As a result of intensive hunting practices, many fur-bearing species became rare and some were even almost driven to extinction during the 19th century. The solution to this problem was to start keeping and breeding these animals in captivity. People thus began to breed foxes, mink, racoons and chinchillas in the confinement of cages. These farming methods for producing fur are currently being employed on a large-scale, particularly in the Scandinavian countries, Russia, Canada, the United States and the Netherlands.
Fur production and animal welfare
Mink and foxes are still essentially wild animals, which will never become accustomed to living in cages on fur farms. In captivity, they are unable to display their natural behaviour. They cannot hunt for prey, they dig holes nor can they run, swim or flee. These animals are forced to live in confinement for their entire lives. This leads to serious problems with stress and boredom, which seriously compromise animal welfare. In short, fur farming is an exceedingly cruel form of farming.
In December 2001, the European Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Wefare published a report on the welfare of animals kept for fur production. This report examines the conditions under which mink, ferrets, foxes, racoon dogs, coypus and chinchillas are kept. The European Scientific Committee's findings support the argument that these species are unsuitable for life in captivity. Moreover, it is also highly critical of current animal husbandry systems used within the fur farming industry. The report states that they cause "serious problems for all species of animals reared for fur". It identified major shortcomings with respect to cages, management methods, the training of farmers and people responsible for breeding programmes, handling practices and the use of objects to stimulate normal behaviour
The major reason for concern about the farming of fur-bearing animals is the question of whether the species involved can be kept in conditions, which are compatible with their behavioural and physical needs. Apparently this is not the case. The report concludes that "the animals species used for fur production cannot generally be considered as domesticated, as opposed to other farm animals". The animals concerned do not come from species that have been long domesticated, and these farmed species largely retain the characteristics of wild animals. Given the findings of this report, Bont voor Dieren is convinced that the only conclusion is that these cruel and unnecessary farming practices should all be phased out. Please download the report of SCAHAW here
Curtain falling for fur farming in Europe
There are no longer any fur farms in Austria. There is a total ban on fur farming in six of the nine Austrian federal states and in the remaining three there are such strict welfare regulations, in relation to the availability of swimming water, that fur farming is no longer economically viable.
In Italy, strict welfare conditions for fur farming were adopted in March 2001. From 1st January 2008, all mink must be given enriched living environments in which they can climb on branches, dig holes, use a nest of 50 x 50 cm and also have a water basin of at least 2 x 2 metres and 50 cm deep in which to swim. These welfare demands should effectively put an end to fur farming. In Switzerland also, animal welfare legislation ensures that fur-bearing animals cannot be kept under intensive farming conditions.
In 2005, the Swedish government announced that they were planning to make similar legislative changes to protect the welfare of mink by stipulating that they must have access to swimming water. The German government is also currently working on such legislation, although fur farming has already been banned in the federal states of Bavaria, Hessen, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Schleswig-Holstein.
In the United Kingdom, a bill to prohibit fur farming in England and Wales was passed in the House of Commons on 22nd November 2000. Fur farming has thus been banned in the whole of the UK since 1st January 2003.
The Dutch situation
In the Netherlands, bans on fox and chinchilla farming were passed in 1995 and 1997 respectively. The phasing-out of these forms of fur production began in April 1998. By 1st April 2008, all fox and chinchilla farms in the Netherlands must cease their operations.
The Dutch parliament also unanimously accepted a motion to ban mink farming on 1st July 1999. Legislation to ban mink farming was in preparation. However, before this legislation could be passed into Dutch law, the progressive left-wing government fell and was replaced by a conservative government, which sadly decided to reject the proposed ban on mink production.
An English version of the proposed bill to prohibit fur farming here and the memorandum of explanation here. For further details on the status quo with respect to mink farming in the Netherlands, please see "Dutch situation".