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November 23, 2018

Campaigners call for end to UK’s cruel fur imports as shock investigation reveals deformed foxes, cannibalistic mink on ‘high-welfare’ Finnish fur farms

UK banned fur farming in 2000 but still imports fur from China, Finland, Poland

Humane Society International/UK

LONDON –Today on International Fur-Free Friday, animal charity Humane Society International/UK has renewed its call for the government to ban UK fur sales as its latest investigation reveals deplorable conditions and distressing animal suffering on fur farms in Finland. Finland is one of a number of countries that imports fur to the UK despite the UK having banned its own fur farming for being too cruel. HSI UK is calling on Michael Gove to stop this double standard and ban UK fur sales to replicate similar bans in West Hollywood, Berkley and San Francisco.

HSI/UK filmed at two fur farms where thousands of mink, fox and raccoon dogs were being raised for fur. Despite both fur farms being certified by the fur industry as supposedly ‘high welfare’ facilities, HSI’s footage and photos shows foxes with deformed feet and diseased eyes, and mink with open infected wounds, some even driven to cannibalism.

More than 135 million animals globally are reported to be killed every year for their fur, and since banning fur farming in 2000 on ethical ground, the UK has continued to import fur from a host of other countries such as Italy, France, Poland, China, Russia and Finland where the conditions on fur farms are as bad or even worse. Since the ban took effect in 2003, Britain has imported almost £700million of fur, including £14million of fur from Finland, the biggest 'producer' of fox fur in Europe where around 2.5 million foxes are reared and electrocuted every year for the global fur trade.

Claire Bass, executive director of HSI/UK, who visited the fur farms, said, “Seeing first hand these animals mentally broken on fur farms and even driven to cannibalism has been utterly heart-breaking. In their tiny barren cages these animals have zero quality of life, they merely exist as shadows of the wild animals they should be. It’s sickening that the fur trade still attempts to justify this blatant animal suffering, and we hope that our investigation will encourage designers still using this fur to see through the travesty of so-called ‘high welfare fur’.

It’s a massive double standard that the UK is outsourcing to countries like Finland the very same fur cruelty we banned here. The government says that ‘any further restrictions on fur imports should be centred around protecting animal welfare’, - time and again investigations like ours show that animal suffering is written into the DNA of the fur trade and therefore the only way to protect fur-bearing animals is to ban fur sales. It’s time for the government to take action to ensure that the UK plays no further part in bankrolling this cruel and unnecessary trade.”

Ex-Defra veterinarian Professor Alastair MacMillan viewed HSI/UK’s footage and said, “As a vet, it is appalling to see the suffering endured by these animals. Their fur is being sold as ‘high welfare’ yet there is nothing ‘high welfare’ about the extremely small barren cages the animals are confined to, which are entirely unsuitable for these intelligent wild animals who would normally roam many kilometres in a day. The footage shows the toll that the continued isolation and confinement is having on these animals, many are showing signs of severe physical and psychological distress. Several of the mink and foxes have open, infected wounds and several foxes have grossly diseased eyes which will be extremely painful. If this is the best the fur industry can offer animals, no wonder so many designers, retailers and now cities no longer want anything to do with it.”

Kristo Muurimaa of Finnish animal protection organisation Oikeutta Elaimille, who accompanied HSI/UK on the fur farm visits, said “Tragically what we saw on these farms is far from unusual. I have visited more than one hundred fur farms and the suffering of the animals has been obvious in every single trip. More and more countries are banning fur farming and the Finnish government’s support for it is looking increasingly isolated and outdated.”

In June this year at a debate in Parliament more than thirty cross-party MPs spoke in strong and passionate support for ending the UK fur trade. In July, the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee published a report on its inquiry into the UK fur trade, including recommending that the government holds a public consultation on banning the sale of animal fur in the UK. HSI is calling on the UK government to heed the EFRA Committee’s recommendation and commit to a public consultation on banning UK fur sales.

Fur facts:

  • In addition to the physical and psychological torment of being confined in small, barren cages for their entire lives, the killing methods typically used on fur farms are equally distressing. Mink are killed by gassing, and fox and raccoon dogs are killed by anal electrocution.
  • Wild animals like coyote and wolf who are trapped for their fur, fare little better – they can languish in agony in cruel traps for hours or even days before dying from dehydration, starvation or attacks by predators or being killed when the trapper returns.
  • An increasing number of fashion designers and retailers are dropping fur cruelty. This year alone Gucci, Versace, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, DKNY, Burberry and other high-profile brands have announced fur-free policies, at the same time that fur sales bans have been put into law in major US cities including San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  • Britain imports and sells the fur of a variety of species, including foxes, rabbits, minks, coyotes, racoon dogs and chinchillas. Fur imports from dogs, cats and commercial seal hunts are banned, and campaigners want those existing bans extended to protect all species. Opinion polls show that most Brits agree – 80 per cent believe that it's unacceptable to buy or sell animal fur in the UK, regardless of species.

Media contact: HSI/UK: Wendy Higgins, +44 (0)7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org

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