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.

ENDS

Media contacts:

  • Martina Pluda, HSI in Italy, Country Director: mpluda@hsi.org; +39 371 4120885
  • Andrea Belli, Barilla, Group Communication and External Relations: andrea.belli@barilla.com; +39 0521 262217

Humane Society International / Europe


Multiart/iStock.com

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.

Early closure will spare 13.5 million mink from being born to suffer wasted lives

Humane Society International / Europe


Mark Hicken, Alamy Stock photo

AMSTERDAM—The Dutch government has agreed that all mink fur farms must permanently close by March 2021, according to Dutch national news service, NOS. Mink fur farming was banned in the Netherlands in 2013 with a deadline for complete phase out by 2024, so this decision sees that closure fast-tracked to prevent long term COVID-19 virus reservoirs forming on affected farms.

Since April, an estimated 2 million mink have already been preventatively culled following the outbreak of coronavirus on 41 fur farms. Leading animal charity Humane Society International applauds the Dutch cabinet for ordering the early closure of fur farms in the Netherlands and closing this chapter on this animal abuse industry.

Today’s announcement will not require mink on the 120 remaining fur farms to be preventatively culled unless new COVID-19 outbreaks occur. Mink on unaffected farms will be slaughtered for their pelts in November this year, but breeders are not permitted to restock, meaning fur farms will close forever. By March 2021, all remaining mink operations will be bought out by the government.

Speaking from Amsterdam, Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, said: “This signals the end of suffering for millions of animals confined to small wire cages on fur farms in the Netherlands. We commend the government on its decision to end this incredibly cruel and completely unnecessary industry and protect citizens. With 41 fur farms and an estimated 2 million mink now having been infected, the risk of keeping these virus reservoirs operating, is far too great. Over the past weeks, the Dutch government has failed to act as infection numbers rose. Without this early termination of fur farming, up to 13.5 million more animals would be forced to suffer short and miserable lives solely to supply the fickle fashion industry. It is a sick industry both literally and figuratively. There has never been a more compelling time for the Netherlands to shut down this industry for good”.

Last month, the Dutch Government announced its plans to implement a one-stop voluntary closing scheme that allows mink companies to voluntarily end their business operations in the short term. It requested advice from the Outbreak Management Team on Zoonosis (OMT-Z) and promised to announce its decision on future steps in August 2020. Ministers Hugo de Jonge of Health, Welfare and Sport, and Carola Schouten of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, together with the fur farming sector and experts, tightened the hygiene protocol since 10 July in hopes of putting the spread to bed. However, following the news of further infections, the OMT-Z was asked to elaborate on the risk assessment and measures in the light of public health. Over the course of the next months, until the termination is fully implemented, Minister Schouten will tighten up COVID-19 measures on existing operations. She will also conduct an investigation into compliance with the COVID-19 rules by the sector.

The Netherlands farmed around 4.5 million mink in 2018. Since April, two fur farm workers are believed “extremely likely” to have contracted the virus from mink.

Mink fur farms and COVID-19 timeline

  • 26 April: SARS-CoV-2 identified on two mink farms in Netherlands.
  • 9 May: SARS-CoV-2 found on two more mink farms in Noord Brabant as well as in dust particles in the barns in which they are kept in.
  • 15 May: SARS-CoV-2 diagnosed in three cats living at a mink farm where the presence of the virus was detected.
  • 19 May: First farm worker reported to have contracted COVID-19; Minister confirms compulsory screening is extended to all mink farms in the Netherlands.
  • 20 May: Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten tells MPs it is likely mink infected with SARS-CoV-2 passed the virus to a worker.
  • 22 May 2020: Seven of 14 employees of a mink farm in La Puebla de Valverde (Spain) test positive for SARS-CoV-2.
  • 25 May: A second farm worker contracts COVID-19, Minister confirms transmission from mink to humans now “extremely likely.”
  • 28 May: Ministers’ confirm mandatory screening of all Dutch mink farms is underway.
  • 1 June: SARS-Cov-2 found on another three mink fur farms in the Netherlands, with a fourth case confirmed on 3 June bringing the total to nine farms.
  • 3 June: Dutch Ministers publish final report confirming animals on the infected farms will be culled, a measure taken “in the interests of both public and animal health”.
  • 23 June: Dutch Parliament votes in favour of shutting down all mink fur farms in the Netherlands, with early closure of farms with compensation to be paid to fur farmers to end the practice earlier than the phase out due date of 31st December 2023.
  • 1 July: The Dutch Government says it will consider a one-stop voluntary closing scheme and breeding ban for mink fur farms in the Netherlands. It aims to make a decision in August 2020 and must notify Parliament before the new mating season starts in February 2021.
  • 6 July: 20th mink fur farm in the Netherlands confirmed with COVID-19
  • 9 July: Two more mink farms in the Netherlands confirmed with COVID-19. Another 75,000 mink culled.
  • 9 July: Brabant-Zuidoost regional safety board calls on Minister Schouten to implement preventative clearing.
  • 13 July: The 23rd mink fur farm in the Netherlands was confirmed as being infected with COVID-19.
  • 15 July: Another Dutch mink fur farm infected with COVID-19. This brings the total of infected farms to 24. The Dutch mink death toll reaches 1 million mink, according to national media sources.
  • 16 July: First farm in Spain identified with corona-infected mink. The Aragonese Minister of Agriculture, Joaquín Olona, during the press conference in which he reported the extermination of the farm with 92,700 minks Health orders to exterminate a farm of 92,700 minks invaded by the Covid in Teruel. The authorities recognize that there are indications that point to a cross contagion between humans and animals on that farm.
  • 10 August 2020: 28th and 29th farm confirmed by Ministers, in Elsendorp (12,000 dams) and in Vredepeel (6,000 dams) respectively.
  • 13 August 2020: 30th farm confirmed by Ministers, in Ven-Zelderheide (municipality of Gennep), with approximately 1,800 mother animals.
  • 14 August 2020: 31st farm confirmed by Ministers, in Altforst (municipality of West Maas en Waal), with approximately 12,000 mother animals.
  • 14 August 2020: Forth farm identified in Denmark. All four farms identified are located in North Jutland. No details of the number of mink on the farm.  The mink will not be killed.
  • 16 August 2020: Infections on Netherlands farms 32 and 33 confirmed by Ministers, in De Mortel and in Ottersum.
  • 17 August 2020: USDA Confirms first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 in mink at two farms in Utah, United States.
  • 18 August 2020: Three new Dutch farms confirmed, taking the total number of farms to 36.
  • 24 August 2020: Three new farm infected with Covid-19. An infection with SARS-CoV-2 has been established on a farm in De Rips, as well as in Vlierden and in Ven-Zelderheide. A total of 40 mink farms in the Netherlands have now been declared infected.
  • 27 August 2020: 41st farm infected with Covid-19.
  • 27 August 2020: Dutch government announce agreement to fast track the permanent closure of all mink fur farms in the Netherlands by March 2021.

Media contact:

To request an interview with HSI spokespeople (Dutch and English speakers) please contact Leozette Roode, HSI/UK: LRoode@hsi.org

Notes

Latest available figures show approximately 35 million mink were farmed in 2018 in Europe, including Denmark (17.6m), Poland (5m), Netherlands (4.5m), Finland (1.85m), Greece (1.2m) and Lithuania (1.2m).  Figures for the same period show that mink were farmed for their fur in China (20.7m), the United States (3.1m) and Canada (1.7m), bringing the total to approximately 60million mink globally on fur farms.

Humane Society International urges Dutch government to fast track early closure of this cruel industry

Humane Society International / Europe


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

AMSTERDAM—COVID-19 infections on Dutch mink fur farms have now led to an estimated 1 million mink being culled by government order. Today, yet another mink fur farm in the Netherlands with 4,500 breeding mink was confirmed as being infected with the novel virus, bringing the total number of infected farms up to 24. Leading animal charity Humane Society International is calling on the Dutch government to take urgent action and fast track the early closure of fur farms in the Netherlands as a potential reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 and other novel infectious zoonotic diseases. Mink fur farming was banned in the Netherlands in 2013 with a deadline for complete phase out by 2024.

Speaking from Amsterdam, Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe, said: “The death toll from the Dutch mink fur farm culls has now reached 1 million mink. The risk from failing to eliminate this virus reservoir is clear and yet still the Dutch government is not acting decisively by fast-tracking the early closure of this cruel and dangerous industry. The Dutch Parliament has already adopted a motion calling for the mink industry to shut down before the existing 2024 deadline. In addition to fur factory farming being inherently cruel, the potential for zoonotic disease spread, and for mink fur farms in particular to act as reservoirs for coronaviruses, incubating pathogens transmissible to humans, is an unavoidably compelling reason for the world to call time on fur farming.”   

Earlier this month the Dutch Government said it will consider a one-stop voluntary closing scheme and breeding ban for mink fur farms in the Netherlands, in response to motions adopted by the Parliament. It promised to announce its decision in August 2020 and notify Parliament before the new mating season begins. The Zoonoses Outbreak Management Team is expected to release its preliminary report on Thursday 16 July to advise the government on its future course of action. How the virus has been able to spread so rapidly among the mink population and between farms is one of the key questions that will hopefully be answered.

The Netherlands farmed around 4.5 million mink in 2018, on 128 fur farms. Since April, two fur farm workers are believed “extremely likely” to have contracted the virus from mink. This marked the start of the culling of 1 million mink. The early closure scheme considered by government will apply to all fur farms, including farms that have culled mink due to COVID -19. A ban on the transportation of mink to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is currently in place, which should mean that no new mink can be brought to an already-culled mink farm. However, the Ministerial response to the Regional Safety Authority states that the movement of young mink to other locations is permitted to prevent overcrowding.

Mink fur farms and COVID-19 timeline

  • 26 April: SARS-CoV-2 identified on two mink farms in Netherlands.
  • 9 May: SARS-CoV-2 found on two more mink farms in Noord Brabant as well as in dust particles in the barns in which they are kept in.
  • 15 May: SARS-CoV-2 diagnosed in three cats living at a mink farm where the presence of the virus was detected.
  • 19 May: First farm worker reported to have contracted COVID-19; Minister confirms compulsory screening is extended to all mink farms in the Netherlands.
  • 20 May: Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten tells MPs it is likely mink infected with SARS-CoV-2 passed the virus to a worker.
  • 22 May 2020: Seven of 14 employees of a mink farm in La Puebla de Valverde (Spain) test positive for SARS-CoV-2.
  • 25 May: A second farm worker contracts COVID-19, Minister confirms transmission from mink to humans now “extremely likely.”
  • 28 May: Ministers’ confirm mandatory screening of all Dutch mink farms is underway.
  • 1 June: SARS-Cov-2 found on another three mink fur farms in the Netherlands, with a fourth case confirmed on 3 June bringing the total to nine farms.
  • 3 June: Dutch Ministers publish final report confirming animals on the infected farms will be culled, a measure taken “in the interests of both public and animal health”.
  • 23 June: Dutch Parliament votes in favour of shutting down all mink fur farms in the Netherlands, with early closure of farms with compensation to be paid to fur farmers to end the practice earlier than the phase out due date of 31st December 2023.
  • 1 July: The Dutch Government says it will consider a one-stop voluntary closing scheme and breeding ban for mink fur farms in the Netherlands. It aims to make a decision in August 2020 and must notify Parliament before the new mating season starts in February 2021.
  • 6 July: 20th mink fur farm in the Netherlands confirmed with COVID-19
  • 9 July: Two more mink farms in the Netherlands confirmed with COVID-19. Another 75,000 mink culled.
  • 9 July: Brabant-Zuidoost regional safety board calls on Minister Schouten to implement preventative clearing.
  • 13 July: The 23rd mink fur farm in the Netherlands was confirmed as being infected with COVID-19.
  • 15 July: Another Dutch mink fur farm infected with COVID-19. This brings the total of infected farms to 24. The Dutch mink death toll reaches 1 million mink, according to national media sources.

ENDS

Media contact:

To request an interview with HSI spokespeople (Dutch and English speakers) please contact Leozette Roode, HSI/UK: LRoode@hsi.org

Notes

Latest available figures show approximately 35 million mink were farmed in 2018 in Europe, including Denmark (17.6m), Poland (5m), Netherlands (4.5m), Finland (1.85m), Greece (1.2m) and Lithuania (1.2m).  Figures for the same period show that mink were farmed for their fur in China (20.7m), the United States (3.1m) and Canada (1.7m), bringing the total to approximately 60million mink globally on fur farms.

Humane Society International urges European Commission to support the early closure of this cruel industry

Humane Society International / Europe


Mark Hicken, Alamy Stock photo

AMSTERDAM—The Dutch Government has today said it will consider a one-stop voluntary closing scheme and breeding ban for mink fur farms in the Netherlands. It aims to make a decision in August 2020 and must notify Parliament before the new mating season starts in February 2021. Any decision on the early closure scheme and financial compensation cannot be announced before notifying Parliament as it involves a State Aid measure and therefore requires approval by the European Commission.

The Government statement is in response to recent motions voted on by MPs calling for the early closure of the 128 remaining mink fur farms in the Netherlands, following outbreaks of Covid-19 on 17 fur farms since 26 April.

Animal protection charity Humane Society International fully supports the early closure of fur farming in the Netherlands. Speaking from Amsterdam, Dr Joanna Swabe, HSI/Europe’s senior director of public affairs, said: “The Dutch Government’s confirmation today that it will consider ending the inhumane practice of mink fur farming before the existing 2024 deadline is a welcome next step towards the Netherlands finally being free of fur production. Exploiting, depriving and killing animals for frivolous fur fashion is not only incredibly cruel and unnecessary, but we now know that it can also serve as a reservoir for coronaviruses, posing a risk to human health. So we urge the European Commission to approve the government’s impending request to use State Aid to facilitate the end of mink fur farming three years earlier than legally required. While it is never desirable to provide public money to the fur trade, using such funds to terminate this abusive and risky industry would be a price worth paying.”

Since April, two fur farm workers are believed “extremely likely” to have contracted the virus from mink, after which around 723,000 mink have been killed to prevent further spread, including 615,000 kits.The early closure scheme will apply to all fur farms, including farms that have culled mink due to Covid-19. A ban on the transportation of mink to prevent the spread of Covid-19 is currently in place, which means that no new mink can be brought to an already-culled mink farm.

FAST FACTS:

  • SARS-CoV-2 was first identified on two mink farms in Netherlands on 26 April 2020.
  • On 3 June 2020, Dutch Ministers published a final report confirming animals on the infected farms will be culled, a measure taken “in the interests of both public and animal health”.
  • An estimated 60 million mink are farmed for their fur around the world, with the top three production countries China (20.6 million mink), Denmark (17.6 million mink) and Poland (5 million mink) in 2018.
  • Fur farming has been banned across the UK since 2003, and has been prohibited and/or is in the process of being phased-out in the following European countries: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and most recently the government in Ireland has committed to ending fur farming. Bulgaria, Lithuania, Montenegro and Ukraine are also presently considering bans on fur farming. A proposal to ban fur farming in Estonia was also tabled this week. 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, as have cities in Minnesota and Massachusetts.
  • Fur farming, however, continues in other countries with China, Denmark, Finland and Poland being the biggest producers, and globally an estimated 100 million animals are killed annually for their fur, including mink, foxes and raccoon dogs.

Download video of mink farms in the Netherlands (courtesy of Dutch organisations Bont voor Dieren and Animal Rights).

ENDS

Media contact: To request an interview with HSI spokespeople (Dutch and English speakers) please contact Leozette Roode, HSI/UK: lroode@hsi.org

Notes
Latest available figures show approximately 35 million mink were farmed in 2018 in Europe, including Denmark (17.6m), Poland (5m), Netherlands (4.5m), Finland (1.85m), Greece (1.2m) and Lithuania (1.2m). Figures for the same period show that mink were farmed for their fur in China (20.7m), the United States (3.1m) and Canada (1.7m), bringing the total to approximately 60 million mink globally on fur farms.

Humane Society International / Italy


Aumsama, iStock.com

ROME—The Italian coalition, End the Cage Age, published today a ranking of European countries, which shows the percentage of farm animals still kept in cages. Of the over 300 million animals who each year are caged in the EU, over 45 million are in Italy. The coalition is calling on citizens to engage with the relevant Ministers of Health and Agricultural Policies, asking them to work on the transition to cage-free systems both in Italy and in the rest of the European Union.

Download pictures and report
Ranking
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In the European Union, most hens, sows, rabbits, quails, ducks and geese are raised in cages that critically limit their ability to move, forcing them to live a miserable life full of suffering, far from meeting minimum animal welfare objectives. Sensitivity for this issue is increasingly reflected amongst European citizens. Last year, following the campaign efforts associated with the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative, more than 1 million people signed a petition to end the use of cages in the EU. In Italy, over 90,000 signatures were collected and authenticated by the Ministry of the Interior.

Today the Italian End the Cage Age coalition, composed of Animal Equality, Animalisti Italiani, CIWF, ENPA, Humane Society International, LAV, Legambiente, Lega Nazionale del Cane, and OIPA, published a ranking of countries based on the percentage of animals raised in cages. In Italy almost all sows, rabbits and quails, as well as 62% of all laying hens are still kept in cages and it’s necessary to act as soon as possible to change this situation. Minister of Agriculture Teresa Bellanova and Minister of Health Roberto Speranza are responsible for implementing a transition to cage-free systems.

The End the Cage coalition asks citizens, starting today and in the coming days, to send tweets – using constructive language – addressed to the two ministers, asking them to commit publicly and concretely to phase out cages in our country. While Minister Speranza has already declared his willingness to start the dialogue on the transition to cageless systems for sows, so far there has been no reaction from Minister Bellanova.

The coalition declared: “Phasing out cages on farms is urgent because it responds to the pressing ethical request of millions of European citizens, and it is consistent with the growing attention in Europe for animal welfare and sustainability, as outlined in the Green Deal.

“Stopping the suffering of millions of animals is the ethical duty of every civil and democratic country. We hope that our Ministers will initiate public debate for a transition towards alternative systems as soon as possible, to ensure that our country does not fall behind in defending animals, and becomes a leader in the EU.”

The European Citizens’ Initiative is an official and unique tool provided by the European Union to influence political decision-makers. It involves the collection of at least 1 million signatures. Each signature is verified through a specific process by the Member States.

The End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative has collected over 1.5 million signatures that are still being validated in all Member States. In Italy validation has already been completed, confirming the validity of over 90,000 signatures. When this process is completed in all Member States, the signatures will be delivered to the Commission, which will be able to pronounce positively or negatively on the request, possibly starting a legislative process to phase out cages.

The End the Cage Age Initiative was the result of the coordination of over 170 animal, environmental and consumer protection organizations across Europe, including 20 in Italy.

END

Humane Society International welcomes vote signalling an end to the Netherlands’ horrific fur farm industry

Humane Society International / Europe


Jillian Cooper/iStock.com 

AMSTERDAM—Dutch MPs voted overwhelmingly today in favour of shutting down the estimated 128 remaining mink fur farms in the Netherlands, following outbreaks of COVID-19 on 17 fur farms since 26 April. Two farm workers are also believed to have contracted the virus from mink, after which hundreds of thousands of mink have been killed to prevent further spread. Humane Society International/Europe says it is good riddance to an industry predicated on the out-dated idea that exploiting, depriving and killing animals for frivolous fur fashion is acceptable.

Politicians voted in favour of the early closure of farms with compensation to be paid to fur farmers to end the practice earlier than the phase out due date of 31st December 2023, despite many fur farms being worth tens of millions of euros. Mink fur farming was banned in the Netherlands in 2013, and produced around 4.5 million mink pelts in 2018.

Speaking from Amsterdam, Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for animal protection group Humane Society International/Europe, said: “The intensive breeding and caging of animals on fur farms is an incredibly cruel practice that not only causes immense suffering to animals, but can also serve as a reservoir for coronaviruses. The Dutch Parliament has today said good riddance to an industry predicated on the out-dated idea that exploiting, depriving and killing animals for frivolous fur fashion is acceptable. While we are disappointed by the suggestion that taxpayers’ hard-earned money should be used as compensation to fur farmers who have kept this cruel industry alive in the face of massive public and political opposition, this vote calls on the government to act swiftly to end this inhumane practice before the existing 2024 deadline. That is worth a celebration. The Dutch government now has to take action to honour the Parliament’s wishes.” 

With clear parliamentary support for swift action, the Dutch Government will now be under pressure to ensure a ban on mink production given that this species is known to be susceptible to the coronavirus and could act as a reservoir for the disease. The Parliament also voted to maintain the ban on transporting mink and to prevent fur farms where the mink have already been culled from restocking with mink.

FAST FACTS:

  • SARS-CoV-2 was first identified on two mink farms in Netherlands on 26 April 2020.
  • On 3 June 2020, Dutch Ministers published a final report confirming animals on the infected farms will be culled, a measure taken “in the interests of both public and animal health”.
  • An estimated 60 million mink are farmed for their fur around the world, with the top three production countries China (20.6 million mink), Denmark (17.6 million mink) and Poland (5 million mink) in 2018.
  • Fur farming has been banned across the UK since 2003, and has been prohibited and/or is in the process of being phased-out in the following European countries: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and most recently the government in Ireland has committed to ending fur farming.  Bulgaria, Lithuania, Montenegro and Ukraine are also presently considering bans on fur farming. A proposal to ban fur farming in Estonia was also tabled this week. 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, as have cities in Minnesota and Massachusetts.
  • Fur farming, however, continues in other countries with China, Denmark, Finland and Poland being the biggest producers, and globally an estimated 100 million animals are killed annually for their fur, including mink, foxes and raccoon dogs.

Download video of mink farms in the Netherlands (courtesy of Dutch organisations Bont voor Dieren and Animal Rights)

ENDS

Media contact: To request an interview with HSI spokespeople (Dutch and English speakers), please contact Leozette Roode, HSI/UK: lroode@hsi.org

Notes
Latest available figures show approximately 35 million mink were farmed in 2018 in Europe, including Denmark (17.6m), Poland (5m), Netherlands (4.5m), Finland (1.85m), Greece (1.2m) and Lithuania (1.2m).  Figures for the same period show that mink were farmed for their fur in China (20.7m), the United States (3.1m) and Canada (1.7m), bringing the total to approximately 60 million mink globally on fur farms.

Humane Society International / Viet Nam


Tikki Hywood Trust

BRUSSELS/HANOI—Today’s ratification of the free trade agreement with the European Union by the Vietnamese National Assembly heralds a new era of intergovernmental cooperation on animal welfare and wildlife protection between the two. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union approved the agreement earlier this year. Humane Society International believes that, if supported with resources, the agreement has significant potential to protect wildlife and increase cooperation on animal welfare.

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

“Humane Society International believes that both Parties should seize the opportunity presented by this historic trade deal to increase their cooperation on animal protection. Although there were very limited animal welfare provisions, it does offer a chance for the EU to provide technical assistance and capacity building to advance farm animal welfare in Vietnam. The 2019 mass culling of pigs to eradicate African swine fever there illustrates just how badly such veterinary assistance is needed. The culling process was extremely inhumane due to lack of the right equipment and skills needed for electrical stunning and killing. Through increased cooperation with the EU, a long-term programme of training, capacity building and assistance could be instituted to teach humane animal-handling techniques and proper equipment use to safeguard the welfare and dignity of animals at the time of killing.”

Phuong Tham, director of HSI/Vietnam, added:

“In addition to sharing much needed knowledge and technical assistance on farm animal welfare, the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement includes provisions that can help support our government’s efforts to curb the trade in wildlife products. Sadly, Vietnam continues to serve as a source, consumer and transit country for the illegal wildlife trade. HSI/Vietnam hopes that, through the proper implementation of this trade deal and development cooperation, we can successfully reduce the demand for wildlife products and increase our government’s enforcement capacity with the training and tools needed to tackle the scourge of wildlife trafficking. The illegal wildlife trade not only poses a threat to biological diversity and natural habitats, but, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated, it can also pose a serious threat to public health. It was technically already illegal to sell and consume wild-caught species in Vietnam, but the existing rules were poorly enforced and wet markets selling wildlife have proliferated.”

Once the trade agreement enters into force, both HSI/Europe and HSI/Vietnam intend to apply to join the respective Domestic Advisory Groups that will be established to allow civil society representatives to monitor the implementation of this free trade agreement.

Facts

  • The EU and Vietnam signed a trade agreement and an investment protection agreement on 30th June 2019. The Council of the European Union approved the agreement on 30th March 2020 after the European Parliament gave its consent on 12th February 2020.
  • The Cooperation and Capacity Building Chapter of EU-Vietnam FTA states that the “Parties agree to cooperate on animal welfare as necessary, including technical assistance and capacity building for the development of animal welfare standards.”
  • As of mid-December 2019, 6 million pigs in Vietnam have been culled in an attempt to eradicate African swine fever. The inhumane culling process highlighted the need for better training and equipment.
  • The Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter of the EU-Vietnam trade agreement includes commitments to the proper implementation and enforcement of multilateral environmental agreements, as well as provisions aiming to protect biodiversity and reduce illegal wildlife trade through information exchange on strategies, policy initiatives, programmes, action plans and consumer awareness campaigns. It also includes a commitment to enhance cooperation to increase species protection through the proposal of new CITES listings. Notably, in 2019, the EU and Vietnam jointly submitted proposals and succeeded in listing various reptile and amphibian species on CITES Appendix II.
  • Rhino horn is valued in countries like China and Vietnam for purported medicinal benefits, although there is no scientific evidence to back these claims. Horn can be sold for high prices on the black market, but there are indications that the price has fallen recently in Vietnam, thanks in part to a campaign to reduce rhino horn demand launched in 2013 by HSI and the Vietnamese government. The multi-faceted campaign has reached an estimated 37 million people—approximately one-third of the national population.
  • In 2016, HSI organized the first-ever Pangolin Range States Meeting, co-hosted by the governments of Vietnam and the United States, and attended by over 30 pangolin range states in Vietnam.
  • With HSI’s support, Vietnam held an event in November 2016 at which, for the first time in the country’s history, over two tons of elephant ivory, 70 kg of rhino horn, and other seized wildlife specimens were destroyed to send a message to the international community that the living animals are valued, rather than the products derived from them.
  • HSI partnered with the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Education and Training to implement a ground-breaking project under which millions of schoolchildren in Vietnam received educational lessons on threatened wildlife as part of an effort to tackle illegal trade in rhinos, elephants, pangolins, tigers and more.

END

Media contact:  Phuong Tham, phuongth@hsi.org

Humane Society International urges governments to close mink farms in all countries

Humane Society International / Europe


Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

LONDON—The Dutch government has ordered the culling of thousands of mink on nine fur farms from Friday this week, following advice from a team of veterinary and infectious disease experts that mink fur farms could act as a reservoir for SARS-COV-2, allowing it to remain in circulation for a long time.

Dutch MPs were notified of the cabinet decision in a letter sent last night by the Dutch Agriculture Minister and the Minister for Public Health, Welfare & Sport. The investigation by the Dutch Zoonoses Outbreak Management Team follows the Dutch Agriculture Minister’s statement on 25th May that it was ‘extremely likely’ that two fur farm workers in the Netherlands had contracted COVID-19 from mink infected with SARS-CoV-2.

In response to the Dutch government’s findings, animal protection group Humane Society International is calling for the global closure of mink fur farms as potential breeding ground for COVID-19 and other novel infectious zoonotic diseases. An estimated 60 million mink are farmed for their fur in 24 countries around the world, with the top three production countries China (20.6million mink), Denmark (17.6million mink) and Poland (5 million mink) in 2018.

Speaking from Amsterdam, Dr Joanna Swabe, Senior Director of Public Affairs for animal protection group Humane Society International/Europe, said: “The intensive cage confinement of animals on fur farms has always been a potential breeding ground for infectious diseases, and confirmation that mink on Dutch fur farms have infected workers with COVID-19 exposes yet another reason to close this cruel and entirely unnecessary industry. Fur farms typically contain thousands of mink in rows of cages in unsanitary, crowded and stressful conditions not unlike the wildlife markets at the centre of global concern. In addition to fur factory farming being inherently cruel, the potential for zoonotic disease spread, and for mink fur farms in particular to act as reservoirs for coronaviruses, incubating pathogens transmissible to humans, is an unavoidably compelling reason for the world to call time on fur farming and for all fashion companies to go fur-free. The Netherlands’ deadline of 2024 for phasing out mink fur farms simply provides three and a half more years of unnecessary risk. The Dutch government, and all fur-producing countries like Denmark, Poland, France, Italy, China, Finland, Spain and the United States, should commit to end this inhumane practice and protect public health.”

The Ministers’ letter to the Dutch Parliament notes that more infections are expected to be detected in the coming weeks, and that as human-human infection rates decline, mink-human infection could increase the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 in humans. All fur farms in the Netherlands are now undergoing mandatory screening, and measures have been put in place including a restriction on both farm visitors and the transportation of mink. Cordons were put in place around the infected farms, and residents advised not to go within 400 meters of the farms. Initial tests confirmed that virus particles had been found in the dust of some of the mink sheds.

Non-infected farms will be required to continue to follow current measures and to submit carcasses of “naturally” deceased animals each week. Mandatory testing of all Dutch mink farms is in progress and the results are due from those tests next week.

Mink fur farming was banned in the Netherlands in 2013 with a deadline for complete phase out by 2024. The Netherlands farmed around 4.5million mink in 2018. HSI is supporting calls by Dutch animal organisations for the closure of the approximately 128 fur farms that remain to be fast tracked in light of the COVID-19 risk. The Ministers’ letter states that the Dutch cabinet is considering whether and how to support fur farms to voluntarily terminate their businesses before the 2024 deadline.

Claire Bass, Humane Society International’s UK Director, responded to the news by urging the United Kingdom to show world leadership with a UK fur sales ban: “Banning the cruelty of fur farming in the UK nearly two decades ago, was morally the right thing to do for animals. It’s clear from the situation in the Netherlands that mink fur farms can act as reservoirs for pathogens that put human health at risk. By continuing to allow imports of tens of millions of pounds of fur each year, the UK is effectively underwriting trade in wildlife that could act as a petri-dish for the creation and spread of future viral pathogens. We cannot lay pandemic blame at the door of those countries that commercially farm and trade in wild animals in appalling conditions while simultaneously providing markets for their products. We urge the UK governments to ban the sale of animal fur, sending a clear global message that it is not acceptable to put public health at risk for the sake of the frivolous fur fashion industry.”

Mink fur farms and COVID-19 timeline

The other main species reared on fur farms – foxes and raccoon dogs – are known to be able to become infected with SARS-CoV-related viruses, with the potential to act as intermediate hosts to pass viruses to humans. Raccoon dogs and foxes in wildlife markets in China were both found to have been infected with SARS-CoV.

Fur farming has been banned across the UK since 2003, and has been prohibited and/or is in the process of being phased-out in the following European countries: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and most recently the government in Ireland has committed to ending fur farming.  Bulgaria, Lithuania, Montenegro and Ukraine are also presently considering bans on fur farming. 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, as have cities in Minnesota and Massachusetts.

Fur farming, however, continues in other countries with China, Denmark, Finland and Poland being the biggest producers, and globally an estimated 100 million animals are killed annually for their fur.

Take action: Sign HSI’s petition for a UK fur sales ban at hsi.org/furfreebritain

Download video of mink farms in the Netherlands (courtesy of Dutch organisations Bont voor Dieren and Animal Rights)

ENDS

Media contact:

To request an interview with HSI spokespeople (Dutch and English speakers), please contact Wendy Higgins, HSI/UK, whiggins@hsi.org

Notes:
Latest available figures show approximately 35 million mink were farmed in 2018 in Europe, including Denmark (17.6m), Poland (5m), Netherlands (4.5m), Finland (1.85m), Greece (1.2m) and Lithuania (1.2m).  Figures for the same period show that mink were farmed for their fur in China (20.7m), the United States (3.1m) and Canada (1.7m), bringing the total to approximately 60million mink globally on fur farms.

Humane Society International urges farmers to farm for the future of meat-reduced diets

Humane Society International / Europe


Chat Photography/HSI Vegan macaroni and cheese

BRUSSELS—The European Commission will promote a shift to planet-friendly plant-based diets, according to its long-awaited Farm to Fork Strategy published today. As well as tackling climate impacts of food, reducing obesity rates and cancer prevention are cited as key health reasons why meat reduction and a shift to a more plant-based diet is necessary.  However, the Commission backed down from making a commitment – seen in an earlier leaked version of the strategy – to cease spending millions of Euros each year on promoting meat production and consumption. Instead, the strategy focuses on how the EU can “use its promotion programme to support the most sustainable, carbon-efficient methods of livestock production”.

The shift in emphasis is part of the Commission’s strategy for a sustainable food system. The push for plant-based foods has been welcomed by animal welfare campaigners at Humane Society International who urge Europe’s farmers to get behind the strategy by farming for the future of meat-reduced diets.

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

“Animal farming makes up roughly 70% of all EU greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and climate scientists have long agreed that big reductions in meat and dairy are vital if we are to have any hope of reaching our climate change targets. So within that context, it is deeply disappointing that the EU has chickened out of ending the practice of pouring millions of euros into promoting inefficient and unsustainable meat production and meat consumption. Climate-conscious citizens across Europe are increasingly shifting their diets to include more planet-friendly and animal friendly plant-based foods and so we welcome the fact that EU research funds will now be dedicated to expanding the availability of plant-based proteins and meat substitutes.

It is, however, lamentable that the Commission has partly kowtowed to a factory farming industry that is wholly based on a high-volume, low-price production model routinely propped up by government subsidies. The Farm to Fork Strategy published today should have put this low-animal welfare model on notice, but it has fallen short. If we want to save the planet, we need to stop producing so much meat and dairy, and support a transition to more sustainable forms of agriculture. Farming for a meat-reduced future is something that all farmers should get behind because they are a vital part of the solution. Far from taking away their livelihoods, the plant-based revolution offers a wealth of new and more sustainable possibilities. We should be supporting farmers to transition to new crops and production models, to grow the peas, pulses and vegetables at the heart of rocketing demand for plant-centric diets.”

HSI/Europe welcomes the Commission’s commitment to revising animal welfare legislation and to align it with the latest scientific evidence. This should not just be restricted to animal transport and slaughter. Much of the present animal welfare law is outdated and poorly enforced by most Member States. It is vital that revised legislation is implemented and easily enforced and the European Union achieves a higher level of animal welfare. For example, it is high time to end the confinement animals on farms. For example, the Laying Hens Directive 1999/74/EC should be revised to phase-out and eliminate the use of enriched cages to confine hens, once and for all. Finally, it is welcome that the Commission will also be considering options for animal welfare labelling as part of the strategy. It is a good idea to use labelling to link production methods to consumer demand.

As ever, the devil will be in the details. The Farm to Fork Strategy does not include any concrete plans to reduce the numbers of animals kept on farm in the EU, nor does it put an end to the CAP subsidies that sustain intensive animal agriculture.

Notes 

  • “The Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system” is an important component of the European Green Deal, which seeks to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050, improve people’s well-being and to protect the natural habitat, while ensuring a just and inclusive transition;
  • The key goals of the strategy are to ensure Europeans get affordable and sustainable food, tackle climate change, protect the environment, preserve biodiversity and increase organic farming;
  • The strategy encompasses a range of actions relating to ensuring sustainable food production and food security, stimulating sustainable practices in food businesses, reducing food loss and waste, combating food fraud and promoting the global transition;
  • A number of issues raised in the strategy are specifically relevant to the protection of animals. A commitment is made to revise existing animal welfare legislation. There was virtually no progress made on advancing animal welfare standards during the previous Commission’s mandate and revision is greatly needed to reflect recent developments in animal welfare science. Only the legislation on animal transport and slaughter were explicitly mentioned, but this does not exclude additional legislation from being updated; animal welfare labelling is also proposed;
  • Action on antimicrobial resistance, which is also linked to animal welfare, is also included in the strategy. A commitment to the reduction in sales of antimicrobials for animals on farms and in aquaculture is proposed;
  • The strategy recognises that the current food consumption patterns in the EU are unsustainable from both a health and environmental perspective. Reducing obesity rates and cancer prevention are cited as the key health reasons why meat reduction and a shift to a more plant-based diet is necessary;
  • The strategy seeks to reduce the environmental and climate impact of animal production through supporting innovative solutions and requiring sustainable animal production practices, rather than explicitly calling for a reduction in the number of animals on farms.
  • To enable the transition to more plant-based diets, the strategy also commits to dedicating EU funds to research into increasing the availability and sourcing of alternative plant proteins and meat substitutes.

ENDS

Media contact: To request further information or interview Dr Swabe, email Wendy Higgins whiggins@hsi.org