Brussels is putting business before science and conservation, say leading wildlife groups

Humane Society International / Europe

Wildestanimal/Alamy Stock Photo Shortfin mako shark

BRUSSELS—The European Union must stop allowing the fishing industry to keep and profit from endangered shortfin mako sharks ‘accidentally’ caught in the North Atlantic, or risk the species going extinct, warn leading animal protection groups Pro Wildlife, Humane Society International/Europe, and Sharkproject. While scientists, NGOs, and the EU’s environmental authorities agree that a mako shark retention ban is needed, the EU’s Directorate-General for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs (DG MARE) is still pushing for a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) quota of 500 tonnes for mako sharks in the North Atlantic. During a virtual webinar – hosted by Portuguese MEP Francisco Guerreiro (Greens/EFA) – the NGOs expressed their disappointment at the EU’s unwillingness to place scientific advice for shark conservation over the business interests of the fishing industry.

Dr Ralf Sonntag, marine expert at Pro Wildlife, stated “Time is running out for the mako shark, so the EU needs to act now, otherwise it risks further declines of an already endangered top predator that is essential for healthy oceans. The science is clear, only an immediate retention ban in the North Atlantic will give makos the chance to continue playing their crucial role in the marine ecosystem. In the South Atlantic, the situation is not yet as critical as it is in the North, but will probably end up following a similar trajectory if overfishing continues.”

Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, added: “If fishing boats continue to be allowed to keep and profit from selling endangered mako sharks accidentally caught in their nets, all incentives for them to avoid this bycatch in the first place are removed. Not only is DG MARE’s position counterproductive, but it also risks undermining the Commission’s EU Biodiversity Strategy, which represents a binding political commitment to protecting and restoring biodiversity, including the protection of marine species. If the EU wants to demonstrate global leadership on biodiversity protection, it needs to ensure policy coherence. The EU cannot continue with business as usual ignoring scientific advice when species are threatened with extinction.”

Dr Iris Ziegler, head of international cooperation at Sharkproject, warns: “Even at zero catch it will take probably 50 years for this overfished stock to recover. Mako sharks are highly developed, late maturing sharks, with slow reproduction rates and are therefore especially vulnerable to overfishing. However, fishermen value the bycatch of mako sharks for the market value of their meat and fins and are therefore opposing a retention ban. For the industry, economic interests are clearly more important than conservation of biodiversity.”

The Intersessional meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which is also responsible for the ‘sustainable’ management of Atlantic sharks, will take place from 6th to 8th July 2021. In recent years, Brussels has blocked proposals from Canada, Senegal, and other Contracting Parties for a retention ban for makos in the North Atlantic. In so doing, the EU has consistently ignored the advice from ICCAT’s scientific body, the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics, for a retention ban without exceptions.

Fast facts:

  • Shortfin mako sharks are globally endangered, and in the Mediterranean Sea they are even critically endangered.
  • Given their threatened status and overexploitation, mako sharks were listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 2019.
  • International trade and introduction from the sea are now only permitted if a so-called Non-Detriment-Finding (NDF) ensures sustainable offtakes.
  • In December 2020, the CITES Scientific Authorities of the EU stated a negative opinion for NDF for makos from the North Atlantic.
  • Spain and Portugal, the biggest fishing nations within the EU, responded to the decision by issuing a landing ban for makos from the high sea, and Spain even from national waters. Nevertheless, DG MARE continues to insist on a TAC at ICCAT and a share of 288 tonnes for EU fleets.
  • With swim speeds of more than 70 km/h, makos are the world’s fastest sharks in the high seas. As apex predators, they play a key role in marine ecosystems and the conservation of marine biodiversity. Their extinction could have massive consequences, not just in the Atlantic.

View a recording of the webinar.


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The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International celebrate as more Kering brands join fur-free Gucci and Bottega Veneta

Humane Society International / Europe


PARIS—Iconic British fashion houses Alexander McQueen and luxury Spanish designer Balenciaga are the latest Kering-owned brands to announce fur-free policies. Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States have been working with Kering, and its brands, for more than a decade on adopting a fur-free policy. McQueen and Balenciaga are the latest to join a rapidly expanding group of fashion designers dropping fur, including Prada, Gucci, Armani, Versace, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, DKNY, Burberry and Chanel.

The fur-free announcement was made in  Kering’s 2020 Universal Registration document, which reads “Most of the Group’s Houses do not use fur. For example, Gucci is part of the Fur Free Retailer program promoted by NGO Fur Free Alliance, and has banned the use of furs across its entire range since its Spring/Summer 2018 collections. Gucci is also committed to no longer using angora. Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and MCQ also no longer use fur in their collections.”

Gucci previously announced its fur-free policy in 2017, and according to Bottega Veneta, they’ve been fur-free for nearly 20 years. Only Kering’s Saint Laurent and Brioni have yet to announce fur-free policies.

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and CEO of Humane Society International, said, “Every time a big fashion name like Alexander McQueen or Balenciaga goes fur-free, it sends a clear message that fur has no place in a modern society. This is a statement that consumers care more about sustainable solutions than the fur trim on a bag or a coat. We look forward to continuing our work with Kering, and the rest of the industry, to ensure that humane and innovative materials are the future of fashion.”

This announcement comes as several cities, states and even entire countries look to ban fur sales. In 2019, California became the first US state to ban furs sales, after several of its cities—including Los Angeles and San Francisco—passed similar legislation. Lawmakers in several other US states have already introduced fur sales bans in 2021, and in the United Kingdom, which banned fur production in 2003, the government is now considering calls for the UK to become the first country to ban fur sales.


Media contacts:

Humane Society International / Europe

Tikki Hywood Trust

BRUSSELS—At an online event on the revision of the EU Environmental Crime Directive—organised in collaboration with MEPs for Wildlife—Humane Society International/Europe and International Fund for Animal Welfare issued a call for wildlife crime to be recognised as a serious criminal activity.

Dr. Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for HSI/Europe, said:

“Tragically, wildlife trafficking is often seen as a low-risk and highly profitable activity which makes it highly attractive to transnational organised crime networks, especially those with smuggling capabilities. Many law enforcement agencies treat wildlife trafficking and other forms of wildlife crime as a low priority and many EU Member States still only invoke relatively weak penalties. In its EU Biodiversity Strategy, the European Commission committed to reviewing the current Environmental Crime Directive. It is high time that wildlife crime is recognised as a serious criminal activity that should be heavily penalised.”

Eleonora Panella, senior campaigner at IFAW EU, added:

“It is vital that there is far better cooperation between EU Member States when it comes to tackling transnational crimes, particularly when environmental crimes, specifically wildlife trafficking, converge with other forms of organised crime, such as money-laundering, narcotics and terrorism. Wildlife crime is highly damaging to biodiversity and the survival of species, yet criminals regard illegal wildlife trade as being relatively low-risk and high income generating because of the lack of severe penalties and low chances of being apprehended or prosecuted. The European Commission needs to take action to make sure that wildlife crime does not pay.”

The event, which was hosted by Belgian MEP Hilde Vautmans and included high-level speakers, such as Catherine De Bolle, executive director of Europol and Jorge Rios, chief of the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crime, considered the issue of whether wildlife crime should be recognised as a serious criminal activity that should be heavily penalised, especially in the context of transnational organised crime.

Other panelists included:

  • Wouter van Ballegooij, legal and policy officer on criminal law for the Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers
  • Francesca Carlsson, legal officer for the European Environmental Bureau
  • Daan van Uhm, criminologist for the Willem Pompe Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology, Utrecht University
  • Mário Kern and Ondrej Koporec, Department for Detection of Hazardous Substances and Environmental Crime, Criminal Police Bureau, Slovakia
  • José Antonio Alfaro Moreno, team leader for the European Serious and Organised Crime Centre, EU Organised Crime Unit, Europol

Watch a recording of the event.


Media contact: Wendy Higgins:

Humane Society International urges Italy to permanently ban fur farming to protect people and animals

Humane Society International / Europe

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

ROME—The Italian government has announced last night it will extend suspension of mink fur farming until 31 December 2021. The decision comes in the wake of the SARS-CoV-2 virus having been found on two mink farms so far in Italy. Italy has six fur farms with approximately 60,000 mink, 26,000 of whom were culled following the previous ordinance published in November last year by Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza. Eleven countries in total (including nine EU member states) have now officially identified COVID-19 positive animals on mink farms: Denmark (290 farms), Netherlands (69 farms), Greece (23 farms), United States (16 farms), Sweden (13 farms), Spain (3 farms), Lithuania (2 farms), Canada (2 farms), Italy (2 farms), France (1 farm), Poland (1 farm).

Humane Society International, which campaigns globally for an end to the fur trade, welcomes the news but urges the Italian government to end the cruelty and public health risks by permanently ending fur farming. In December last year, HSI published a white paper highlighting the link between fur farming, poor animal welfare and infectious zoonotic disease.

Humane Society International’s director for Italy Martina Pluda, said: “While we applaud the Italian government for extending its temporary suspension of mink fur farming, to truly address the unacceptable risk of COVID-19 that fur farming represents, we urge it to permanently shut down this cruel and dangerous industry. Confining thousands of animals in small wire cages for fur production not only causes terrible suffering, but for as long as this exploitation is tolerated, and these wild species are crowded together in close proximity in low-welfare conditions, the potential for reservoirs of animal to human pathogens will persist.

Extending the temporary suspension is an important step, but if the government allows mink farming to start up again in 2022 in Italy, it will be placing the commercial interests of frivolous fur fashion ahead of the health of the public, and turning a blind eye to the suffering of thousands of animals.”

Earlier this month the European Food Safety Agency reported that all mink farms should be considered at risk for COVID-19 outbreaks. In January 2021, a Risk Assessment published jointly by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and World Organisation for Animal Health recognised Europe as a high-risk region in relation to the introduction and spread of SARS-CoV-2 within fur farms, in addition to the spill-over from fur farms to humans, and the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from fur farms to susceptible wildlife populations. More specifically, it rated the risk factors and likelihood of introduction and spread of SARS-CoV-2 within fur farms in Italy as “likely”.

Fur Facts:

  • On 27th October last year, it became publicly known that in August 2020 SARS-CoV-2 had been detected on a mink farm in Lombardy. This information only came to light after the submission of an information request by campaign organization LAV to the competent authorities. The OIE was only notified on 30th October.
  • On 2nd February 2021 a further five positive tests were confirmed on a mink farm in the Veneto region. Furthermore, serology tests were performed on a sample of 60 mink, 90% of which showed antibodies, confirming that almost all animals on the farm had come into contact with the virus.
  • An estimated 53 million mink are farmed for their fur in more than 20 countries around the world. The top three mink farming countries in Europe in 2018 were Denmark (17.6 million mink), Poland (5 million mink) and the Netherlands (4.5million mink). In August 2020 the Dutch government agreed to fast-track the permanent closure of its fur farms from a previous deadline of 2024 to January 2021 to prevent long term COVID-19 virus reservoirs forming on affected farms. Denmark killed all its mink in 2020 and has ended the keeping, import and export of mink until 31 December 2021; Sweden has suspended mink breeding and the movement of live mink until 31 December 2021; and mink fur farming has reportedly been halted in Belgium.
  • China farmed 11.6 million mink for fur in 2019, a sharp decrease from 20.6 million mink in 2018.
  • Fur farming has been banned in the UK since 2003. Over the past two decades, 21 countries have either voted to ban fur farming, prohibited the farming of particular species, or have introduced stricter regulations that have effectively curtailed the practice. These include numerous European nations such as Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. Most recently the government in Hungary declared a ban on the farming of animals including mink and foxes, France committed to a phase out mink farms by 2025, and the Irish government made a commitment to bring forward legislation in 2021.
  • Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine are also presently considering bans on fur farming and in Finland the majority party of the coalition government recently announced its support for a ban on fur farms.


Media contacts:

Humane Society International / Europe

Jillian Cooper/ Wild mink

BRUSSELS—On the cusp of the mink breeding season, which is set to resume at the end of this month, the European Food Safety Agency has released a report finding that all mink farms should be considered at risk for COVID-19 outbreaks and must be strictly monitored. Following the release of this report, animal protection groups FOUR PAWS, Humane Society International/Europe, Eurogroup for Animals and Fur Free Alliance—and their member organisations—have issued a strong call urging the European Commission to instruct Member States to immediately suspend mink production.

“The only way to keep EU citizens safe is to immediately suspend mink production in the Member States where this cruel practice is still legal before the breeding season starts,” said Joh Vinding, Chair of the Fur Free Alliance. “If this does not happen, the current mink population will increase five-fold by May. Even though only the breeding animals are present right now, there have still been COVID-19 outbreaks on mink farms in Spain and Poland. If the mink population is allowed to grow and all the cages on the fur farms are filled, the risk of disease transmission will likely also increase. The past year has shown that, irrespective of all monitoring and biosecurity protocols taken, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can spread uncontrollably amongst mink populations. At the time of this global health crisis, such risks need to be eliminated entirely.”

The EFSA report notes that in regions with a high density of fur farms, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is likely to spread from one mink farm to the next. EFSA recommends that Member States not only implement passive, but also active monitoring systems. They advise that measures should include frequently testing all people who come into contact with mink, testing samples from dead or sick animals, testing of wild mustelids captured near fur farms and genetic sequencing analysis for tracing the origins of outbreaks and identifying possible viral mutations.

“Implementing such measures is extremely costly and will largely be financed by taxpayers’ money, despite the fact that the majority of EU citizens are opposed the practice of fur farming,” said Pierre Sultana, Director of Four Paws European Policy Office. “We know, for example, that just for one single farm, the Italian authorities spent a total of €50,000 between August and November 2020 to implement biosecurity measures. Regardless of the expense, one thing is patently clear: biosecurity and monitoring measures have their limitations and are not as effective as were originally believed. While they can help to detect outbreaks early on, they cannot entirely prevent mink from becoming infected. This is why we, as animal protection NGOs, have united in our call to immediately suspend all mink production in the EU.”

“The necessity of halting mink production has become even more urgent following the recent discovery of the  so-called ‘Cluster 5’ mutation of SARS-CoV-2 in German patients,” said Dr Joanna Swabe, Senior Director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe. “This dangerous mutation of the virus that originated in Danish mink was believed to have been eradicated after the mass culling of Denmark’s entire mink herd last year. However, these recent cases suggest that the authorities were not entirely successful in eradicating this dangerous viral mutation, which could potentially undermine the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in humans. We applaud Sweden for already taking action to ban mink breeding in 2021. Reportedly Belgian fur farmers have also voluntarily taken a decision to suspend breeding due to the risks associated with COVID-19. It is vital that the remaining Member States that still permit fur production follow their example.”

“The demand to suspend mink production is supported by a statement signed by numerous scientists from the fields of virology, infectious diseases, clinical microbiology and veterinary medicine, which confirms the serious threat that fur farming poses to human health,” said Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals. “It calls for the immediate suspension of mink farming as an appropriate, precautionary and proportionate measure based on public health concerns. The experts behind this statement, as well as EFSA, point out that due to the confined living conditions of animals in fur farms, once the virus has been introduced, it is almost impossible to stop transmission. The high number of individuals living in close proximity also provide ideal conditions for virus mutations to occur, as seen in Denmark New variants may not respond to the vaccines that are currently available and could cause significant setbacks in Europe’s efforts to battle the virus.”

Notwithstanding our unwavering position that fur farming should be permanently banned across the EU due to unacceptable animal welfare outcomes and future potential public health risks, in the interim, we are calling on the European Commission to act immediately to suspend mink farming, the breeding of mink, and the import and export of live mink and their raw pelts, across the European Union.


Media Contact: Wendy Higgins: 07989 972423;

Humane Society International urges Sweden to permanently ban fur farming to protect people and animals

Humane Society International

Mark Hicken, Alamy Stock photo

LONDON—The Swedish government has today announced it will  suspend mink fur farming throughout 2021, in the wake of the SARS-CoV-2 virus having been found on 13 mink farms in Sweden so far. Sweden has approximately 40 mink fur farms and produced around 500,000 mink pelts in 2020.

Humane Society International, which campaigns globally for an end to the fur trade, welcomes the news but urges the Swedish government to permanently end the cruelty and public health risks by permanently ending fur farming. Thus far the government has said breeding mink will not be culled. In December, HSI published a white paper highlighting the link between fur farming, poor animal welfare and infectious zoonotic disease.

Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, says: “While we applaud the Swedish government for taking the decision to suspend mink farming, we urge it to go further and permanently shut down this cruel and dangerous industry. Confining millions of animals to small wire cages for fur production not only causes terrible suffering and deprivation, but scientists have also concluded that they could represent a serious reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 and thus pose a very real risk to public health. The Swedish authorities have also recognised that the biosecurity measures taken so far have proved insufficient. We call on all Member States where fur farming persists to shut down this sector for good. For as long as the exploitation of animals for fur is tolerated, the potential for reservoirs of animal to human pathogens will persist. Sweden has taken an important step but must now prioritise human and animal welfare over the frivolous fur fashion industry by permanently making fur history.” 

Fur Facts:

  • An estimated 53 million mink are farmed for their fur in more than 20 countries around the world, with the top three production countries in Europe in 2018 were Denmark (17.6 million mink), Poland (5 million mink) and the Netherlands (4.5million mink). China farmed 11.6 million mink for their fur in 2019, a sharp decrease from 20.6 million mink in 2018.
  • Eight EU Member States have officially identified COVID-19 positive animals on mink farms: Denmark (290 farms), France (1 farm), Greece (21 farms), Italy (1 farm), Lithuania (2 farms), Netherlands (70 farms), Spain (3 farms), Sweden (13 farms). COVID-19 has also been confirmed on mink fur farms in the United States and Canada.
  • Fur farming has been banned in the UK since 2003, and has been prohibited and/or is in the process of being phased-out in numerous European nations such as Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia. Most recently the government in Hungary declared a ban on the farming of animals including mink and foxes, France committed to a phase out mink farms by 2025, and the Irish government made a commitment to end fur farming.
  • Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine are also presently considering bans on fur farming and in Finland the majority party of the coalition government recently announced its support for a ban on fur farms.
  • In the United States, California became the first US state to ban fur sales in 2019 following similar bans in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood. In 2020, legislators in Hawaii and Rhode Island introduced fur sales ban proposals. The town of Wellesley, Massachusetts, passed a fur sales ban last year.


Media contact: Leozette Roode, media and campaigns manager HSI/UK,, +27(0)713601104

Humane Society International / Europe

Grettel Delgadillo for HSI

BRUSSELS —Animal protection campaigners have called for the urgent closure of gaping loopholes in EU wildlife trade regulations that fail to prevent the trafficking of protected wild species.

At Stolen Wildlife, an online conference, Humane Society International/Europe and Pro Wildlife launched a report underlining the urgent need to criminalise the import and sale of illegally sourced wildlife. Additionally, John E. Scalon, former CITES[1] Secretary General and chair of the Global Initiative to End Wildlife Crime, advocated for a new protocol on the illicit trafficking of wildlife under the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC). This would make the illicit trafficking in protected species a serious crime and create obligations for UN Members, including the EU, to take action.

In its recently adopted EU Biodiversity Strategy, the European Commission committed to revising the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking in 2021. However, loopholes mean that legal EU trade in wild species effectively rubberstamps wildlife trafficking.

Dr Sandra Altherr, founder of Pro Wildlife, noted:

“Our Stolen Wildlife report reveals that there is a substantial and systematic wildlife trafficking in species that are protected by national law, though not yet internationally protected by CITES. EU citizens are heavily involved in such smuggling activities. Once those animals have been successfully smuggled out of their country of origin, traffickers and their clients do not face any legal consequences, while their profits are often very high. The exotic pet trade in Europe is driving biodiversity loss and threatening the survival of species in other parts of the globe. The EU must act to close the legal loophole that permits this.”

Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, added:

“Make no mistake, we are in the midst of a wildlife smuggling crisis. From fascinating glass frogs from Costa Rica or highly threatened lizards from Sri Lanka, a myriad of species are being illegally shipped to Europe to supply the exotic pet trade. The presently legal EU trade in species taken in violation of the laws of other nations is tantamount to rubberstamping wildlife trafficking. Indeed, it speaks volumes that the former Secretary General of CITES believes that the current legal framework for combating wildlife crime and regulating the international wildlife trade is inadequate. In its programme, the current Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU cited combating the trafficking of protected species as one of its priorities. We therefore urge both the Council and the European Parliament to exert pressure on the Commission to take decisive legislative action to end all wildlife trafficking.”

The organization, MEPs for Wildlife host of the event, Martin Hojsík, Slovakian Member of the European Parliament for the Renew Group, noted:

“The EU Biodiversity Strategy—and the revision of the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking—should be seized as a golden opportunity to close the loopholes in the existing EU wildlife trade regulations. Reptiles and amphibians, which are the main victims of the exotic pet trade, are not necessarily the most charismatic of animals, like elephants, tigers and rhinos. However, they play a vital role in local ecosystems and deserve our protection. This is a chance to halt biodiversity decline in other parts of the globe, even when species are not protected from trade by CITES. It is also our chance to show that we have learnt our lesson from Coronavirus outbreak by eliminating the possibility of emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases and preventing new pandemics.  If the Commission is truly serious about taking action on biodiversity and illegal wildlife trade, it should put its money where its mouth is and deliver a proposal to close this insidious legal loophole.”


  • In May 2020, the European Commission adopted its EU Biodiversity Strategy as part of the broader European Green Deal. This Strategy included a commitment to revise the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking in 2021.
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) does not cover all illegal wildlife trade. Many threatened species are protected from exploitation in their home countries but are not protected from being traded, either through domestic legislation or by CITES, and such domestic protections are often poorly enforced. In addition, many demand-focused countries have no protections for non-native species. As a result, wildlife traffickers are able to easily smuggle these animals into legal (or illegal) international trade flows, and once out of their countries of origin, little can be done to stop the trade in these species.
  • HSI/Europe and Pro Wildlife call for the EU to adopt supplementary legislation prohibiting the importation, transhipment, purchase and sale of wildlife taken illegally in the country of origin. In the United States, the law providing law enforcement with the authority to prosecute cases of illegally taken wildlife, which sets a precedent for these kind of legislative measures is known as the Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3371-3378.

Watch a recording of the conference.


Media Contact: Wendy Higgins:

[1] CITES = Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

“There has never been a more compelling time for Denmark to shut down the sick fur industry for good”, says Humane Society International/Europe

Humane Society International

Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals A male mink at a fur farm. 

LONDONDenmark’s Prime Minister has announced a complete cull of all mink on Danish fur farms. A total of 207 out of the 1,139 fur farms in Denmark has been infected with COVID-19, which prompted the announcement. Millions of mink will be killed as a result. 

Speaking from Amsterdam, Dr Joanna Swabe, Humane Society International/Europe’s senior director of public affairs, said: “Denmark is one of the largest fur producers on the planet, so a total shut down of all Danish mink fur farms amidst spiralling COVID-19 infections, is a significant development. Although not a ban on fur farming, this move signals the end of suffering for millions of animals confined to small wire cages on Danish fur farms solely for the purposes of a trivial fur fashion that no-one needs.

The Danish Prime Minister is taking this essential and science-led step to protect Danish citizens from the deadly coronavirus and ensuring that the effectiveness of any vaccine is not compromised by mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 virus from its mink hosts.

With COVID-19 having already been detected on 207 of the 1,139 fur farms in Denmark and over 1.2 million mink having already been culled as a result, the risk of keeping these virus reservoirs operating is far too great. 

A decline in the public demand for fur fashion has led to a significant drop in pelt prices and stockpiles of fur skins going unsold at auctions. Although the death of millions of mink – whether culled for COVID-19 or killed for fur – is an animal welfare tragedy, fur farmers will now have a clear opportunity to pivot away from this cruel and dying industry and choose a more humane and sustainable livelihood instead. HSI urges the Danish government to assist fur farmers to transition to other activities. There has never been a more compelling time for Denmark to shut down the sick fur industry for good”.


Media contact: Wendy Higgins: 

Humane Society International / Europe

HSI/Europe believes that consumers must be able to make informed decisions about the products they buy. Labelling is an important part of this.

HSI Appropriate labels on garments help consumers make compassionate choices.

In recent years, there has been a significant upsurge in cheap fur products entering the EU market. This fur is primarily used as trim in relatively inexpensive garments. It can be difficult for consumers to distinguish between animal fur and good quality fake fur, which is as soft and luxurious-looking as the real thing.

With animal fur being sold at such low prices, consumers will often assume that an item of clothing is so cheap that it cannot possibly include real fur.

EU rules on labelling fur products
At present, the EU law (i.e. Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011) requires manufacturers to state explicitly that textile products contain ‘non-textile parts of animal origin’. This applies not only to fur, but also to down, feather, bone, leather, pearl and horn, which can be confusing.

This labelling requirement is unfortunately only applicable to the products that fall within the scope of the Textile Regulation and consist of at least 80% textile fibres by weight. This means that garments containing animal fur made of less than 80% textile fibres fall beyond of the scope of the legislation. Perversely this means that the more animal fur used in a garment, the less there is a legal requirement to label it as such.

Failure of EU Member States to enforce the law

While this labelling requirement is better than nothing, it has become evident that it is being widely flouted by manufacturers and the legislation is not being well enforced.

With our Fur Free Alliance (FFA) colleagues, in 2017 we produced an investigative report Misleading and Mislabelled: Fur Labelling Problems in the EU Market, which revealed a woeful lack of compliance with the legislation. These findings are likely only a tiny portion of the failure of manufacturers and retailers to implement the legislation and the failure of EU Member States to properly enforce the EU fur labelling rules.

The report concludes that the present EU labelling requirement under the Textiles Regulation is inadequate and confusing for clothing consumers, primarily because it does not provide sufficient information on non-textile parts of animal origin.

The loopholes in the law and the lack of explicit information on the presence of fur, whether for store-bought products or products purchased on popular online shopping sites, means that shoppers cannot make informed decisions when purchasing products that may contain real animal fur.

What is HSI calling for?

Fur labelling should give consumers the information they need to make informed purchasing decisions. HSI is urging the European Parliament to call on the European Commission to commit to delivering a legislative proposal that would require the meaningful labelling of all products containing animal fur (irrespective of the percentage or weight of fur included in the textile product, or non-textile products) in order to allow consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing garments and other products containing fur.

Legislation should also require labels to include the Latin (scientific) name of the species used, the country of origin and information on how it was obtained. This stricter labelling requirement has already been enacted in Switzerland. It should be enacted for all of Europe.

Humane Society International / Europe

Raccoon dog in a cage
The HSUS Animals raised for fur – like this raccoon dog – live miserably in cages before they are killed for their pelts.

Each year, around 37 million animals in the European Union are still raised and killed solely for their fur. In 2018 alone, 34.7m mink, 2.7m foxes, 166,000 raccoon dogs and 227,000 chinchillas were bred in the EU. Denmark, Finland, Poland and the Netherlands (which is currently phasing out the industry) are the biggest European fur producers.

Fur farming bans

The good news is that various EU Member States have already taken legislative action to ban and phase out fur farming because this practice is inherently inhumane.

Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the departing UK have already done so, while Ireland is in the process of passing a ban on fur production, and legislative proposals have recently been introduced in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Estonia.

Even in Denmark – the bastion of the European fur industry – fox farming has been banned and is being phased out on animal welfare grounds, although regrettably mink farming continues there.

While Germany has not enacted a fur farming ban, it has introduced stringent welfare conditions that have rendered the industry economically unviable, and all remaining fur farms in the country have closed down. Just beyond the EU borders, Norway, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have also banned fur production.

Why HSI believes that fur farming should be banned

The main species of animals – mink and foxes – reared in fur factory farms are still essentially wild animals still not selected for tameness or adaptability to captive environments.

These animals spend short and miserable lives in small wire cages, only to be gassed or electrocuted to death when their pelts are at their prime. We believe that it is unethical to keep animals and kill animals in this way for frivolous fashion purposes. There should be no place for fur farming in an EU that cares about animals.

Animal welfare issues

The inherently poor quality of animal welfare on fur farms is a key reason why fur production should be banned.

Mink and fox are carnivores, predators and highly inquisitive, active animals with complex social lives. Unlike most other types of farm animals, which tend to be flock or herd species, mink are solitary by nature. Mink and fox are both territorial and, in the wild, go to great lengths to defend their territories. These animals are unsuited to farming conditions and suffer great stress from intensive breeding and rearing.

Kept in small wire cages, animals on fur farms exhibit stereotyped behaviour (pacing along the cage wall, repetitive circling, head nodding, etc.) and self mutilation (e.g. sucking or biting tail fur or other parts of the pelts). There is also a high level of mortality on fur farms.

There is, however, no specific EU legislation providing detailed animal welfare requirements for keeping of animals for fur production. Fur factory farms are covered by Council Directive 98/58/EC, which lays down the general minimum requirements for the protection of all animals kept for farming purposes.

HSI contends that most of these minimum welfare standards are not being met on EU fur farms. Given the physiological and behavioural needs of mink and foxes, the basic housing systems to which they are confined fail to meet the legislative requirements since the animals are unable to express their natural behaviours.

Cage sizes are inadequate, there no provisions for key natural behaviours like a substrate for foxes to dig in or – for the naturally solitary and semi-aquatic mink – any swimming water available, and the animals have no meaningful opportunities to withdraw from the presence of their conspecifics.

The practice of intensively farming animals for their fur is inherently inhumane.

Other environmental and health reasons to ban fur farming

Contrary to industry claims, fur production is far from green. Intensive fur farms produce tonnes of manure, greenhouse emissions, nutrient flows, terrible odors and can attract armies of flies. Waste runoff is a major pollution problem that contaminates soil and waterways.

Fur farming is also a primary pathway for the introduction of invasive alien species, which are a major driver of biodiversity loss. The American mink has long been implicated in the displacement of native mammals such as the European mink and European polecat, the decline of some water vole populations and the drastically decreased breeding success of native ground-nesting birds and domestic fowl.

Significantly, as recent outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2 on mink farms in the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain during the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, fur animals can serve as a potential reservoir for dangerous pathogens that can globally threaten human health and the economy. Raccoon dogs and foxes sold in wildlife markets in Asia have also been found to be susceptible to coronaviruses.

What is HSI calling for?

Humane Society International is fundamentally opposed to the exploitation of animals for fur production; it is an unnecessary product for which there are many humane, warm and beautiful alternatives. We are:

  • Working with the Fur Free Alliance coalition to end the international fur trade
  • Working with global fashion brands and retailers to announce fur-free policies
  • Advocating the adoption of fur production bans in Member States where this cruel industry persists
  • Calling for the inclusion of the American mink on the EU list of invasive alien species of Union concern