As Parliament prepares to debate a UK ban on fur imports next week, 50 veterinary and animal behaviour experts including UN Ambassador of Peace and world renowned conservationist Dr Jane Goodall, have joined with #FurFreeBritain campaigners from animal charity Humane Society International/UK in writing to Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

In a letter to the Minister they express their “concern at the severe animal welfare deficiencies inherent to the fur trade” and point to the “worrying, even distressing evidence of persistently poor welfare conditions”.

Wildlife expert Chris Packham has also sent MPs an impassioned video message to support #FurFreeBritain, in which he says the fur trade is “entirely repugnant” and urges them to ignore welfare-washing by the fur trade which he calls “nonsense”.

Fur farming was banned in the UK in 2000, but since that time Britain has imported animal fur worth more than £650 million from countries such as Italy, France, Poland, China and Russia where animals are typically bred in appalling conditions on fur farms. Humane Society International believes that’s a double standard that must be addressed by a UK fur import ban. The UK imported almost £75 million of animal fur in the last year alone. With more than 130 million animals killed for their fur globally, HSI UK estimates that some 2million animals a year could be suffering and dying for fur imported into the UK.

Read the full letter here

Animal charity Humane Society International UK which leads the #FurFreeBritan campaign for a UK fur import ban, says the veterinarians’ letter and Chris Packham’s video plea serves to remind MPs to be beware of ‘welfare washing’ by the fur trade. At a recent fur inquiry evidence session, Fur Europe told members of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee that keeping foxes in small, wire cages for their entire life is natural and that such wild species are domesticated, astonishing assertions refuted as ‘inaccurate’ by the veterinary and animal behaviour experts.

Claire Bass from HSI UK says: “It beggars belief that the fur trade would attempt to convince MPs that keeping a fox in a small wire cage for the whole of its life could ever be considered natural or acceptable. Our letter with veterinary and animal welfare experts thoroughly debunks that claim; the life of an animal on a fur farm is one of monotonous deprivation, in which the relentless boredom and lack of space can trigger the repetitive pacing and spinning so indicative of mental disturbance. No amount of PR-spin can conceal the fact that these animals are suffering. By importing fur from farms overseas, the UK is propping up a trade that has misery and torment at its very heart. We hope that this experts’ letter and the powerful words by Chris Packham, will remind MPs to beware of ‘welfare washing’ by the fur trade. If the government wants to lead the world in animal welfare then it must call time on this trade in this suffering.”

Signatories to the experts’ letter include Alick Simmons, former UK Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer; Professor Alastair MacMillan, former DEFRA veterinarian; Andrew Knight, Professor of Animal Welfare & Ethics at the University of Winchester, as well as TV vets and presenters Marc Abraham, Emma Milne, Scott Miller, James Greenwood, and Chris Packham.

The experts’ letter reads: “Wild animals on fur farms live their lives in wire-floored cages thousands of times smaller than their natural territories. They are denied their biological inheritance to exhibit natural behaviours and stimulations such as hunting, digging and swimming. And they can be kept in what is for them unnatural social groups. For example naturally solitary mink are compelled to live in very close proximity to each other. These features of fur farms can inevitably lead to psychological stresses. Instances of stereotypical behaviour, a sign of compromised psychological well-being, have been well documented on fur farms, as has cannibalism, untreated wounds, foot deformities and eye infections.”

The fur industry has funded various welfare certification schemes over the years in an attempt to welfare-wash fur, however such schemes rarely require more than the minimum legally required and lack sufficient standards and enrichments necessary for a wild animal to behave naturally in a cage.

The Fur Free Britain campaign is calling on the government to make the UK a fur-free zone by extending the current import ban on fur from cats, dogs and commercial seal hunts, to include all fur-bearing species including foxes, rabbits, mink, coyotes, raccoon dogs, and chinchillas.

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