Fur trade in the UK Contents

3Should the UK ban fur?

48.In 2017, the UK imported £63 million worth of fur and articles with fur. In the same year the UK exported £33 million worth of fur and articles with fur, suggesting that around £30 million was for UK use.51

49.Furs sold in the UK have either been farm reared, or trapped and killed. Most of the world’s farmed furs are produced by European farmers. Other major producers include China, the Baltic States, and the U.S.

50.Fur farming was banned in the UK in 2000. However, as mentioned earlier in this Report, it is legal to import and sell fur from a range of species such as fox, rabbit, mink, coyote, racoon dog and chinchilla. EU regulations ban trade in fur from domestic cats, dogs or commercial seal hunts. In January 2018, George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Farming, Food and the Marine Environment in Defra, stated that the Government intended to retain the ban on the production, marketing, importation and exportation of products containing cat and dog fur in the UK, and seal skins and products.52

51.Animal welfare organisations have for many years called for a ban on the commercial import of all animal fur. In 2017, India introduced a ban on the import of mink, fox and chinchilla. Individual cities have also introduced bans on the sale of fur, including Sao Paolo in Brazil, Berkeley, San Francisco and West Hollywood in the United States.

52.In recent years a number of fashion designers, such as Hugo Boss, Armani, Gucci, Versace, Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, Jimmy Choo and Stella McCartney, have all banned fur from their products.

53.During the inquiry, we took evidence on the possibility of a ban on the import and sale of all fur in the UK post-Brexit.

54.BFTA told us that there was growing support for fur sales on the high street. Fur also remained popular with fashion students and BFTA was currently working with students in 14 fashion college and universities across the UK.53

55.Fur Europe recognised that consumers were concerned about animal welfare in the fur industry.54 The WelFur certification programme, initiated in 2009, is a farm level certification scheme introduced by the European fur sector. In order to participate in the WelFur certification programme, farmers have to fulfil industry minimum standards.

56.In order to be WelFur certified, each farm undergoes three different third-party visits in the three main stages of a mink and fox life: winter, pregnancy and birth (spring/summer), and adulthood (autumn). Fur Europe explained the evaluation procedure:

In each visit 22 measurements for mink and 25 measurements for fox will be evaluated by the inspectors, based on 12 animal welfare criteria regrouped under 4 main principles: good health, good feed, good housing, and appropriate behaviour. Moreover, fur farms aiming to obtain the WelFur certification will also have to respect the industry minimum standards on cage sizes …

Based on this evaluation, every farm will be classified according to a four-category scoring system: best, good, acceptable, and unacceptable farm practices. Farms falling under the fourth category will not be able to obtain the certification. Each certified farm will also submit to a yearly visit by WelFur-trained assessors during a random period in order to maintain their WelFur status.55

The aim was to assess all the approximately 4,000 fox and mink farms established in Europe by December 2019.56

57.In the evidence session, BFTA discussed the perceived low standards of fur farms in China. It told us that the welfare regulations in the “vast majority” of Chinese farms were very good.57 The International Fur Federation noted that the State Forestry Administration, the body responsible for farming in China, was “putting in place the standards that link in to the Council of Europe”.58 It did acknowledge concerns about the level of inspection in China.59

58.HSI UK told us that many animals reared for fur were kept in wire cages and were denied critical natural behaviours such as, in the case of mink, swimming. We heard that investigations in countries such as China, France and Poland had demonstrated the cruelty of the fur trade: “fur farms routinely lead to animals enduring physical suffering, and denial of animals’ key behavioural needs and positive social interactions leads to psychological suffering”.60

59.HSI UK were extremely critical of any welfare scheme initiated by the fur industry:

High-welfare fur farming is basically an oxymoron. … You only have to scrape the surface of these assurance schemes … to find that they do not offer any meaningful welfare provisions for the animals on these farms. While the livestock farming sector globally, following the European and UK lead, is moving away from the cage age, the fur farming industry is standing by it, almost as a badge of honour. It is absolutely not willing to do anything to make these animals’ lives slightly less miserable.61

60.HSI UK told us that there was a ‘moral inconsistency’ between the UK’s ban on fur farming and the importation of fur:

We are effectively outsourcing our animal cruelty. We have said we do not want it in our own backyard, because it is nasty and people do not agree with it, but we are going to pay people in China, Finland and Poland to do it. We are still paying for that same cruelty, and that is not acceptable.62

61.Lord Gardiner, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in Defra, told us that the UK Government believed in “an adherence to humane standards, whether it is in trapping or in fur farming”.63 He noted that “it [was] incumbent on the fur industry to be looking to raise standards so that those who wish to have real fur can also feel confident that the animals have been reared and farmed and indeed killed in a humane manner”.64

62.Lord Gardiner highlighted the role that the UK had to play in advancing animal welfare issues globally.65 He told us that “Different countries are at different places in what I call this journey about recognising the place of animals and their use and the respect for animals”.66

63.The Government’s ability to restrict imports after Brexit will depend on the nature of the future EU-UK trading relationship. The UK Government has recently confirmed67 that trading under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules would not preclude the UK Government from taking stances on ethical grounds and from advancing animal welfare.68

64.When asked whether there should be a ban of fur in the UK, Lord Henley replied that the fur industry was a legitimate business and he did “not do bans”.69 Lord Gardiner told us that it was a matter for consumer choice as to whether they wished to wear fur or not, and that it was important to ensure that there were the correct provenance and assurance schemes in place.70

65.We recognise that the breeding and sale of fur is a very emotive subject. As well as presenting the moral arguments against fur farming, animal welfare campaigners highlight the conditions in which animals are reared, and their lack of natural behaviour. The fur industry, to counter these concerns, have established assurance schemes to ensure that animals are bred and raised to industry standards, although there are concerns as to whether these standards go far enough.

66.We recommend that the Government holds a public consultation to consider whether to ban fur. In looking at whether to ban the sale and import of fur post-Brexit, the Government will have to balance the needs of animal welfare against consumer choice.

51 PQ 157157 [on Furs: Imports], 29 June 2018

52 PQ 122156 [on Furs: Import controls], 16 January 2018

53 British Fur Trade Association (FUR0053)

54 Q256

55 Fur Europe (FUR0043)

56 Fur Europe (FUR0043)

57 Q237

58 Q239. The Council of Europe has issued recommendations and guidelines concerning animal welfare. The EU is a signatory to the European Convention for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, adopted by the Council of Europe.

59 Q239

60 Humane Society International UK (FUR0040)

61 Q42

62 Q47

63 Q370

64 Q370

65 Q321

66 Q374

67 HC Debate, 4 June 2018 col 31WH

68 In EC-Seal Products, the WTO Appellate Body ruled that in the EU (and therefore in the UK) animal welfare is a concern that comes within the field of public morals. WTO dispute panels and the Appellate Body have stated on several occasions that WTO member countries have the right to determine the level of protection that they consider appropriate to achieve a given policy aim for example as regards public health, conservation, prevention of deceptive practices or public morals.

69 Q381

70 Q386

Published: 22 July 2018