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MPs of all parties back ban on fur imports to the UK in landmark debate

Lauretta Roberts
05 June 2018

MPs from all political parties spoke out against the importing of fur into the UK at a landmark parliamentary debate on the subject yesterday, however the government has not committed to any firm action on the matter.

Labour MP for Cambridge Daniel Zeichner led the debate and gave an impassioned plea to the government to take action on banning fur imports following on from the ban in fur farming in this country by the then Labour government in 2000.

"The Government’s view is that national bans are less effective than working on an international level on animal welfare standards. Now that of course sounds very laudable although it is in fact civil service waffle," he said.

"It also sets up a false dichotomy. An international ban would not stop our government from continuing to work on international standards in animal welfare and it would give our country a firm platform from which to work with others. We should be leading, which is of course exactly where we should be in Europe in general," Zeichner added.

Giles Watling, Conservative MP for Clacton agreed that the ban on fur farming did not go far enough: “Even though we should celebrate our world leading ban on fur farming… we have only outsourced this form of animal cruelty, and that is why I believe this import ban should be put in place… By waiting for this to happen we only prolong our role in supporting and enabling these terrible animal welfare practices and I do not believe this is in keeping with our British values.”

“We’ve banned fur farming. It would be actively hypocritical for us to continue importing it. Change is coming. We can lead or follow," Patricia Gibson, SNP, MP for North Ayrshire & Arran added.

Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, argued that allowing fur to be imported into our country, which has been produced using methods we have ourselves banned, and in many cases uses far less humane methods, was "fundamentally illogical and surely it must be immoral too".

“The idea of ethical fur farming even in countries which report to be high welfare, has been shown time and time again to be a complete fiction… The UK’s ban on fur farming was introduced only after our farm animal welfare council spent years gathering evidence eventually concluding that fur farms are simply unable to satisfy even the most basic needs of the wild animals kept in them. The council explicitly stated it was not possible to safeguard the welfare of animals kept on fur farms.”

Speaking ahead of the debate, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said a Labour government would seek to impose an import ban.


Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell support fur import ban

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International, which helped stage a demonstration outside Parliament as the debate was taking place and which has been instrumental in pushing for a ban and raising awareness and support via its #FurFreeBritain campaign, praised the MPs' "impressive display of compassion". But she added it was"immensely disappointing and frustrating that the government made no solid commitment towards a fur import ban. The UK banned fur farming as inhumane, so it is illogical to suggest we should now try to help fur farmers overseas make their businesses slightly less awful for the animals subjected to this cruel trade.

"MPs at the debate were united in their position that fur farming cannot be made humane, and that Prime Minister Theresa May’s ambition to be a ‘world leader in animal welfare’ will never be realised if we ban cruel practices here continue to outsource that same cruelty overseas,” Bass said.

DEFRA Minister George Eustice MP failed to commit to government action, but he was left in no doubt that MPs and their constituents are demanding a UK fur ban, the HSI said. Eustice acknowledged that there is nothing in World Trade Organisation rules that precludes the UK from banning items on ethical grounds, and that there is case law for the UK to advance such measures.


Protestors outside Parliament yesterday

Zeichner concluded: "Britain has a chance to lead the way within Europe and across the world and become the first country to ban fur imports and trading. What an opportunity!" And in reference to Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who recently received a letter from vets and animal experts speaking out against cruel fur farming, Zeichner said: "Why will he not grasp [the opportunity]? This is what the public wants, it is the right thing to do."

The debate was triggered by a public petition which had amassed nearly 110,000 signatures by the time it was closed. The UK already bans the import of domestic cat and dog fur and seal furs from commercial hunts but still imports fur from a range of other species such as fox, rabbit, mink, coyote, racoon dog, and chinchilla. According to the most recent trade statistics from HMRC, in the last year the UK imported almost £75m of animal fur.

Via the #FurFreeBritain campaign, the HSI has garnered support from many high profile celebrities, such as Ricky Gervais and Dame Judi Dench. 31 leading celebrities recently wrote to the Prime Minister calling for the fur import ban. In addition a number of high profile fashion brands and designers have announced their intention to ban fur from their collections including Gucci, Versace, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and Jimmy Choo, while online luxury platform Yoox Net-A-Porter now refuses to sell fur.

Images: Courtesy of The Humane Society International

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