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MPs unanimously call upon the Government to ban the sale of fur in the UK

Lauretta Roberts
14 September 2021

MPs from across the political spectrum have called on the government to ban the sale and import of real animal fur in Britain, in the first fur debate since the UK left the EU.

All 18 of the MPs who spoke did so in favour of a ban during today’s Westminster Hall debate, referring to the trade as "barbaric", "cruel", "utterly illogical", "outmoded", and "inhumane".

Britain has banned fur farming since 2000 with the last fur farms closing in 2003, but has always stopped short of banning the import of farmed fur, saying that it would contravene the UK's membership of the EU.

However now that the Brexit transition period has completed, anti-fur MPs and campaign groups, such as Humane Society International, have stepped up calls for an import and sales ban.

Conservative MP Christian Wakeford who called for today's debate, said: “It's now time that we end the double-standard of having a ban on fur farming, whilst importing the same cruelty from overseas. The fur industry would appear to me to be an industry that is outmoded and out of touch with modern values and principles of the humane treatment of animals, and I implore my Parliamentary colleagues to join me in condemning it to the history books as we have done for so many other cruel and archaic treatments of animals.

"Following the call for evidence on the fur trade held by the Government over the summer; given the strong public and Parliamentary support for this measure; and noting the Government’s commitment and ambition to be a world leader on animal welfare standards - I ask the Minister [DEFRA Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Rebecca Pow MP] to use her response to today’s debate to reassure me and everyone in this room today that legislative action to end the UK’s involvement in the global fur trade will be imminently forthcoming. It’s not just the popular thing to do; it's the right thing to do."

Scottish National Party MP Steve Bonnar argued that the coronavirus pandemic made the case for banning farmed fur stronger. He said: “Fur farming has been rightly banned in the UK since 2003, yet we continue to import tens of millions of pounds of animal fur each year.

"If it is too cruel an industry to have on our shores, than how can we justify importing fur that is farmed using the same inhumane methods, which are illegal in the UK? All have managed to do is outsource our animal cruelty overseas. Dangerous viruses thrive when animals are kept in filthy, crowded conditions. By allowing the sale of fur in Britain, we are inadvertently supporting a reservoir of deadly viruses.”

Taiwo Owatemi, Labour MP for Coventry North West, added: “The government has shown some willingness and stated it wants to drive up animal welfare standards in the United Kingdom. Well, banning the fur trade in its entirety, including fur imports, would be a bold step towards reaching these aims. We need actions, not just warm words from the government. In doing so we will have the overwhelming support of the animal loving British public.”

Recently 100 cross-party MPs and Peers wrote to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to call for a complete fur sale ban (currently certain furs such as domestic dog and cat and seal fur are already banned from sale) in a letter co-ordinated by Humane Society International UK (HSI UK). The debate was held after 1 million Britons signed a petition supporting a ban.

HSI UK executive director Claire Bass said: "Every MP who spoke at this debate reflected the views of their constituents by supporting a ban on fur imports and sales, and calling for Britain to end its bloody business with the international fur trade. DEFRA Parliamentary Under Secretary, Rebecca Pow, and Environment Secretary, George Eustice, can have been left in no doubt that there is overwhelming political as well as public support for a UK fur ban.

"If we are a nation of animal lovers, Britain cannot remain complicit in the appalling suffering of millions of fur-bearing animals caged or trapped overseas, all for frivolous fur fashion. We urge Government to consign fur cruelty to the history books by introducing legislation to ban the import and sale of real animal fur as soon as possible.”

Responding on behalf of the Government, DEFRA's Pow said she was “not in a position to introduce any next steps on the fur trade today” but that “we are building a strong evidence base on which to inform any future policy, noting information from a range of sources, including industry associated with the fur trade and notable retailers who have recently gone fur-free...” Pow also cited the “incredible 30,000 responses” the government received to the recent Call for Evidence which she said demonstrated “the strong feeling in this area.”

Many major brands and retailers have dropped fur from their collections in recent years including leading names such as Chanel, Gucci Versace, Michael Kors, Burberry, Jimmy Choo, Diane von Furstenberg, John Galliano and more.

The fur trade has recently tried to reverse or halt the move away from real fur with the introduction of a new Furmark, which it says will ensure that humane standards are met within the supply chain of certified products. Industry experts and luxury group LVMH were among those to contribute to the establishment of the standard, which was launched by the International Fur Federation (IFF).

IFF CEO Mark Oaten said Furmark meant that consumers could buy fur containing the stamp “with confidence”. He added: “This is a game changer: if people had doubts about buying or wearing natural fur, then they have been answered with Furmark." 

However HSI UK's Bass dismissed this saying: “Furmark could more accurately be called ‘Furmask’, a certification scheme that oozes PR spin to throw a thin veil over the appalling cruelty of fur farming and trapping. Furmark certification claims to ‘guarantee animal welfare’ but in reality it rubber stamps a long list of horrors, including keeping foxes their entire lives in tiny barren wire cages, anal electrocution, overlooking injuries and disease, drowning traps, brutal leg hold traps and many more abuses.

"No amount of marketing jargon can change the fact that fur farming is inherently and unacceptably cruel, and Furmark won’t protect either consumers or animals. We trust that the vast majority of the public, retailers, designers and politicians will see through this welfare façade, and continue on the current fur-free trajectory."

Former British Fur Trade Association CEO, Mike Moser, who has reversed his stance on fur since leaving the industry, added: “Fur trade certification schemes like Furmark are meaningless and do nothing more than sugar-coat the truth behind this brutal, cruel trade. I worked for over 10 years promoting fur before realising that genuine animal welfare cannot exist in the fur trade - how can it when the animals are condemned to live their very short lives in tiny wire cages?

"Under Furmark nothing changes. Animals on fur farms will continue to suffer in wire cages barely larger than they are, unable to run, dig, swim or hunt, suffering mental distress or horrific physical injuries before being anally electrocuted or gassed to death. Furmark also allows for wild animals to be caught in painful steel traps, causing some to mutilate their own body parts to try and free themselves. I know this industry from the inside, so I know only too well that neither Furmark nor any other certification scheme can ever stop the animal suffering."

Earlier this year Israel became the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur, and in the United States the city of Ann Arbor in Michigan joined Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood in California, and the towns of Weston and Wellesley in Massachusetts, in also banning fur sales. California became the first US state to ban fur sales in 2019.

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