Fur Imports March 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently about banning imports of animal fur and the campaign by the Humane Society International. I believe how we treat animals is a moral issue, as well as an animal welfare and consumer rights issue.

Fur farming in the EU mainly involves minks and foxes. In the wild, these animals are predominately solitary and occupy large expanses of land (for example, male minks occupy around 2,500 acres of wetland territory). Those involved in the fur trade, though, are kept in small wire cages and studies have demonstrated that animals kept in this manner exhibit stereotypical symptoms of distress. In 2001, the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) investigated this matter and recommended improvements in regulatory requirements for mink and fox cages.

The UK was the first country in Europe to ban fur farming in 2000. The then Government banned the breeding and slaughter of animals for the value of their fur on 'public morality' grounds, as 'fur farming is not consistent with a proper value and respect for animal life' though imports are still permitted. 

I know animal welfare charities have long campaigned against the fur trade and for animal fur labelling so consumers to have the right information to make ethical shopping choices. EU textile labelling regulation requires an item to be labelled if it "contains non-textile parts of animal origin" however, research by the Humane Society International found high levels of non-compliance with this law in practice. Animal fur labelling requirements are already in place in the US and Switzerland.

Despite repeated questioning by Opposition MPs, the Government has failed to set out the effects on the UK of leaving the EU - not least which regulations it will, or will not, retain. I believe the Government needs to set out its strategy for the future and whether it remains committed to the current, hard-won, animal welfare and environmental protections and what more they will do to show leadership in this area.

I would like to see animal welfare standards improve overseas as well as in the UK. National governments have a duty to work together to fight animal cruelty across the world and I therefore hope that we can continue to work with our neighbours across Europe to continue to raise welfare standards. For example, Denmark - the world's largest mink fur producer - is currently in the process of phasing out fur farming, and the Netherlands has recently banned the farming of foxes and chinchillas, so it seems clear to me that other countries find the practice abhorrent too. I believe the humane treatment of all animals should be a benchmark for any civilised society.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your views.