animal welfare problems, as pointed out by numerous inspections and research studies, that are found to be inherent to fur farming are:

‘…levels of fear, stereotypic behaviour, fur-chewing and tail-biting, injuries (both self-inflicted and from other animals), physical deformities (bent feet), reproductive failure and infant mortality.’

Several scientific committees have advised against the current killing methods on fur farms – as CO2 gassing and anal electrocution. There is currently no requirement for training or certificates of competence for all personnel carrying out killing of fur animals.

Majority Europeans opposed to fur farming

The majority of European citizens recently polled in ten countries, including countries with substantial fur production, is opposed to the farming of animals for fur in cages. A number of European countries have already implemented bans and there is widespread support for a ban at EU level.

Conflict of interest

Being industry-funded and led by countries with with major industry-interest, WelFur seems more like a project aimed at validating fur farming as a means of livelihood than at developing better welfare for animals. In the 2010 annual report of the Finnish Fur Breeders’ Association, both WelFur certification and the advisory services on animal welfare offered to fur farmers are presented as reputation management and methods of tackling the political pressure on fur farming. When concern for the welfare of animals is not an end in itself but a means to an economic and political end it should be treated with scepticism.