Campaigners deliver petition names to Downing Street, as Labour and Liberal Democrat spokespeople write to Defra Secretary in support of a fur import ban

Humane Society International / Europe


Alice Russell

LONDON—A week after a senior Conservative MP told Politico that the government intends to drop plans to ban cruel fur and foie gras, campaigners from animal NGOs Humane Society International/UK,  FOUR PAWS UK, and PETA have gathered outside Downing Street to hand in a petition with over 300,000 signatures. Launched earlier this year by TV conservationist Chris Packham, the petition was today handed in to Prime Minister Liz Truss calling on her to end the “obscene double-standard” that allows these products of cruelty to be imported and sold in UK shops. The petition is also delivered just days after wildlife and conservation groups including the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds accused Liz Truss of “an attack on nature” for weakening environmental rules.  

Fur farming has been banned on ethical grounds across the UK since the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act came into force in 2003, and force feeding of geese and ducks to produce pâté de foie gras is similarly illegal. However, the UK currently permits trade in both fur and foie gras. Since the fur farming ban took effect, His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs records indicate that almost one billion pounds worth of cruel fur has been imported from countries including China, Italy, Finland and Poland. The petition urges Liz Truss to “send a global message that we will not trade in such disgusting cruelty.”

In May 2021 the government launched a Call for Evidence on the UK fur trade, with the stated intention of using the findings to inform possible future action. The consultation had received almost 30,000 responses when it closed in June 2021. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has completed its analysis of the results but despite Ministers publicly confirming these findings would be released, it has still failed to do so more than a year later.

In parallel with the petition hand-in, Shadow Animal Welfare Minister Ruth Jones MP and Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson Tim Farron MP have sent letters to Defra Secretary of State Ranil Jayawardena, each stating their party’s support for a fur import and sales ban and urging the government to release the findings of the Call for Evidence.

Ruth Jones MP said: “It was a Labour government that banned fur farming in 2000, blazing a trail that now 18 other countries have followed. Untold millions of animals have been spared lives of misery thanks to these bans. The next logical step is for the UK to lead the way on a fur import ban, closing UK borders to the cruel and dangerous fur trade. Government policy should be based on evidence, so surely it should be a simple job for the results of the Call for Evidence to be released and an informed policy position to be taken. Drip-feeding unevidenced U-turns to the press is a dismal way to run the government.”

Tim Farron MP said: “We are a nation of animal lovers, and how we treat animals is a measure of our humanity. The Liberal Democrats stand firm on animal welfare issues and are proud to support calls to end the UK’s complicity in the cruel global fur trade by banning the import and sale of fur.”

Each year more than 100 million animals suffer and die for their fur, the majority (around 95%) spending their entire lives trapped in barren wire cages measuring just one metre square. Injuries and disease are common on fur farms, as are animals displaying signs of psychological distress.

Chris Packham said: “There is no place in modern Britain for fur or foie gras, both of which are products of appalling cruelty. We don’t allow the freedom of choice to import elephant ivory, or whale meat, or seal, dog or cat fur, because all these things are unutterably immoral. So too is causing animals enormous pain and suffering for frivolous fur and foie gras.”

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, said: “Almost 80% of British people agree that fur should not be imported and sold here, and given fur’s plummeting popularity with designers and retailers, it certainly isn’t going to be playing any part in the prime minister’s ambitions for booming economic growth. Moving ahead with a fur ban is an opportunity to reassure people that the government’s trade strategy has a moral compass, in line with voters’ expectations. No government should underestimate how much animals matter to the British people, and ending trade in products so cruel their production is already banned here, is an easy way for Liz Truss to demonstrate she understands that.”

Sonul Badiani-Hamment, FOUR PAWS UK country director, said: “Given Liz Truss’s determination to recklessly backpedal on every commitment made to British voters, we are uniting with Chris Packham and the opposition parties to send a firm message to Downing Street that we will be the thorn in their side until they start delivering for animals. We’re demanding they make public the responses to the 2021 UK fur trade Call for Evidence. But for this government, that seem to have forgotten their electoral mandate and to whom they answer, even a request for a transparent evidence-based approach is too much. Animals Matter to our climate, our health, our economy and to us, the British public, and we will not allow Liz Truss and her cabinet to forget this.”

Elisa Allen, PETA vice president of programmes, said: “The government has long promised to close our borders to cruelly produced foie gras and fur by implementing an import ban on both—legislation that is welcomed by everyone in this country except the inherently selfish. Any backtrack on these promises would betray both animals who desperately need a caring and the public, which has made its opposition to these items clear.”

National polling carried out in April 2022 shows that over three quarters (77%) of British voters think the government should ban the importation of animal products where the production methods are already banned in the UK, such as fur.

The petition hand-in comes as across Europe, more than 70 NGOs have joined together to support the “Fur Free Europe” European Citizens’ Initiative which calls for an EU-wide ban on fur farming and the import of fur products. The ECI petition was launched in May this year and has gathered more than 336,000 signatures to date.  

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Notes: Polling was run on the Focaldata platform. Data was collected from a nationally representative sample of 10,018 adults between 11th and 20th April 2022.   

Media contact: Sally Ivens, senior media manager, HSI/UK: sivens@hsi.org 

Animal protection groups release new report urging legal loopholes be closed

Humane Society International / Europe


Errey Images/iStock.com

BRUSSELS, Munich—The European Union continues to be a main hub and destination for stolen wildlife from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. A new report released today by Pro Wildlife, Humane Society International and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Stolen Wildlife: The EU—a destination for wildlife traffickers, exposes European complicity in this illegal trade. EU citizens are not only involved in the smuggling of nationally protected wildlife, but helping to perpetuate the market for these animals.

While the European Union is one of the biggest importers of animals destined for the exotic pet trade, only a very small fraction of the species in this trade are actually covered by international and/or EU legislation. However, many species in trade, which are protected in non-EU countries under domestic legislation, have nonetheless been caught in the wild and exported in violation of the country of origin’s national law. This is the case with the Philippine sailfin lizard and the glass frog species from Latin America, popular targets in the exotic trade at present.

Dr. Sandra Altherr, Head of Science at Pro Wildlife, says: “In their quest to own unique wild animals, wealthy exotic pet keepers in Europe are driving the global trafficking of rare species. Wildlife smugglers are openly selling illegally acquired animals at European trade shows in the full knowledge that they can get away with it because of the loopholes in the EU legislation. With each rare lizard fetching up to thousands of Euros, big money can be made with virtually no legal risks.”

Ilaria Silvestre, Head of EU Policy & Campaigns at IFAW says: “The Internet is a major channel for directly connecting traders and clients from all over the world. It is the ideal platform for criminal animal traders. The online trafficking of protected species, which is partly fuelled by the promotion of exotic pet ownership and interactions on social media, poses a huge challenge for enforcement authorities. Illegal wildlife trade, both online and in physical markets, is increasingly targeting rare wild species that are not protected by the EU legislation, and this is a contributor to the catastrophic biodiversity loss seen globally.”

Dr. Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe says: “It is time for the EU to act. Its recent Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 shared many good words about halting global biodiversity loss. Now it must turn those words into concrete deeds. The European Commission will soon deliver its revised Action Plan Against Wildlife Trafficking. This is a golden opportunity  to tackle this form of illegal wildlife trade and to develop supplementary legislation to criminalise the trade in wildlife  taken for the pet trade in violation of other country’s laws.”

Stolen Wildlife: The EU—a destination for wildlife traffickers provides detailed case studies from Cuba, Brazil, Morocco, South Africa and the Philippines, it also provides an overview of attempts made by range states to protect their unique biodiversity, for example, by tabling several proposals for the upcoming CITES Conference of Parties meeting in Panama to restrict the international trade in their endemic species.

The three animal and wildlife protection organisations are calling for EU  action to introduce a law to prohibit the import, sale, purchase and possession of wildlife that has been illegally sourced in its country of origin. This demand has also been repeatedly backed by the European Parliament over the past few years, in several adopted resolutions that urge the European Commission to deliver such legislation.

Download the Full Report

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Humane Society International / Canada


Foxes on a fur farm
We Animals Media

MONTREAL—Kelly Butler, HSI/Canada wildlife campaign manager, issued the following statement, reacting to images released from a Québec fur farm investigation:

“We were deeply disturbed by the images appearing in the media of foxes and mink on fur farms in Québec. Such images underscore the urgent need for governments and the public to bring the cruel and outdated fur farming industry to an end.

“In fur farms, wild animals—primarily minks and foxes—are intensively confined in cramped, filthy cages, denied the most basic of their needs. These inhumane and overcrowded conditions may also promote the proliferation of zoonotic diseases including COVID-19. We are calling on the Québec Government to follow the lead of British Columbia in taking action to end fur farming within its borders. To date, over 20 countries have taken action to prohibit or severely restrict this cruel, high-risk and needless industry.”

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Media contact: Kelly Butler, wildlife campaign manager: kbutler@hsi.org

School meals in Sobral improve animal welfare, climate impact and health for 35,000 students

Humane Society International / Global


Stock photography

SOBRAL, Brazil—An agreement signed by the Municipality of Sobral, in collaboration with Humane Society International and Mercy for Animals’ Alimentação Consciente Brasil program, will bring healthier and more climate-friendly food to almost 35,000 students attending the city’s public schools while improving the welfare of animals. Lectures on nutrition and plant-based culinary training sessions delivered in late Augustkick-started the implementation of the program.

The initiative seeks to replace 20% of ingredients from animals with vegetables, legumes, grains and fruits in more than 2.3 million meals every year. Teams from Humane Society International and Alimentação Consciente Brasil will train municipal kitchen teams in plant-based cuisine and will share knowledge with school education coordinators about the positive nutritional and environmental principles of making small changes to diets.

Food systems with high intake of animal products have been reported to increase health problems such as obesity, diabetes and cancer. Further, animal agriculture globally is a leading driver of climate change and is directly linked to serious environmental problems such as deforestation and excessive use of water.

The agreement is the result of the city’s participation in the first edition of the Urban Laboratory of Food Public Policies, organized by Instituto Comida do Amanhã and Local Governments for Sustainability, with institutional support from Alimentação Consciente Brasil and Humane Society International.

“We believe that food policies drive sustainable development, can contribute to the regeneration of the planet and also to the health of people in the present, as well as future generations,” comments Alice Martins, senior manager of food policies at Alimentação Consciente Brasil.

In Brazil, about 70% of grains are fed to farmed animals instead of people, a sobering statistic when many in the world face hunger and food insecurity. Indeed, the farm animal production sector is the single largest anthropogenic user of land globally, with meat, egg, dairy and aquaculture production systems using approximately 83% of the world’s farmland while providing just 37% of the world’s protein and 18% of calories. Animal agriculture is also a major contributor to the climate crisis, responsible for at least 16.5% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.  By changing our food system and consumption habits we can significantly reduce the environmental impact of our food system while also providing adequate nutrition.

“Several municipalities, food service companies, and public and private institutions around the world have implemented similar programs as a means to promote more resilient food systems that align with global commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also improving animal welfare,” says Thayana Oliveira, food policy manager at the Humane Society International.

The sustainability assessment conducted by Alimentação Consciente Brasil and Humane Society International estimates that this agreement, which the participants signed in April 2022,  will:

  • Spare 4,200 tons of soy no longer destined for livestock, which is enough to feed about 50,000 adults for one year.
  • Preserve 1,400 hectares of land, the equivalent of 800 football fields.
  • Save 22 million liters of water, the equivalent to more than 160,000 showers of 15-minutes.
  • Reduce 5,000 tons of CO2eq emission, the equivalent of driving a car for 40 million km.

“With this agreement the city of Sobral, recognized as the education capital of Brazil, is taking leadership in advancing public health and sustainability through school meals,” says Francisco Herbert Lima Vasconcelos, secretary of education of the municipality of Sobral.

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Media contact: Thayana Oliveira Soares, food policy manager for HSI in Brazil, toliveira@hsi.org ; (31) 98484-4890

Humane Society International / Europe


Sign the ECI petition to demand an EU ban on fur farming and import of fur products

Humane Society International / Europe


Each year, more than 100 million animals, such as mink, foxes, chinchilla and raccoon dogs, are kept and then killed for their fur around the world. They spend their short, miserable lives in small and barren metal cages, where they cannot exhibit their natural behaviour and can suffer from disease, wounds, self-mutilation and even cannibalism. The European Union is one of the largest producers and importers of fur, with more than 18 million animals killed for their fur in 2020. Although 13 EU member states have imposed full bans on fur production, fur farming is still legal in a number of countries and the import and sale of fur and fur products within the union and from third countries is not restricted.

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

Act now: Sign the petition

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

Cruel and unethical

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

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

Threatening to environment and biodiversity

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

Public health ticking bomb

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

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

Is this relevant for my country?

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

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

What is a European Citizens’ Initiative?

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

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

Two women find their beloved pets among 150 cats saved by police and animal activists; 29 sparrows set free

Humane Society International / Global


HSI.

BEIJING—Members of a criminal gang in the city of Jinan, in east China’s Shandong province, have been arrested by local police for using live-caught sparrows to lure cats who they sold to the meat trade, according to the Chinese animal protection group Vshine. Thirty one sparrows–a protected species in China–were retrieved at the scene along with seven cages crammed with 148 cats who had been captured by the thieves; two kittens were born post-rescue. Jinan Zhuang Qiu District Police Office also found the gang’s fleet of mopeds fitted with cages for collecting captured cats, and reported that the thieves caught curious local pet and community cats by placing the flapping and chirping sparrows inside a wire bag within a remote controlled trap.

Although China has no national animal protection laws with which to prosecute the gang for cruelty to the cats, Chinese law generally prohibits possession of protected sparrows and given that two local Jinan residents identified their stolen pets among the caged cats, the individuals who were arrested may also be charged with violating laws prohibiting property theft.

Mr Huang from Vshine, who was at the scene, said: “We had been tracking this gang of cat thieves and traders for a while and finally found the place they stored all the cats they stole from the streets. These poor animals were tightly crammed together in rusty cages waiting to be shipped off to south China to be killed for meat. It was shocking to see the state they were in, many of them emaciated and crying out. Our discovery of dozens of live sparrows used as bait to lure the cats was also a big shock, but shows the lengths these ruthless traders will go to. We are really grateful that the local Jinan police accompanied us on the rescue and detained the cat traders. Although sadly the men responsible won’t face charges for the suffering they caused the cats, we are pleased to see the police increasingly using other laws at their disposal to crack down on this cruel trade.”

The cats are now being cared for by Jinan activists and local shelter groups. Vshine will also look after some of the cats at their shelters in northern China, which are partially funded by global animal protection organisation Humane Society International, which campaigns across Asia for an end to the dog and cat meat trades.

Peter Li, HSI China policy specialist, said: “These cat thieves were using quite sophisticated techniques to catch cats for the meat trade—baiting traps with sparrows, using remote controlled electronic devices to close the cages after catching a cat, and moving around the city on motorcycles to transport cats to the holding depot. This sparrow method is mostly used in urban communities where cat lovers feed as well as spay and neuter roaming community cats. Unlike neglected and hungry street cats who can be caught with fish or meat, these cats are well fed but would have been attracted by the flapping birds. We don’t how long these poor cats had been caged up without food or water in China’s extremely hot weather, but had it not been for the police and rescuers, they would have gone on to suffer even more being driven for miles across China to be killed in markets and slaughterhouses in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces in south-west China to satisfy a dwindling number of people who consume their meat. These are China’s two main cat meat eating hotspots. Throughout the rest of mainland China, cat meat is not part of the food culture at all.”

The 29 sparrows who survived were released back into the wild. Once the cats have received immediate veterinary care, the shelters will determine the options for adoption. They will also appeal for owners of missing cats to come forward for further possible reunions. The street cats, who would not adapt well to longer term shelter care or home adoption, will be released back to community carers.

Facts:

  • Most people in China don’t eat dogs and cats. In fact they are only eaten infrequently by a small percentage of the Chinese population. Even so, it is estimated that as many as four million cats a year could be killed for the meat trade.
  • In 2020, two major cities in mainland China–Shenzhen and Zhuhai–banned the consumption of dog and cat meat, a decision polling of 378 million people in mainland China by news site ifeng.com shows is supported by nearly 75% of Chinese citizens.
  • Sparrows are protected by China‘s 2000 State Protected Wildlife List of Animals of Important Economic and Scientific Research Value, items 634 and 635.

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Download video and photos of the cat rescue

Media contact: Wendy Higgins, Humane Society International director of international media, whiggins@hsi.org

The organization, along with independent rescuers and local and state government, will conduct two types of surveys in the streets of Aguascalientes

Humane Society International / Mexico


HSI Global

AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico—Mexico’s first ever dog and cat survey will be conducted in the city of Aguascalientes, coordinated by animal protection organization Humane Society International/Mexico, A.C.

Starting August 15, a team of volunteers from local associations, independent rescuers, university students and state and municipal authorities will conduct a count of free-roaming dogs in the Aguascalientes area and surrounding communities. The census will also include house-to-house surveys. The data gathered will provide evidence-based insights to help stakeholders better understand cultural attitudes and behaviors toward both dogs and cats in Aguascalientes. The focus is to better support the needs of both the animal and human inhabitants of the area and promote harmonious interaction and coexistence.

“This is an effort that is unprecedented in all of Mexico. Having accurate dog and cat population counts and understanding the attitude and behavior of dog and cat owners is essential so that the authorities, academia, organizations and citizens can design and agree on impact-driven projects that improve the lives of animals and people alike,” said Felipe Márquez, animal cruelty program manager of Humane Society International/México, A.C.

As the population of owned and free-roaming dogs and cats increases, resources can become scarce, increasing the number of dogs and cats who do not get their needs met in terms of food, nutrition or veterinary care. This can result in poor health and welfare and increase the risk that these animals may carry diseases that could impact other animals and people. The innovative assessment, monitoring and evaluation component of HSI’s work is based on the One Health concept, which recognizes that human health, animal health and environmental health are interdependent.

The household surveys will be conducted according to a specially designed methodology and are completely voluntary, with no personal data collected.

The participation of the community is welcomed and appreciated as teams will be randomly surveying households in various neighborhoods. For more information, or to help, contact Felipe Marquez at fmarquez@hsi.org

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Media contact: Magaly Garibay:(+52 55) 5211 8731ext. 104, mgaribay@idee.agencia

Humane Society International / Canada


Give dogs from around the world a second chance at life in Canada

Humane Society International / Global


Show world leaders there is support for a transition toward a more resilient plant-centric food system.

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