After being rescued from a farm where they were confined in small metal cages, the pigs are enjoying their new-found freedom

Humane Society International / United Kingdom

Sally Ivens / HSI

LONDON—Two mother pigs, who have spent around a quarter of their adult lives confined in metal cages barely bigger than their bodies, have been rescued from slaughter and rehomed by leading animal protection charity Humane Society International/UK. The pigs, who gave birth to multiple litters of piglets at a UK farm which cages sows for weeks around the time they give birth, were willingly relinquished to HSI/UK in support of the charity’s Crate Escape campaign to ban use of the cruel cages known as farrowing crates. 

Every year on UK farms, around 200,000 sows are confined for up to five weeks at a time, several times a year, in metal cages so small they can’t even turn around, causing them physical and mental suffering. At just a few years of age, having been repeatedly bred but no longer considered productive, the two pigs were due to be sent to slaughter but instead the farmer entrusted them to HSI/UK to live the rest of their lives in freedom and as campaign ambassadors.

Photos and video footage of the two pigs before and after their rescue, can be downloaded here.

Photos of pigs in farrowing crates on the farm, including a range of health problems, can be downloaded here.

The farmer who gave up the pigs wishes to remain anonymous but believes that farrowing crates are cruel and hopes the pigs’ story will help HSI/UK persuade politicians to ban the practice. The farm has used farrowing crates for over 35 years, but the farmer now believes that farmers should be supported financially to end their use because of the suffering endured by pigs. The farmer told HSI/UK: “It’s hard watching them so upset. When an animal’s telling you ‘I do not want to be in here, I’m going to do my best to escape’ and then you’re like, ‘I’m going to have to tie you in’, that feels cruel. It bothers me every day.”

They added: “I really hope that we move on from this sort of barbaric cage. It doesn’t have to be this way, there are loads of different kinds of free farrowing systems but why aren’t retailers and consumers asking for them? It feels like they don’t know the reality of what’s going on behind farm gates. I think we do really need to change the script. We’ve got to have support from governments – both the money and the right policies. I don’t think putting sows through weeks of crate confinement six, seven or eight times in their lives can be justified any more.”

Claire Bass, senior director of campaigns and public affairs at Humane Society International/UK, who helped to rescue the pigs, said: “Across the UK right now some 200,000 mother pigs are hidden away suffering behind bars. Such big numbers can mask the fact that each one is an intelligent, sensitive individual. Studies have found that pigs are smarter than dogs and even 3-year-old children, and yet they are routinely subjected to this appalling cruelty. That’s why it is so important that we were able to rescue them and tell the stories of these two mums. The farmer’s account of the suffering caused by crates is heartbreaking and dealing with distressed and depressed animals takes its toll on farmers’ mental health.

Almost two-thirds of British people have never heard of farrowing crates, meaning that they’re also unaware of the intense suffering that they cause. Few people would dream of keeping a dog confined in a metal crate so small they couldn’t even turn around for five long weeks, and our Crate Escape campaign aims to create the same compassion and respect for pigs. We’re urging all governments in the UK, as well as retailers, to commit to supporting farmers financially to get rid of these cruel and unnecessary cages for mother pigs.”

The pigs – who will soon be named by HSI/UK’s supporters – have been given a permanent home at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary in Brentwood, Essex. At the sanctuary they will be free to stretch their legs on grass, root around in the mud, and carry out all the other natural behaviours that were denied to them during their time in farrowing crates.

HSI/UK is calling on all political parties to commit to banning farrowing crates and providing support to farmers to help them move away from using these archaic and cruel confinement devices. Take action for mother pigs by signing the petition here.


  • Polling data shows that 63% of British people have not heard of farrowing crates. 
  • Fewer than one in five people in Britain (19.8%) support the use of pig farrowing crates once the intended purpose (protecting piglets from being crushed) and the movement restrictions imposed by farrowing crates are described to them.  
  • Two-thirds of those polled would support governments providing financial support to farmers to transition away from using the devices, and only 15.5% would oppose a ban.  
  • Polling was carried out by Survation via online panel, with 1,074 total UK respondents, in March 2023. 
  • The full interview with the farmer is available here. 


Media contact: Sally Ivens, media and communications senior specialist at HSI/UK:  ; 07590 559299

Humane Society International / United Kingdom

“We just can’t justify putting sows in farrowing crates any more.” – a British farm manager shares insights into the impact of confinement for sows, and perspective on how the sector must change

HSI/UK made contact with a British pig farm, which wishes to remain anonymous. The farm has used farrowing crates for over 35 years but the farm manager now believes that farmers should be supported financially to stop using crates, because of the suffering they cause. This is the testimony of the farm manager, who wants the public and politicians to understand the tragic impact crate confinement has on these intelligent animals. The farm agreed for HSI/UK to re-home two sows at the end of what the industry considers their productive breeding lives, in order for their stories and experiences to be understood.

Why are farrowing crates used?
Farrowing crates are supposed to protect piglets from being crushed but they don’t always do that. Piglets are pretty resilient and can be lain on for a short time and survive but the problem in crates is that once the sows are down they can’t be bothered to get back up again. It took them ages to go down because it was so uncomfortable, so even if they realise there’s a piglet under them they’re like, ‘no, I’m not getting up’. These crates are not a lifesaving cradle like some people have said they are, particularly when we’ve got huge litters with weak piglets.

How do the sows react, being locked into farrowing crates?
When they first go into a farrowing crate, it’s very, very stressful and scary for them. It’s a dead end, and then they’re suddenly shut in and then they can’t turn around or anything. Our first time mothers sometimes try to escape the crates, and they’ll bite and paw and try to back out. I’ve had gilts escape, tried to literally climb out of the crates, it’s hard watching them so upset. When an animal’s telling you ‘I do not want to be in here, I’m going to do my best to escape’ and then you’re like, ‘I’m going to have to tie you in’, that feels cruel. It bothers me every day. But you know, in order to do your job every day, you have to park it.

Over the course of their life they farrow multiple times, by the time they get to their sixth or seventh litter, they are still reluctant to be shut in the crates but they’re more just resigned to it. Over time they get emotionally broken, it’s sad.

When we let them out of the crates they’re just desperate to roll in mud, water, anything cool to wallow in. They remind me of dogs at the beach.

What are some of the behavioural challenges for a sow kept in a crate for several weeks?
They have a strong desire to nest build and they can get very frustrated trying to do that in a farrowing crate. We provide enrichment like a handful of fresh straw every day but it’s still not a lot. They are rooting at the bars and rooting at the concrete and all they want to do is make a nest, you know, for the safety of their piglets.

Nesting helps them to release all the hormones that are required for the farrowing process, and we’re essentially shutting that down by restraining them in a non-enriched environment. It can have a really negative consequence on the sow and the piglet’s relationship and sometimes the sow will bite and even kill her own piglets. Luckily we don’t get it very often, but all sorts of horrible things happen.

Do the crates cause physical pain and suffering?
We get a lot of shoulder sores because they’re lying on their sides longer and they often get so, so unbothered about moving posture that it’s essentially a pressure sore. If we don’t treat them quickly the piglets could start licking and eating them and then the wound gets really big.

We’ve seen pigs’ height and length increase significantly over the last 20 years, they’re bred to be bigger and bigger and the crates haven’t changed. So the pigs no longer fit into the crates as well as they used to, we have a few sows that are too big for the crates, so they’re essentially touching the bars all the time. For some of the longer sows there’s no room for their head, so when they lie down, their head is on top of their feed trough and drinker. That must be so uncomfortable for them stuck in that position for four weeks, it actually makes me wince. We had to develop extension bars to make the crate bigger.

Pushing the sows to have larger litters is also a problem for the sows and the piglets. We artificially inseminate using semen sent through the post. We changed our supplier and started getting a lot of enormous litters of 18, 19, 20 piglets, where there’s more piglets than then sow can feed. We had to put excess piglets down regularly. Between increasing the physical dimensions of the sows and increasing the number of piglets born, we’ve pushed them into being like an absolute machine, it can’t carry on indefinitely this way, being all about productivity at the expense of the animals’ welfare.

They also damage themselves on the crate trying to lie down or flip over, they can catch their teats with their own feet and rip them, and damage their vulvas on the back of the crate.

And the piglets’ space, for the weeks they’re in the crate, becomes very, very constricted very quickly. They try to play but the only space away from the sow is about the body length of a piglet, so there’s really no room to manoeuvre. And the piglets can get sore knees, elbows and feet from the floors too. The bigger the litter the more we see piglet sores that can lead to infection and lameness.

The law requires that farms provide enrichment materials that enable pigs to fulfil their essential behavioural needs. Is that possible in practice?
Our standard enrichment is they get about half a bucket of wood shavings and they get about half a leaf of straw every day, and the sows eat a lot of straw, so a lot of that will vanish. We try a range of enrichment, hessian sacks are good, but you’ve got to be on enrichment all the time not just put it in and forget about it. The blocks on chains can get snagged around the top of the crate so that they can’t get hold of them, or they can push the straw out of reach then that’s really frustrating. If they weren’t given any enrichment at all, then they will absolutely smash up their face during nesting, biting at the bars, biting at their food trough.

We speak to the girls every day, give them a scratch – they love a scratch and they get all squeaky and you know they love those little bits of interaction with us. It’s like the highlight of their day, but imagine 2 minutes, you know, in 24 hours where somebody’s showing you some appreciation. It’s not very great. Seeing them sitting there depressed day after day after day with their heads hung low, it just screams depression to me.

We quite often have pigs who essentially just go into a glazed vegetative state where their sole purpose is to just lie still and provide milk, and they barely eat. Sometimes they lose 100 kilos in three or four weeks and it’s horrible. And if the sow isn’t feeding then her milk can be affected, which can reduce the weaning weight of the piglets. We try everything to get them interested in eating again.

You’ve looked at free-farrowing pens, what are the advantages there?
In the farrowing pens you see them throwing the straw around making their nest and they’re really active and it’s clearly such a big box ticked for them. Seeing how they interact physically, being able to touch their piglets and move around and nurse them and then sometimes tell them off as well, it’s all so much better than what they experience in crates.

Temporary crating wouldn’t be so bad if it was only used to protects the piglets for up to five days, but often the sows just don’t get let out after that time, and sometime they get shut in before nesting. And there’s nobody inspecting that kind of thing.

What are the barriers to farmers wanting to move away from crates?
It will be the meat price, I would say. Unless we could get a quality assurance sticker, with a big enough mark up to pay for the cost. How are we supposed to invest in big welfare changes when we’re getting so many cheap meat imports from the continent and from elsewhere outside of the EU?

It feels like British consumers should be asking more questions and given more answers about their food, where it was raised and how it existed, the food miles. We also have the problem that people want cheap meats 24/7. It used to be a valued product and now it’s a pocket snack.

What are your hopes for the future of farrowing in British pig farming? And what should the Government do?
I really hope that we move on from this sort of barbaric cage. It’s a horrible system and there are so many better ways out there, with less suffering, less injuries, stress and illness. It doesn’t have to be this way, there are loads of different kinds of free farrowing systems but why aren’t retailers and consumers asking for them? It feels like they don’t know the reality of what’s going on behind farm gates. I think we do really need to change the script.

Yes, indoor free farrowing is more expensive, but we need to find the money to shift. We’ve got to have support from government – both the money and the right policies. I don’t think putting sows through weeks of crate confinement six, seven or eight times in their lives can be justified any more.

Polling data reveals cracking down on animal cruelty could be a seat winning pledge in marginal constituencies as 23 leading animal groups launch new campaign

Humane Society International / United Kingdom


LONDON—With the general election just weeks away, UK political parties are being urged to harness the untapped ‘paw power’ of animal-loving voters after a new report shows that political parties are failing to match the British public’s high level of demand for strong animal protection policies. Analysis of opinion poll data suggests there are opportunities for candidates pledging anti-cruelty policy actions to influence thousands of animal-loving voters, especially in tightly contested seats. 

The report analyses several national opinion polls, including constituency-level MRP polling. It concludes that despite a supermajority of public support for progressive policies to prevent animal cruelty, voters’ expectations are insufficiently reflected in British political discourse, policy commitments and government policymaking. In a 2023 YouGov poll, nearly one third (33%) selected animal welfare as one of their top three most important causes and Focaldata 2023 polling revealed that one in six (15.4%) ranked ‘whether or not a party will protect animals from cruelty’ as one of their top three most important policies that will influence which party they vote for. 

Analysis of the top 10 target seats for major parties reveals that while the top Labour target seat requires only a 128-vote swing, and the top Conservative target seat requires just a 66-vote swing, more than 3,800 people in those constituencies have signed a sample of 10 government e-petitions on animal protection between 2017-19 alone. 

Dr Steven McCulloch, Senior Lecturer in Human-Animal Studies at the University of Winchester, said “Polls consistently show supermajority levels of support for stronger animal protection laws across England, Scotland and Wales, and for voters of all main political parties. And one in six British voters place animal protection within the top three concerns that will influence their vote.”   Paul Chaney, professor of policy and politics at Cardiff University School of Social Sciences noted “Parties and candidates with a strong offer to tackle animal cruelty could speak to a significant cohort of voters in the upcoming election. Additionally, polling indicates that such policies provide indications to voters on parties’ and candidates’ broader values, including association with competence and compassion.” 

The report coincides with the launch of ‘Crackdown on Cruelty’, a joint campaign by more than 20 leading animal protection organisations. The groups aim to mobilise half a million compassionate voters to contact their candidates and urge them to commit to be a voice for animals in Parliament if elected.  

Candidates are being called on to pledge to 10 key commitments which would strengthen legal protections for millions of animals, such as bans on trading in cruelty including stopping imports of fur and hunting trophies, government support to help farmers transition away from factory farming, stronger protections for wildlife including a ban on snares in England, and the appointment of an Animal Protection Commissioner. Pledge commitments will be shared on the website, which will also host copies of animal protection pledges made by major political parties in their manifestos. 

Claire Bass, senior director of campaigns and public affairs at Humane Society International/UK, said: “We identify as a nation of animal lovers and there is keen voter interest in politicians cracking down on cruelty, so we’re urging parties and candidates to pledge action. On 4th July we’ll see thousands of dogs proudly posing outside polling stations, there is a lot of paw power to be won at the ballot box! MPs elected in July will hear from their constituents about animal protection more than any other issue, so progressive animal protection policies could very well help swing voting decisions.” 

Iain Green, Director of Animal Aid, said: “Supported by so many animal protection organisations, Votes For Animals will mobilise hundreds of thousands of voting public who care about animals. Together, we will ensure that the Parties and candidates understand that we want them to pledge to crackdown on cruelty if elected, we want strong laws that will protect all animalkind. But moreover, we are at the forefront of a movement that will change hearts and minds forever – and will ensure that all animals have rights, and are treated with respect and compassion.” 

The report, titled ‘Political animals’ and authored by Dr Steven McCulloch, Dr Lisa Riley and Professor Paul Chaney, from Winchester and Cardiff Universities, is fully referenced and available to view here. 


Media contact: Sally Ivens, HSI/UK, ; 07590 559299

Hunting Act, import and sale of foie gras and fur divides political parties ahead of election

Humane Society International / United Kingdom


LONDON—The four largest political parties in Westminster set out their animal welfare positions and commitments so far at a landmark first-of-its-kind “Animals Matter” hustings in Westminster yesterday evening as politicians and the public await the next general election.

The Labour Party has committed to ending the import of foie gras if elected. Speaking at the Animals Matter hustings, hosted by four of the UK’s leading animal protection organisations (Humane Society International/UK, Compassion in World Farming, FOUR PAWS UK and RSPCA), Ruth Jones MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Environment Food and Rural Affairs told the audience: “In terms of foie gras, yes we will ban it”, a move that would effectively bring an end to the sale of the cruel fattened duck and goose liver in the UK.

TV celebrity and animal campaigner Pete Wicks addressed a question to the panel about the fur trade, recounting his experience visiting a fur farm in Finland with Humane Society International/UK and how the cruelty he saw made him ashamed that fur from animals suffering in barren cages could end up being sold in the UK. Wicks asked the parties if they would commit to “ending imports of disgustingly cruel products like fur and foie gras”.

In response, SNP panellist Steven Bonnar MP, Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stated that the SNP is “fully committed to ban fur and foie gras imports”, calling them “barbaric practices”.

Other party spokespeople stopped short of committing to banning fur imports, with Ruth Jones MP (Labour) telling the audience it’s “an obvious one” because of the strength of public support for a ban, but that Labour is waiting on the Government to release the results of its Call for Evidence on the fur market in Great Britain.

The Call for Evidence was launched in May 2021 with the stated intention of using the findings to inform possible future action on the UK fur trade, but over three years on, despite repeated calls from MPs and animal protection organisations, Defra has yet to make the results publicly available. Rebecca Pow MP responded by saying these results would be published “very soon”.

On cracking down on illegal hunting with dogs, the Labour and SNP panellists confirmed they would strengthen the Hunting Act, to close loopholes that facilitate illegal hunting with dogs and to increase penalties, however when pressed for a yes or no answer on whether the Hunting Act should be strengthened the Conservative Minister Rebecca Pow said: “leave it as it is”.

Representing the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron MP committed to ending the ‘cage age’ for hens kept in cages saying “we should ban it” adding that “if we set higher standards for our farmers we need to be applying that also for imports coming into this country because we want to make sure we spread good animal welfare practice across the world”.

The SNP’s Steven Bonnar MP commented: “The SNP knows that animals matter; to our climate, to our health, to our economy, and to all of us as sentient beings. The SNP is proud of its record on animal welfare and we are committed to maintaining our place as leading the way in progressing animal welfare standards across the UK. […] We will also push for bans on trading in cruelty, including stopping the imports of fur, foie gras and hunting trophies, as we know that these cruelties have no place in our nation of animal lovers.”

Conservative Rebecca Pow MP said: “We’re going to be supporting our livestock farmers using public funds to pay for health and welfare enhancements. We also want to make it easier for farmers to transition to the types of production systems that we know the public value. So for example, enabling them to move away from farrowing crates for pigs.” She added: “We just dramatically increased the budget for horticulture to help farmers and growers produce more of our vegetables. That’s a real priority.”

Speaking about fur imports Ruth Jones MP from Labour said: “royalty have said they don’t wear it anymore. The public don’t want it.” She went on to add that if elected, Labour would “build on our legacy and make animal protection a priority, including cracking down on smuggling of puppies and banning the import of hunting trophies. All animals deserve to be protected against inhumane shipment and to be able to live a life of dignity.”

A spokesperson for the Animals Matter coalition said: “We welcome the parties using this platform as an early opportunity to set out their stalls on many critical issues that impact the welfare of millions of sentient beings. The two biggest parties have yet to take a stance on many points, including caging of animals on farms and imports of fur, and we encourage them to include strong commitments in their manifestos. At the upcoming election millions of compassionate voters will be looking at which political parties commit to translate warm words into concrete policies that will improve the welfare of millions of animals at home and abroad.”

Attending the event, Green Party Deputy Leader Zack Polanski told the room that his party would introduce an Animal Protection Commissioner, saying: “We need to make sure that when animals can’t speak up for themselves, we have people elected in Parliament and a Minister in Parliament who can.” Polanski also accused the main parties of being a “weathervane and not a signpost” in tackling animal cruelty, and said that the Green Party would prioritise animal welfare and decency above big profits to big business.

Actor and animal advocate Peter Egan was also in attendance, and said: “Animals matter so much to me. That’s why 15 years ago, I stopped eating them, wearing them, or using them for entertainment, and I find a plant-based life is the most compassionate way of living and it answers a huge amount of the problems that we’re discussing here tonight.”

Protecting animals is a priority for millions of voters, with more than two thirds of UK voters saying that political parties who implement better animal welfare policies have the right priorities.

The event provided a platform for party spokespeople to be directly questioned on their plans – both by the audience and panel moderator ITV news presenter Lucrezia Millarini – across a number of high-profile issues including fox hunting, ending intensive farming practices such as keeping hens and sows confined in cages, and the import and sale of fur, and to address whether they will attempt to deliver on the expectations of millions of animal loving voters when the country goes to the polls. While party manifestos have not yet been finalised, there were commitments put forward by spokespeople which could make a difference for animals across the country.

Photographs from the event are available here.

To request video footage of the event, please contact:


Media contact:  Sally Ivens, senior media manager, HSI/UK , , 07590 559299


The panellists who took part in the event were:

  • Rebecca Pow MP (Conservative), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Ruth Jones MP (Labour),Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
  • Tim Farron MP (Liberal Democrats), Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Steven Bonnar MP (SNP), Environment, Spokesperson for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Chinese fur production has shrunk by almost 90% in last decade, but millions of animals are still suffering for the UK fur market

Humane Society International / United Kingdom

On a fur farm in China
A raccoon dog on a fur farm in Pulandian, China.

LONDON―Alarming footage from fur farms in north China shows foxes, raccoon dogs and mink exhibiting repetitive, stereotypical behaviour associated with mental decline and animals kept in intensive conditions including in close proximity to poultry, despite the potential for zoonotic disease spread. The animal protection charity Humane Society International has released the footage and renewed its call for a global end to the fur trade and an import ban on fur in the United Kingdom.

Fur farming has been banned on ethical grounds in the UK since 2003, however fur from countries including China is still imported into the country—a double standard that HSI/UK is campaigning to end. In May 2021 the UK Government launched a Call for Evidence on the UK fur trade, but almost three years on, officials are still withholding the results. Meanwhile, HSI estimates that the amount of fur imported into the UK from over the last five years (2019-2023) equates to approximately 7 million animals brutally killed for fur fashion, including the equivalent of around one million animals’ worth of fur imported directly from China. 

Claire Bass, senior campaigns and public affairs director at Humane Society International/UK, said: “These squalid and cramped conditions on fur farms are clearly dire for the tragic animals trapped in them. What is less obvious is that the global fur trade is playing a game of pandemic Russian roulette, having already killed many millions of animals infected with COVID-19 and highly pathogenic avian influenza. As long as the UK keeps permitting fur to be imported to the UK, we are complicit in horrific animal suffering and a serious public health risk. We urge all political Parties shaping their manifestos ahead of the election to commit to ensuring that the UK closes its borders to this cruel, dangerous and completely unnecessary trade.” 

Investigators visited five fur farms in December 2023 in the northern regions of Hebei and Liaoning where they also witnessed widespread use of antibiotics and the sale of raccoon dog carcasses for human consumption. There is nothing to stop fur from farms like these from being sold in UK shops. 

Official statistics from China’s Fur and Leather Industry Association reveal a 50% decline in the country’s fur production from 2022 to 2023 and a decline of almost 90% during the period 2014 to 2023, consistent with an overall decrease in global fur production. The investigators observed that a significant number of the rural small and medium sized fur farms previously active in the area had closed due to poor sales. Although still the largest fur-producing country in the world, China’s trade cannot escape the global consumer and designer shift away from fur on both animal welfare and environmental grounds.  

Chinese investigator Xiao Chen said: “The fur farms we visited were typical of fur farms across China where animals are sadly held in cramped, barren cages, many pacing up and down repetitively due to psychological distress. These are naturally inquisitive, energetic animals but they are reduced to this sad existence in a wire cage with nowhere to go and nothing to do. I cannot imagine their frustration and boredom, all to produce something as trivial as fur fashion. I feel ashamed to be a human when I visit these fur farms and see the cruelty and indifference of which we are capable.” 

Each of the fur farms visited kept between 2,000 – 4,000 fur bearing animals in small cages so packed together that in some cases the mink or raccoon dogs could touch animals in neighbouring cages through the wire walls, making disease transfer a possibility. Despite the many hundreds of COVID-19 and avian influenza cases confirmed on fur farms globally since 2020, the fur farmers confirmed to the investigators that they don’t routinely sterilize the farms because of cost considerations. Despite not being asked by any of the farmers to abide by disease prevention protocols before entering, the investigators took their own precautions.  

The food preparation areas on several fur farms showed large quantities of frozen fish, chicken meat and liver, eggs and milk powder being ground up into paste to feed to animals. In addition to contributing to fur farming’s carbon footprint, feeding raw chicken meat to animals on fur farms has been identified by EU experts as a biosecurity risk.   

Veterinarian Professor Alastair Macmillan, who viewed the footage, said: “As a veterinary microbiologist, I am deeply concerned by the apparent lack of biosecurity and potential for transmission of avian influenza due to chickens and ducks moving freely between cages of raccoon dogs. That demonstrates a ready route of transmission via direct contact or faecal contamination. Cases of avian influenza have already been documented on European fur farms and such close proximity between species significantly heightens the risk of avian-to-mammal transmission. The high stocking density of raccoon dogs could also facilitate virus adaptation to mammalian hosts and the selection of virus strains capable of transmitting between mammals. The sale of raccoon dog carcasses and cooked meat for human consumption also raises concerns about the potential for zoonotic disease transmission.” 

The investigation found that the most common killing method on the fur farms is electric shock applied via the mouth and rectum, although some farm operators kill mink by smashing their heads against a metal pole or beating them over the head with a club. There are a number of markets in the region where animal carcasses from fur farms are sold for approximately 2-3 yuan/kg. One local restaurant visited by the investigators offered boiled, fried and marinaded raccoon dog meat for sale to local customers for around 20 yuan and confirmed that it cooked 42 raccoon dogs a day.  

Dr Peter Li, HSI’s China policy expert, said: “Because of the rejection of fur by so many designers and consumers, fur farming in China has seen a dramatic reduction in recent years. But the end of this cruel, environmentally damaging and dangerous industry cannot come soon enough.”  

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Media contact: Sally Ivens: 


National polling carried out in April 2022 revealed that 77% of British citizens think the Government should ban the importation of animal products such as fur, where the production methods are already banned in the UK. The #FurFreeBritain campaign has so far gathered over 1.1 million petition signatures calling on the UK to ban fur imports and sales.

In May 2021 the UK Government launched a Call for Evidence on the UK fur trade, with the stated intention of using the findings to inform possible future action. Around 30,000 responses were submitted before the consultation closed in June 2021, but almost three years on, officials are yet to release the results, or set out a policy response.

In 2023 China produced 10 million fox, mink and raccoon dog fur pelts, a more than 50% decrease on the 22 million pelts produced in 2022 and an 88% decline from a decade ago. In 2014 China produced 87 million fur pelts—60 million mink pelts, 14 million raccoon dog pelts and 13 million fox pelts.
A study by carbon footprint experts at Foodsteps, commissioned by Humane Society International and reviewed by renowned sustainability expert Dr Isaac Emery, found that the environmental impacts of mink, fox and raccoon dog fur production significantly exceed those of other materials used in fashion, including cotton and even polyester and acrylic used to make faux fur. A significant component of fur’s carbon footprint is the vast quantity of animal products fed to carnivorous animals on fur farms.

Animal organizations unite to see Max Mara go fur-free

Humane Society International / United Kingdom

Mink on a fur farm
Jo-Anne McArthur/Andrew-Skowron/We Animals Media

LONDON—Ahead of Fashion Weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris, the largest ever global anti-fur consumer campaign has been launched to urge fashion house Max Mara to go fur-free. The campaign is headed by animal charities Humane Society International, the Humane Society of the United States and the Fur Free Alliance comprising organizations in more than 35 countries. Campaigners are asking their millions of supporters and compassionate citizens from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, South Korea, the European Union and the United States to target Max Mara’s phone lines, email and social media urging the design house to drop fur because it is cruel, out-dated and has no place in a modern society.    

Max Mara, which has 2,500+ stores in 105 countriesof which 39 are in the United States is one of the last major fur users and its current range includes items made of fox, raccoon dog and mink fur. Max Mara fur products include fox fur cuffs, a mink trimmed hood, a fox fur trimmed hood, mink mittens and a raccoon dog fur charm, and product labels show the company uses mink fur from China plus fox and raccoon dog fur from Finland. 

Max Mara’s use of fur is increasingly out of mode considering that most of the world’s major fashion-houses have already gone fur-free, including Dolce & Gabbana, Saint Laurent, Valentino, Prada, Gucci, Versace, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga and Jimmy Choo. Many other designers and retailers have long-standing policies against using fur, including Hugo Boss, Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood.  

PJ Smith, director of fashion policy at Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States, said: “Max Mara is one of the last global fashion brands that continues to support the vile fur trade, despite clear evidence that the fur industry is cruel, bad for the environment and a risk to public health. By doing so, Max Mara is increasingly isolated in a world where the vast majority of consumers find fur obscene. We hope that Max Mara stops being an apologist for the fur trade and instead decides to strike a pose for compassionate fashion by going fur-free.”

Mink, fox and raccoon dogsall species used by Max Maraare bred to die on fur factory farms where they spend their entire lives in cramped, barren cages, deprived of the ability to engage in natural behaviors, only to be crudely gassed or anally electrocuted and then skinned.  

Fur production is also environmentally devastating and a risk to public health. Peer-reviewed research by carbon footprint experts Foodsteps and commissioned by HSI shows that, when compared to other materials, per kilogram fur has the highest greenhouse gas emissions, with the carbon footprint of 1kg of mink fur 31 times higher than that of cotton and 25 times higher than polyester. Fur factory farms are also breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 and avian influenza, with hundreds of confirmed outbreaks on fur farms across Europe and North America in the last several years. All this while quality, animal-friendly alternative fabrics, such as KOBA® Fur Free Fur which incorporates plant based and recycled ingredients, are readily available and sold by Max Mara’s competitors.  

The most recent and largest ever undercover investigation of fur farms was conducted in six EU countriesincluding Finland, the country from which Max Mara sources its fox and raccoon dog fur. During summer and autumn 2023, investigators made more than 100 visits to fur farms resulting in shocking photo and video evidence. Mink, foxes and raccoon dogs were shown in horrifying conditions in which incidences of cannibalism were documented. Animals on the farms were also shown injured, diseased, with some either dead or dying. Some had missing limbs, tails or ears and/or had serious eye infections, wounds infested with maggots and disturbing instances of self-mutilation. 

Max Mara’s headquarters can be contacted about their use of fur via HSI’s action page at as well as via Max Mara’s social media channels: X, Facebook, and Instagram.

Fur facts:

Tens of millions of animals suffer and die each year in the global fur trade. The majority of the animals killed for fur are reared in barren battery cages on fur farms.   

Mink on more than 480 fur farms across 13 countries have been found infected with COVID-19, and fur farms in Spain and Finland have had outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1). The potential for zoonotic disease spread on fur farms has been acknowledged by the World Health Organization and leading virologists have recently warned governments to “consider the mounting evidence suggesting fur farming be eliminated in the interest of pandemic preparedness.” 

Fur farming has been banned in 20 European countries including the 15 Member States of Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Slovakia and Slovenia and five other European nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Norway, United Kingdom, North Macedonia and Serbia. Additionally, Switzerland and Germany have strict welfare regulations which have effectively ended fur farming.   

In the United States, there are fur sales bans in the state of California and in the following 14 towns or cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood in California; Lexington, Cambridge, Plymouth, Brookline, Weston and Wellesley in Massachusetts; the borough of Etna in Pennsylvania, and the cities of Ann Arbor in Michigan; Boulder, Colorado; Hallandale Beach, Florida. Israel became the first country to ban fur sales in 2021. 

Download video/photos of Finnish fur farms here

Media contact:  Wendy Higgins, director of international media:

Calls for fur import ban intensify as newly published letters reveal ban also has backing of the Scottish Government

Humane Society International / United Kingdom


LONDON—Animal protection organisation Humane Society International/UK has intensified calls for a UK fur import and sales ban following the publication of an email from former Environment Secretary George Eustice, which reveals that 96% of 30,000 respondents to the Government’s Call for Evidence on the fur market in Great Britain strongly agreed that it is wrong for animals to be killed for fur. 

An FOI request detailing correspondence between George Eustice and Mairi Gougeon, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, found that in December 2021 Eustice confirmed this result of the Call for Evidence and stated: “The Government will therefore take forward a ban on the import and sale of fur”. In February 2022, Gougeon confirmed in a reply that “The Scottish Ministers support, in principle, the initiative to prohibit the import and sale in Great Britain of fur to address the public moral objection to any rearing or killing of animals purely for their fur”. 

Humane Society International/UK, which leads the celebrity-backed #FurFreeBritain campaign, welcomed the news and renewed its call for the full results of the Call for Evidence to be published and for a UK fur import ban. Despite banning fur farming in 2003 on animal welfare grounds, the UK still imports and sells fur from other countries including Finland and China. HMRC records show that in 2022, the UK imported £41,970,308 of fur, which HSI/UK estimates to be equivalent to over one million animals. 

Claire Bass, senior director of campaigns and public affairs at Humane Society International/UK, said: “The Government ran a Call for Evidence on the UK fur trade in May 2021 and has been inexplicably sitting on the results ever since. Today it transpires that the evidence obtained is a slam-dunk in support of a ban, with 96% of respondents agreeing that it is wrong to kill animals for their fur. Based on this evidence, the Government confirmed that it would take forward a ban, and the Scottish Government confirmed its backing for one, and then—nothing. Nearly 30,000 people and organisations took the time to provide evidence, but over the last year Ministers haven’t shown willingness to let evidence lead progress on this policy. We urge the new Defra Secretary to release the results and then move forward with a ban. Fur is not only appalling for animals, but top British virologists have warned that fur farms are a ticking time bomb for pandemic disease risk. The UK should have no part in this cruel, unnecessary and dangerous trade.”

Defra’s Call for Evidence on the Fur Market in Great Britain was launched in May 2021 with the stated intention of using the findings to inform possible future action on the UK fur trade. Over two years on, despite repeated calls from MPs and animal protection organisations, Defra has yet to make the results publicly available. HSI/UK has submitted a further Freedom of Information request to gain access to the results. 

HSI/UK’s Fur Free Britain campaign, which calls for a UK fur import and sales ban, has gathered over 1.1 million petition signatures to date.  

Download Photo/B-roll from HSI’s Investigation on Chinese Fur Farms 


Media Contact: Sally Ivens, HSI/UK:; 07590 559299 


  • HSI/UK’s recent report on the environmental impact of the fur industry shows that fur is an unsustainable and inefficient material. 
  • In May 2023, 54 MPs wrote a letter to then Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey, urging her department to publish its analysis of the response to the Call for Evidence, as well as to set out a policy position to deliver a ban on the import and sale of fur in Great Britain. 
  • Eighteen written questions, such as this one, asking about plans to ban fur imports were submitted to Defra by MPs in the last Parliamentary sessions. 
  • In response to a Westminster Hall debate on the import and sale of fur, held on 27 June 2023 and led by Giles Watling MP, Defra Minister Trudy Harrison said: “A summary of responses to the call for evidence, setting out the results and the next steps in this policy space, will be published very soon.” 
  • Leading British virologists Professor Wendy Barclay and Dr Thomas Peacock recently wrote an article in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) highlighting the public health threat posed by the global fur trade, stating: “We strongly urge governments to also consider the mounting evidence suggesting that fur farming, particularly mink, be eliminated in the interest of pandemic preparedness. Fur farming should be in the same category of high-risk practices as the bushmeat trade and live animal markets. These activities all increase the likelihood of future pandemics.” 

British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force chef instructors honed their plant-based culinary skills in Humane Society International/UK’s Forward Food training

Humane Society International / United Kingdom

Jessica Webb/HSI

LONDONMilitary chef instructors from across the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force and Civil Service have been learning how to create plant-based, flavour-filled, planet-friendly dishes thanks to the latest vegan culinary training workshop held by animal protection organisation Humane Society International/UK.

In this the second Forward Food training by HSI/UK for the UK Defence Food Services Training Wing at Worthy Down, Winchester, chef instructors took part in a masterclass on creating plant-based canapés, having previously received training in designing nutritious vegan main courses and how to market those menu items. The session also covered the fundamentals of making appetising and flavoursome plant-based dishes, which typically have a lower environmental footprint than meat and dairy options.

The day’s cooking sessions were mentored by HSI/UK’s Forward Food chef and renowned food writer Jenny Chandler, who ran interactive demonstrations on depth of flavour and food texture. Ministry of Defence chef instructors then took to the kitchen to put what they’d learnt into practice and whipped up creative vegan canapés including: devilled potatoes; carrot “salmon” lox; smoky squash and black bean fritters; mini roast cauliflower and cashew cheela pancakes served with mango chutney; and cucumber cups with a spiced peanut dip and crispy chickpeas.

Rich Hardy, senior farmed animal campaigns manager at Humane Society International/UK, said: “It’s really encouraging to be working with the Armed Forces, responsible for serving millions of meals every week to tri-service personnel, and that they are willing to equip chefs with the skills to meet the rising demand for plant-based options. This is the second Forward Food training HSI/UK has delivered for the UK Defence Food Services Training Wing, and the chef instructors here have now truly mastered the art of creating exciting and flavourful vegan dishes! Putting more plants on plates helps reduce demand for factory farming, which is vital both in the race to meet climate targets, and to stop the suffering of millions of animals.”

Warrant Officer Class 2 Kerry Bale, Catering Development Warrant Officer at the UK Defence Food Services Training Wing, said: “Diets of choice are growing in popularity; with an increasing demand towards nutritious plant-based foods, the chef instructors must enhance their skills in order to present the offer to service personnel. The training we have received was excellent and plays an important role in helping us to remain current.” 

More than 300 chefs have been trained through HSI’s Forward Food programme in the UK since its launch in 2017. By supporting chefs and catering managers to gain skills and confidence in delivering a variety of high-quality plant-based menu items, HSI/UK is improving the availability of vegan options across the country and helping people make compassionate culinary choices.


Media contact: Sally Ivens, senior media and communications manager, HSI/UK:     

Forward Food is an initiative of Humane Society International, with the aim to encourage and enable the catering industry to shift the focus of menus away from meals centred on animal products and put more plant-based food on plates. Find out more at 

Humane Society International / United Kingdom


Vegan and vegetarian eateries across the UK come together to raise vital funds for animal protection through EatKind in restaurants, our campaign launching this World Vegan Month in November.

In the UK, over 1 billion animals a year suffer in factory farms. Their whole lives are confined in systems, such as cages, which prevent them from moving around or carrying out basic natural behaviours.

HSI works with governments, corporations, producers and institutions to enact reform, end factory farming and promote plant-based solutions.

All donations raised from EatKind in restaurants will go towards our work to stop the worst abuses to farmed animals and end animal cruelty in all its forms.

Run a restaurant?

Getting involved is easy. Simply:

1. Select one vegan item off your menu.
2. On the selected item, donate 25p of each sale to us throughout November or a month of your choice.
3. Use our selection of fundraising materials to promote the campaign to your customers.
4. Send us any donations raised.

To learn more, email us on

Eating out?

Take a look at the participating restaurants—there might be one near you!

    • Vegan House, Chester @veganhousefoods
    • Scoffs, Leeds @scoffsleeds
    • Church – Temple of Fun, Sheffield
    • The Veggie Hub Cafe, Liskeard @liskerrett
    • The Good Apple Cafe, Sunderland @goodapplecafe
    • PANC, Manchester @pancfoods
    • Mali Vegan Thai, London @mali.vegan
    • Saorsa 1875, Pitlochry @saorsa1875
    • Dana Cafe, Sheffield @danacafesheffield
    • Veg Box, Exeter @vegbox_cafe

Campaigners at party conferences urge politicians to give animal welfare the level of priority the British public expect

Humane Society International / United Kingdom

Gabriela Penela/We Animals Media

LONDONOver two-thirds (67%) of the British public think that a political party planning to pass more laws to improve animal welfare and protect animals from cruelty would have ‘the right priorities’, and 71% feel that such policies would reflect their values, according to new constituency-level polling by Focaldata commissioned by animal protection organisations Animal Aid, Compassion In World Farming, FOUR PAWS UK, Humane Society International/UK and the RSPCA. 

Underscoring the strength of support for strong animal welfare legislation amongst the public, the polling reveals that 71% believe that passing good animal welfare laws shows compassion and concern for those who don’t have the power to protect themselves, and almost one in ten (8.6%)  rank ‘whether or not a party will protect animals from cruelty’ as one of the top three most important policies that will influence which party they vote for.

Claire Bass, senior director of campaigns and public affiairs at Humane Society International/UK, said: “Despite MPs often stating that they typically hear from their constituents about animal welfare issues more than any other issue, we are not yet seeing animal protection being given the priority it so clearly deserves by any of the main political parties. When politicians underestimate the importance many people attach to stopping animal cruelty, it easily becomes a problem for candidates on many doorsteps. There are millions of animals without a voice or vote on the policies that parties offer in their manifestos for the next election, but this poll makes clear that strong commitments towards a more compassionate society will be something that millions of voters are looking for from party leaders.”  

The Government pledged eight specific animal welfare commitments in its 2019 manifesto and has so far delivered on only three. Pledges to ban live exports, prohibit the importation of hunting trophies from endangered species and tackle cruel puppy smuggling are all yet to be passed into new laws. The Government’s 2021 Action Plan for Animal Welfare committed to consider action on a range of other issues including the UK fur trade, the use of cages and crates on farms and mandatory animal welfare food labelling, but progress in all of these areas has stalled during the current parliamentary session. 

Despite the Labour Party publishing a comprehensive—and well supported—animal welfare manifesto in 2019, its newly published National Policy Forum contains only a brief indication of the Party’s ambition to advance new protections for animals, including strengthening the Hunting Act and banning the importation of hunting trophies.   

At its conference last week the Liberal Democrats passed a motion on food and farming which incorporates pledges to benefit animal welfare including ensuring that in international trade deals imports “meet UK environmental, climate and animal welfare standards”. Campaigners at the conference heard that a detailed animal welfare policy paper is planned and may be debated at the Party’s spring conference. 

The polling also reveals: 

  • Answering questions on specific issues of farming and trade: 
    • 63% of respondents feel the Government should bring in legislation to phase out intensive farming to protect the environment and animals;  
    • 77% of respondents agree with the statement ‘when we ban a type of farming in the UK for being too cruel, we should also ban imports of products produced the same way overseas’ while less than a quarter of people (23%) agree with the statement ‘we should not let our trading relationship with other countries be limited by animal welfare concerns.’ 
  • One in ten (10%) of the British public place animal welfare issues in the top five most important issues facing the country at this time, compared to 30% of people placing ‘crime’ in the top five issues, and 42% of people placing ‘climate change’ in the top five. 79% of respondents place ‘the NHS’ in the top five issues. 
  • Almost one in ten (8.6%) people rank ‘whether or not a party will protect animals from cruelty’ as one of the top three most important policies that will influence which party they vote for. 


Notes to editors:

Media contact: Sally Ivens, HSI/UK: 

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