LONDON—In Parliament’s first fur debate since leaving the European Union, MPs from across the political spectrum have called on the government to ban the sale and import of real animal fur in Britain. All 18 of the MPs who spoke did so in favour of a ban during yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate, referring to the trade as ‘barbaric’, ‘cruel’, ‘utterly illogical’, ‘outmoded’ and ‘inhumane’. The debate was held after a 1 million signature petition was recently delivered to the Prime Minister by the #FurFreeBritain campaign, led by Humane Society International/UK. HSI/UK thanked MPs for their compassionate contributions and urged the government to “consign fur cruelty to the history books.”
Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, says: “Every MP who spoke at this debate reflected the views of their constituents by supporting a ban on fur imports and sales, and calling for Britain to end its bloody business with the international fur trade. DEFRA Parliamentary Under Secretary Rebecca Pow, and Environment Secretary George Eustice can have been left in no doubt that there is overwhelming political as well as public support for a UK fur ban. If we are a nation of animal lovers, Britain cannot remain complicit in the appalling suffering of millions of fur-bearing animals caged or trapped overseas, all for frivolous fur fashion. We urge Government to consign fur cruelty to the history books by introducing legislation to ban the import and sale of real animal fur as soon as possible.”
Since banning fur farming more than two decades ago in 2000, Britain has imported more than £800 million worth of fur from countries including Finland, China, France and Poland, where tormented animals such as foxes and mink suffer for their entire lives in barren battery cages, measuring around one square metre. Coyote, beaver and other animals are also trapped and killed in the wild using cruel traps that are also banned in the UK.
Notable quotes from MPs at the debate include:
- Conservative MP Christian Wakeford who called for the debate, said: “It’s now time that we end the double-standard of having a ban on fur farming, whilst importing the same cruelty from overseas. The fur industry would appear to me to be an industry that is outmoded and out of touch with modern values and principles of the humane treatment of animals, and I implore my Parliamentary colleagues to join me in condemning it to the history books as we have done for so many other cruel and archaic treatments of animals. Following the call for evidence on the fur trade held by the Government over the summer; given the strong public and Parliamentary support for this measure; and noting the Government’s commitment and ambition to be a world leader on animal welfare standards – I ask the Minister to use her response to today’s debate to reassure me and everyone in this room today that legislative action to end the UK’s involvement in the global fur trade will be imminently forthcoming. It’s not just the popular thing to do; it’s the right thing to do.”
- Tracey Crouch MP, from the British Conservative Party, said: “There is huge cross-party support on this issue, reflecting public opinion, and there’s really only one outcome from this which is that we should ban fur sales, full stop.”
- Dr Lisa Cameron MP for the Scottish National Party said: “It’s not just the humane thing to do, but there’s also a public health interest in making sure this happens.”
- Conservative MP Jason McCartney said: “When we set the standard some twenty years ago by banning fur farming here in the UK, other countries followed our lead, so if we can set the example here, we will not only help animal welfare by what we do as a country, other countries will follow, so let’s take the lead.”
- British Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale said: “There is, in this day and age, absolutely no justification whatsoever for using real fur because there are so many synthetic alternatives that are good and available… It’s completely anomalous that we should ban fur farming in the United Kingdom and then allow the product to be imported from other countries. It’s got to stop, it can stop now. The Government has a good track record on animal welfare legislation, I urge my friend the right honourable Minister to make sure this is added to that portfolio. Let’s stop it now.”
- Scottish National Party MP Steve Bonnar said: “Fur farming has been rightly banned in the UK since 2003, yet we continue to import tens of millions of pounds of animal fur each year. If it is too cruel an industry to have on our shores, than how can we justify importing fur that is farmed using the same inhumane methods, which are illegal in the UK? All have managed to do is outsource our animal cruelty overseas.” He added “Dangerous viruses thrive when animals are kept in filthy, crowded conditions. By allowing the sale of fur in Britain, we are inadvertently supporting a reservoir of deadly viruses.”
- Taiwo Owatemi, Labour MP for Coventry North West, said: “The government has shown some willingness and stated it wants to drive up animal welfare standards in the United Kingdom. Well, banning the fur trade in its entirety, including fur imports, would be a bold step towards reaching these aims. We need actions, not just warm words from the government. In doing so we will have the overwhelming support of the animal loving British public.”
Responding on behalf of the government, DEFRA Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Rebecca Pow MP noted that it was clear from the interventions at the debate that there was “great strength of feeling on this topic” and that “animal welfare is an absolute priority of this government”. However, she went on to state that she was “not in a position to introduce any next steps on the fur trade today” but that “we are building a strong evidence base on which to inform any future policy, noting information from a range of sources, including industry associated with the fur trade and notable retailers who have recently gone fur-free…” Pow also cited the “incredible 30,000 responses” the government received to the recent Call for Evidence which she said demonstrated “the strong feeling in this area.”
To date the #FurFreeBritain campaign has enjoyed much cross-party political support. Last year Tracey Crouch MP tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM267) which received the support of 140 MPs and current Early Day Motion (EDM193), tabled in June 2021, already has 103 signatures.
This month, more than 100 MPs and Peers from various parties wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Rt Hon George Eustice MP, calling on the UK Government to ban the import and sale of animal fur.
There is also significant public support for ending the double standard of UK fur imports and sales. DEFRA’s recent Call for Evidence on the UK fur trade received over 30,000 responses, and more than 1 million petition signatures have been delivered to the Prime Minister in support of #FurFreeBritain. Public opinion polls consistently show widespread backing for a UK fur sales ban; a Yonder opinion poll published in May 2021 found that 72% of Brits support a ban on the import and sale of all animal fur, replicating exactly the same majority support demonstrated by a YouGov opinion poll in 2020 which also revealed Brits’ scathing view of fur as ‘unethical,’ ‘outdated, ‘cruel’ and ‘out of touch.’
Earlier this year Israel became the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur, and in the United States the city of Ann Arbor in Michigan joined Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood in California, and the towns of Weston and Wellesley in Massachusetts, in also banning fur sales. California became the first US state to ban fur sales in 2019.
- More than 100 million animals are killed for their fur every year worldwide including mink, fox, raccoon dog, chinchilla and coyote—that’s equal to three animals dying every second, just for their fur. Rabbits are also killed for their fur, likely to be in the hundreds of millions.
- Fur comes with a hefty environmental price tag. Whilst all materials have some eco-footprint, when compared to other textiles, fur takes a significant toll in terms of the C02emissions associated with keeping and feeding tens of thousands of carnivorous animals on a farm, the manure runoff into lakes and rivers, and the cocktail of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as chromium and formaldehyde used to preserve the fur and skin to stop it from rotting.
- An increasing number of fashion designers and retailers are dropping fur cruelty. In the last few years alone Canada Goose, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Gucci, Burberry, Neiman Marcus, Chanel, Prada and other high-profile brands have announced fur-free policies. In addition, major online fashion retail platforms Net-A-Porter and Farfetch have adopted fur-free policies.
- Fur farming is not only cruel to animals, it also presents risks to public health. A June letter signed by over 60 veterinarians and virologists highlighted outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 on hundreds of mink fur farms across a dozen countries, and the potential for such farms to act as reservoirs for the virus. It also notes the potential for fur farms to create future zoonotic diseases, stating: “The intensive breeding conditions typical on fur farms—animals unnaturally crowded together, poor hygiene, stress, injuries and low genetic diversity—are ideal for the creation and spread of novel pathogens.” Signatories to the letter support “a permanent global end to the breeding, keeping and killing of animals for the purposes of fur production, and the sale of fur.”
Media contact: Leozette Roode: Lroode@hsi.org; + 27 71 360 1104