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

Humane Society International

nata_vkusidey via Vegan burger

BRUSSELS—The European Parliament has rejected attempts to ban the use of so-called meat denominations, such as burgers and sausages, for plant-based products. In an amendment to the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products, some MEPs had proposed introducing a ban on terms like ‘veggie burgers’. MEPs have, however, voted in favour of amendment 171, banning the use of direct and indirect references to dairy on plant-based products.

Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, said: “We are unsurprised but delighted that MEPs have rejected cynical attempts by a protectionist meat industry to hinder the marketing of plant-based proteins in the EU. Their preposterous claims that consumers would be confused by the use of names such as burgers, sausages, schnitzels and mince on clearly labelled vegetarian meat substitutes, have been rightly rejected as disproportionate nonsense. It is an insult to consumers’ intelligence to suggest that they cannot tell the difference between burgers labelled as vegetarian, vegan or plant-based and those made with meat from dead animals.”

Scientists consistently tell us that we need to transition to more sustainable, meat-reduced diets in order to avert catastrophic climate change. Even the European Commission acknowledges  the  need  to  shift  to  more plant-based diets in its recently adopted Farm to Fork Strategy. At a time where urgent action is needed to reduce our environmental footprint on the planet, it would have been utterly counter-productive to  allow the meat industry to succeed in pushing for  unnecessary  barriers  to  the  burgeoning meat-free food sector which has developed plant-based products to cater for the growing number of consumers seeking to reduce or replace animal products in their  diets.  This has been a desperate attempt by the animal agriculture industry to undermine the EU’s sustainable food and climate policies, and we are glad that MEPs have seen through  it.”

A second vague amendment also sought to ban any “imitation or evocation” of dairy foods, and any use of a dairy designation which “exploits the reputation” of dairy foods. This industry attempt to stymie the marketing of plant-based products, such as yoghurt, was, however, adopted by a majority of MEPs during the Plenary vote.

While we celebrate the rejection of the foolish ‘veggie burger ban’ we are disappointed that MEPs have conceded to the demands of the dairy industry to further ban denominations, which indirectly refer to plant-based dairy alternatives. Terms like ‘almond milk’ and ‘soy yogurt’ are already banned in the EU, and the amendment to this proposed legislation is disproportionate and takes this ban one unnecessary step further. The production of dairy products contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and the use of ‘dairy’ terms on plant-based products provides consumers with easily recognisable alternatives should they wish to change their diet due to health, environmental or animal welfare concerns, We urge the Commission and Member States to ensure that the Parliament’s proposed amendment of this legislation is rejected during the upcoming inter-institutional negotiations on the file,” said Swabe.


  • In 2019, MEPs from the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development adopted a report on the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products, which included amendments seeking to ban products using meat denominations and the use of terms that imitate dairy designations.
  • HSI joined together with animal protection, environmental and food NGOs, as well as producers of plant-based meat alternatives, to campaign against the ‘veggie burger ban
  • The Commission’s recently adopted Farm to Fork Strategy, which is an essential element of the Union’s flagship environmental policy, the European Green Deal, acknowledged that the transition to a more sustainable food system will not happen without a shift in people’s diets. It explicitly states that “moving to a more plant-based diet with less red and processed meat and with more fruits and vegetables will reduce not only risks of life-threatening diseases, but also the environmental impact of the food system.”
  • In October 2020, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the EU Climate Law supporting a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. A ban on using meat denominations for plant-based foods would have been incoherent and undermining to achieving such a climate goal.


Media contact: Leozette Roode, media and campaigns manager for Humane Society International/UK:, +27 71 360 1104

The Humane Corporate Progress Award honors the Italian food group for its global cage-free policy

Humane Society International / Europe (in Italy)

Alberto Bernasconi for HSI HSI’s Henry Spira Award Presentation to Barilla

PARMA–Italian food group Barilla, the world’s largest pasta manufacturer, is the recipient of this year’s Henry Spira Humane Corporate Progress Award, a recognition given by the Humane Society of the United States to companies that adopt policies which have a significant positive impact on animals. Humane Society International, which is the international arm of the Humane Society of the United States, joins in celebrating Barilla’s transition to responsible sourcing of cage-free eggs in its global supply chain. Barilla is one of only a handful of companies in the world to achieve a 100% cage-free egg supply chain ahead of schedule.

HSI’s first contact with Barilla was in late 2016, and in just a matter of months the Italian company committed to this animal welfare goal and achieved it in 2019, one year before the publicly announced 2020 deadline. Barilla provides yearly progress updates and egg sourcing statistics in its annual sustainability report. Barilla’s global policy applies to each of the six countries where the group operates. Barilla’s operations require 23.000 tons of eggs per year. The implementation of this animal welfare policy is changing the lives of an estimated two million laying hens worldwide each year.

Elena Franchi, purchasing manager at Barilla’s headquarters, stated: “We seek to do the right thing in our business model, and that’s what we’ve done here. We benefited from the steady and constructive support of Humane Society International, and our partnership was crucial to Barilla’s early completion of our stated goal. Particularly in Brazil, where we have been present for only a few years, the support of HSI has been critical for the success.” 

Barilla joins a growing list of global companies transitioning to cage-free eggs. Cage-free production systems typically offer hens higher levels of welfare, allowing the birds to express more of their natural behaviors, including moving around, laying eggs in nests, perching, and fully spreading their wings. Although conventional cages have been prohibited in the European Union from January 2012, enriched cages are still legal and in Italy, 62% of hens are still raised in cages. Barilla’s policy recognizes the need to exclude cages altogether, ensuring higher welfare for egg-laying chickens.

Martina Pluda, director for HIS in Italy, says Barilla’s example has wider implications. “The company’s leadership is setting an important precedent for other companies, many of whom have made public commitments to go cage-free but have yet to make significant progress. I am very pleased that an Italian company is able to set such an important global standard within the food industry. Ensuring a better treatment of the animals involved is a shared responsibility of consumers and producers alike, and I would like to encourage more companies to follow this example. We look forward to working with Barilla’s leadership to promote the corporate progress vision at the heart of the Spira Award.”  

The Henry Spira Awards recognize significant corporate animal welfare commitments in the memory of Henry Spira (1927-1998), a legendary Belgian-American humane advocate who specialized in constructive engagement with corporations committed to an animal welfare mandate as part of their corporate social responsibility missions. He is considered one of the most effective animal advocates of the 20th century.


Media contacts:

  • Martina Pluda, HSI in Italy, Country Director:; +39 371 4120885
  • Andrea Belli, Barilla, Group Communication and External Relations:; +39 0521 262217

Humane Society International / Europe


The European Union’s precedent-setting ban on cosmetic animal testing and trade has been undermined from within by two recent decisions to require cosmetic ingredients to undergo new animal testing.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) Board of Appeals recently upheld a decision by ECHA staff to require German chemical company Symrise to carry out several tests on vertebrate animals to fulfill ‘tick-box’ registration requirements under the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation.

The chemicals in question, homosalate and 2-ethylhexyl salicylate, are used exclusively as cosmetic ingredients in sunscreens. As such, the animal testing requirements of the REACH Regulation directly conflict with the animal testing ban under the Cosmetics Regulation.

To its credit, Symrise contested ECHA’s demands for multiple new animal tests – which together would subject several thousand animals and their offspring to suffering and death – arguing that such tests cannot be required for substances used exclusively as ingredients in cosmetic products. Further, one of the core tenets of REACH is to promote alternatives to animal testing for assessing chemical hazards.

On August 18, the ECHA Board of Appeals ruled against Symrise, citing that REACH does not contain an automatic exemption from new testing, even if a substance is used exclusively as an ingredient in cosmetics. This decision is the latest in a series of positions taken by ECHA which act at variance to the animal replacement mandate under REACH, and now also the celebrated ban on animal testing for cosmetics. The ruling also contradicts numerous calls by the European Parliament to ensure the EU ban is not weakened, including a motion passed on July 10th this year, stating specifically that animal testing bans set by the Cosmetics Regulation “must not be compromised by testing conducted under other legislation such as REACH”.

Once the global leader in the move away from animal testing – with the European Parliament in 2018 calling for an international ban on cosmetics testing and trade by 2023 – the actions of certain ECHA and Member State bureaucrats are increasingly eroding the EU’s reputation and leadership status in this area. By contrast, U.S. chemical authorities in the Environmental Protection Agency are being duly applauded for their efforts to replace vertebrate animal testing for chemicals, and EPA’s policy commitment to eliminating both requirements and funding for mammalian animal testing by 2035.

Humane Society International, a leading advocate for cruelty-free cosmetics laws and animal-free safety assessment worldwide, is calling for transformational change within ECHA that reflects its mandated focus on the promotion of alternatives, including actively minimising and progressively replacing animal testing with new human-relevant, non-animal scientific approaches. Without active leadership from ECHA, the EU’s ban – and the increased development of alternative testing methods seen as a result – will be seriously undermined.

HSI will continue to work will EU policymakers and relevant stakeholders to reverse the decisions by ECHA and its Board of Appeals, and to ensure the integrity of the EU’s hard-won ban on cosmetic animal testing remains strong.