European Commission hits pause on fur farm ban in the EU
The European Commission has delayed a decision on a potential ban on fur farming and the sale of fur products within the European market.
It was hoped that a decision on the future of fur farming would be made last week as a result of a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). However, unfortunately, it now looks like there won’t be a final response on the issue until at least 2026.
ECIs are a means by which European citizens can influence the EU by urging the European Commission to propose new laws. When an initiative reaches one million signatures, the Commission has to respond explaining what (if any) action it will take and why.
In 2022, an ECI calling for a fur-free Europe was registered and has since amassed over 1.5 million signatures from EU citizens. This initiative calls on the Commission to legally prohibit both the keeping and killing of animals primarily for fur production and the placement of farmed animal fur, along with products containing such fur, on the EU market.
However, rather than make an immediate decision, the Commission's response, released last week, has been to request an independent scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the protection of animals kept for fur production (including mink, foxes, racoon dogs and chinchillas), which is expected to be delivered by March 2025. This is disappointing as it is an unnecessary delay. There is already a significant body of scientific evidence which clearly supports the fact that fur farming systems are inherently incompatible with animal welfare.
Once the EFSA has submitted its advice, the Commission then intends to do its own evaluations before making a decision. While it is positive that a possible ban is mentioned in the Commission’s response, worryingly it also states they will consider “whether to take other measures to ensure the welfare of farmed fur animals."
Fur farming is an inherently cruel system which is outdated and unacceptable in today’s society. We need these systems to be outlawed. This is not about improving standards as animal welfare can never be guaranteed in fur farming systems.
Ultimately, this means that there won’t be any further decisions from the Commission on fur farming now until at least 2026. Sadly, in the meantime millions of animals in the EU will continue to suffer in the most cruel conditions on fur farms.
The cruelty of fur farming
The majority of animals used in fur farming in Europe are wild species. These animals, including foxes, minks and racoon dogs are kept in small, crowded wire cages where they suffer their whole lives unable to display their natural behaviour.
For example, a fox cage is about 1 square metre; in the wild, foxes can roam around 10 square kilometres. This highly restrictive confinement takes a heavy toll on the foxes’ mental well-being, leading to harmful behaviours including pacing in circles, repetitive actions, and even self-harm or cannibalism.
As well as the unimaginable cruelty and suffering on fur farms, there is also a high risk of zoonic disease outbreaks, as witnessed in mink farms during the Coronavirus pandemic. These outbreaks often result in the mass culling of wild animals, as they then pose a risk to human health. 17 million mink were killed in Denmark due to a COVID-19 outbreak that spread to people working near them.
As a non-EU country, why does this matter to the UK?
Even though fur farming has been banned in England and Wales since 2000, and in Scotland and Northern Ireland since 2002, it is still legal to import, use and sell most fur products in the UK (though there are restrictions on importing fur from domestic cats and dogs, commercial seal hunts, and wild animals trapped for their fur).
A ban on the import of fur was one of the measures included as part of the Animals Abroad Bill, but this bill was unfortunately subsequently dropped by the government. While this was extremely disappointing, we’re hopeful that a ban on fur imports could be back on the political agenda after the next general election as this is an issue which has clear public support here in the UK - a poll from April 2022 poll revealed 77% of British voters think the UK Government should ban the importation of animal products such as fur, where production methods are already banned in the country. Watch this space for opportunities to take action to support a ban on fur imports.
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