A new animal welfare regime called WelFur, developed by the fur industry in 2009, is being rolled out. It will score mink farms on qualities such as health, behaviour, and housing.
The goal of this initiative is to certify each of Europe’s 4,000 mink and fox farms by 2020.
According to National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime, animal welfare advocates, almost all of whom support a total ban on fur farming, are critical of the effort, which was developed and will be carried out by Europe’s fur industry association, Fur Europe. Of concern to welfare advocates is that WelFur continues to allow the use of small wire cages, which don’t allow animals to run, swim, or climb as they would in the wild and often cause boredom that results in tail-biting and fur-chewing.
WelFur spokesman Mick Madsen says that minks on farms don’t need to be able to express all the same behaviours as minks in the wild. He says that WelFur’s protocols are based on science and will be revised every five years to incorporate the newest research on animal welfare.
The goal of any animal welfare regulation is to prevent unnecessary suffering. But for many animal advocates, fur farming begins and ends with the basic moral test of necessity—we don’t need fur clothing and accessories, and therefore fur farming for that purpose is immoral.
“Fur is a luxury item. Fur is not essential to human health or well-being,” says Oxford University ethicist Andrew Linzey, author of Why Animal Suffering Matters. “Causing suffering for fur is morally beyond the pale.”
In an opinion-editorial published by the Daily Telegraph, journalist Chas Newkey-Burden writes: “Even as an angry teen I could see the complexity of some animal rights issues. Vivisection was sometimes used to save human lives. Nutrients can be gained by eating meat. But fur? Fur seemed a no-brainer. Why should animals die to produce a ridiculous-looking coat? If you’d have told me back then that we’d still be discussing this three decades on, I wouldn’t have believed you. Surely the industry would have been eradicated?”
Progress has been made – fur farms were banned in the UK in 2003, and selling cat, dog and seal products is also illegal. But imported fur from other species, including fox, rabbit, mink, coyote, raccoon dog and chinchilla, is still allowed. And this week an investigation by Sky News found that supposedly “fake fur” products, including gloves, hats and shoes, at leading retailers actually contain real fur from cats, raccoon dogs, rabbits, mink and fox.
According to Newkey-Burden, this discovery has upset shoppers who thought the fur they were buying was synthetic. But why would anyone who cares about animals want to wear fake fur? Why connect yourself, even symbolically, to such barbarity?
So leave fur, real or imagined, on the shelf and build your look on something other than animal cruelty, writes Newkey-Burden. There’s nothing beautiful about pretending to be wearing an abused animal.