BRUSSELS—An official EU-wide petition, called the Fur Free Europe European Citizens’ Initiative, has closed more than two months ahead of the deadline for signatures after exceeding the number of signers required for the European Commission to respond. More than 1.7 million EU citizens signed the petition calling for an EU-wide ban on cruel fur farming and trade. Following its commitments under the EU Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Commission is currently drafting legislative proposals to update and expand the scope of EU animal welfare legislation. Campaigners argue this is the perfect opportunity to include a ban on the fur trade across the European Union.
Launched on 18 May last year with a target of 1 million signatures within 12 months, the ECI has collected enough signatures in less than 10 months for campaigners to be confident it will exceed the target after signatures are officially validated. More than 80 animal protection organisations from across Europe, including Humane Society International/Europe and other members of the Fur Free Alliance, called on EU citizens to take part if they agree that fur farming is cruel and unnecessary.
Dr Joanna Swabe, HSI/Europe’s senior director of public affairs, says: “EU citizens have made their voice heard loud and clear, they want a full EU-wide ban on cruel fur farming and fur imports. Fur farming is inherently inhumane, so we warn the Commission that any proposal for animal welfare standards for species, such as mink and fox, would be completely unacceptable. More than 1.7 million signatures have been collected in less than 10 months, so now it’s time for the Commission to take decisive action and consign this cruel trade to the annals of history. Confining animals to a miserable life in a cage just for frivolous fur fashion is a practice that belongs to the past. The fur industry has no future in the European Union.”
The complex behavioural needs of wild species, such as American mink, fox, chinchilla and raccoon dog, cannot be met on fur factory farms, and eye and ear infections, deformed feet, repetitive pacing indicative of mental decline, and cannibalism have all been documented on fur farms in Europe. In addition to animal cruelty, fur farming is damaging to the environment due, for example, to the use of toxic chemicals to dress, dye and preserve fur. Fur farms also pose a risk to European biodiversity. American mink is an invasive alien species that has been implicated in the decline of native species, such as the European mink and water vole, and has had a significant impact on breeding success of native birds and on domestic fowl.
Fur farming also poses a serious public health risk. Since April 2020 there have been hundreds of outbreaks of COVID-19 on mink fur farms across Europe, and in October 2022 a fur farm in Spain with 52,000 mink reported an outbreak of avian flu that had likely spread between the animals.
To date, 19 countries across Europe, including Member States the Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, France, Luxembourg, Estonia, Latvia, Malta, Ireland and Austria, have banned the practice of fur farming. Fur farming continues to be allowed in Finland, Poland, Greece, Lithuania, Spain, Romania, Sweden, Denmark and Bulgaria. However, figures show the industry is in decline: in 2014, approximately 43.6 million animals were killed for fur in European countries, a number that had fallen to 30.7 million by 2019 and, as of 2021, has declined further to 12 million animals. More than 1,500 retailers, including Gucci, Adidas, H&M and Zara, have committed to a fur-free future and have joined the Fur Free Retailer scheme.
The next phase of the ECI process is the validation of the signatures by Member States, which will take three months, after which the European Commission must take the ECI into consideration and deliver a response within six months.
Download photos and video of a Finnish fur farm taken in Nov 2021
Media contact: Yavor Gechev, HSI/Europe communications director: firstname.lastname@example.org