European Citizens' Initiative: Fur

Act now for a fur-free Europe

Humane Society International / Europe

Each year, more than 100 million animals, such as mink, foxes, chinchilla and raccoon dogs, are kept and then killed for their fur around the world. They spend their short, miserable lives in small and barren metal cages, where they cannot exhibit their natural behaviour and can suffer from disease, wounds, self-mutilation and even cannibalism.

Act now: Sign the petition

The European Union is one of the largest producers and importers of fur, with more than 18 million animals killed for their fur in 2020. Although 14 EU member states have imposed full bans on fur production, fur farming is still legal in a number of countries and the import and sale of fur and fur products within the union and from third countries is not restricted.

HSI/Europe, together with more than 70 other organisations, has launched the “Fur-Free Europe” European Citizens’ Initiative to demand an EU-ban on fur farming and import of fur products. Once we reach 1 million validated signatures, the European Commission is obliged to deliver a formal response.

Why should fur farming and the sale of fur products be banned?

Cruel and unethical

The vast majority of animals farmed for their fur are essentially wild and keeping them in small cages causes unbearable stress and suffering, as they are not able to express their natural behaviour. Mink, for example, are extremely active and solitary animals, ranging over large territories, including lakes and rivers. In a small cage of mesh wire they are forced to live with other animals and cannot exhaust their excessive energy. All this can result in self-mutilations, infected wounds, cannibalism, and stress-related repetitive behaviours. Mink also need access to water to swim and hunt, this is not available to the animals kept on intensive fur factory farms. Foxes and raccoon dogs can similarly suffer from stress related conditions on fur farms. The confinement in small cages is detrimental for other farmed species, such as chinchilla who are also unable to fulfil their basic needs such as jumping, burrowing and regularly sand bathing. In addition, the methods of killing of animals farmed for their fur are far from humane and acceptable – mink are usually killed by gassing, foxes and raccoon dogs are anally electrocuted and chinchilla are killed by gassing, electrocution or, in some cases even neck breaking.

Although public opinion polls show a growing concern about the welfare of animals in fur farms, and politicians in many countries have already taken action to ban fur farming, current EU legislation is not able to address the inherent welfare issues associated with this industry and investigations consistently point to violations of animal welfare on fur farms across Europe.

Threatening to environment and biodiversity

Fur farming can have a deadly effect on the environment and European biodiversity. Local water and soil can be polluted from fur factory farms. On top of this, some of the species kept in farms are considered invasive alien species capable of causing severe impact on biodiversity. American mink, who are often reported to escape from fur farms, can affect no less than 47 native European species, including six who are threatened with extinction.

Public health ticking bomb

Quite a few of the chemicals used in the fur industry for bleaching, processing and dyeing are potential skin irritants. More than 45 chemicals or groups of chemicals associated with the dressing and processing of fur have been identified as hazardous agents. The use of toxic metals is of particular concern, since they are non-biodegradable and accumulate in the body.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it was discovered that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can jump back and forth between humans and farmed American mink, the main species kept for fur in Europe, while at the same time mutating and potentially having the ability to undermine the efficacy of vaccines, creating public health concerns about the role fur farms could play as dangerous reservoirs for the disease. Since April 2020, mink on more than 480 fur farms across the globe have contracted COVID-19.

Is this relevant for my country?

Mink, foxes, chinchillas and raccoon dogs are kept in farms across the EU for their fur. Despite the closing down of a large number of enterprises in the EU, predominantly in Denmark and the Netherlands, following the SARS-CoV-2 epidemics in mink farms, as of December 2020 there were still more than 750 mink farms operating, located mostly in Finland, Poland, Lithuania and Greece. Approximately 18 million fur pelts were produced in the European Union in 2020.

Although fur farming is fully banned in 13 EU member states, the Union remains one of the biggest global producers of fur and at the same time a big importer of fur products. In 2019 the EU member states exported a staggering 8112 tonnes of fur skins of mink and foxes and imported 854 tonnes. In spite of the coronavirus pandemic affecting the industry and trade in general, the numbers remain huge – 4597 tonnes of fur skins exported from the EU and 213 tonnes imported.

What is a European Citizens’ Initiative?

Unlike common online petitions, The European Citizens’ Initiative is the most effective way for EU citizens to call on the government of the EU – the European Commission – to propose new laws. Once an initiative has reached 1 million validated signatures, the European Commission is obliged to respond.

In order to have a signature validated, the Initiative requires citizens to provide some personal data, which will only be used for the support of this Initiative, and not for other purposes and will be deleted once the Initiative is over and all signatures are validated. Fur Free Europe is following all legal requirements, GDPR and data protection rules.

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