An article for ConservativeHome by Christian Wakeford (Member of Parliament for Bury South) and Henry Smith (Member of Parliament for Crawley)
With the government recently concluding a four-week call for evidence into the UK’s fur sector, followed by the news that Israel has just become the first country to sign into law a fur sales ban, it is timely to shine a spotlight on the realities of the trade.
First and foremost, it is important to stress that the popularity and value claimed by the fur trade is an illusion, built on unsubstantiated claims.
The industry’s most questionable claim is to uphold high standards of animal welfare; you do not need a degree in veterinary medicine or animal welfare to know keeping an animal like a fox in a metre-squared wire cage for its whole life will cause it to suffer both physically and mentally. A letter to Michael Gove, the former DEFRA Secretary, signed by some 50 vets and animal welfare experts, attested to the fact that there is no such thing as humane fur farming.
Alongside humanity, the fur trade is also lacking a future with sound economic prospects. They claim to provide thousands of jobs and support hundreds of businesses, but any evidence of this is difficult to find. Based on the BFTA’s 31 member companies (the majority of which do not exclusively deal in selling fur) it is a struggle to believe that business in fur is booming the way the industry would have us believe. The ever-growing list of designers and retailers adopting fur-free policies is a clear sign of the times.
The absurd suggestions that a ban would criminalise wearing fur, have no base in reality and appear to be a desperate attempt at distraction from the true issue at hand; cruelty to animals. No one is suggesting that a ban on the import and sale of fur will stop those already owning fur to have to give it up. We simply want to ensure that Britain makes no further financial contribution to support the suffering of animals overseas for their fur.
The Government is to be congratulated on the recent Action Plan for Animal Welfare, which follows on from Government delivering the world’s strongest ban on the sale of ivory, despite protests from a handful of individuals. Polls continuously demonstrate that public opinion is firmly in favour of adding fur to the list of banned cruel and outdated animal products and practices; the most recent poll shows 72 per cent support, confirming that a ban would reflect the moral progress of an enlightened society.
Further, Tracey Crouch MP’s campaign to ban real fur imports was the fourth best supported of those tabled in the 2019–2021 session, having secured backing from a cross-party group of 140 MPs, proving strong parliamentary support in line with public feeling.
Straining for respectability to mask the horrors of fur factory farms, the fur trade has recently sought to present itself as a ‘sustainable’ or ‘natural’ clothing option.
This claim collapses at the smallest degree of sensible scrutiny, for example when considering scientists’ estimates that it takes around 500 kilograms of chicken and fish, as feed, to produce just one kilogram of mink fur. At a time when animal agriculture is increasingly challenged for its contribution to climate change and other environmental harms, intensively farming millions of carnivorous animals to produce a non-essential product does not marry with most modern or rational definitions of sustainability.
Over the last year fur farming has been squarely in the public health spotlight, with over 420 outbreaks Sars-Cov-2 on mink fur farms in 12 countries. Global health experts and agencies, including the WHO, have expressed concern at the public health risk of fur farms as viral ‘reservoirs’, alongside the risk that infected animals could create new variants. Disease experts have underscored that the cramped, unsanitary, stressful conditions on fur farms create the perfect conditions for future pandemics to emerge.
This threat has recently prompted over 60 vets and virologists to write to the Prime Minister ahead of the G7, calling for an end to fur farming to protect against future disease outbreaks.
In the interests of public health, sustainability and humanity, the fur trade cannot be allowed to continue its outdated, unnecessary and irresponsible practice. In taking forward an import bar, we have every confidence that Government would make reasonable provision to assist the very few businesses solely dependent on fur to transition to new, future-proof livelihoods.
We encourage everyone to respond to the Government’s Call for Evidence, demonstrating to DEFRA the overwhelming support for a ban on the import and sale of fur.