The ISPCA, and Respect for Animals, both of which are members of Fur Free Alliance, are highlighting the necessity for a ban on fur farming in Ireland on animal welfare, ethical and moral grounds, and are backing a Bill recently introduced in the Dáil by Solidarity TD, Deputy Ruth Coppinger.
The weight of public support for a ban on fur farming is clear. An opinion poll of people in Ireland conducted by Red C Research in October 2018 showed that 80% agree that farming and killing of animals for their fur in Ireland should be banned.
There are currently three mink farms in Ireland— one each in Donegal, Laois and Kerry— down from five in 2009. These three farms breed and kill approximately 150,000 mink a year. A number of fur farms in Ireland have gone out of business in recent years, with official inspectorate records showing that these three fur farms employ few permanent members of staff.
Examples from elsewhere in Europe have shown that successful fur farming bans do not have a negative economic impact, with farms receiving compensation, phase-out periods and chances for diversification. Fur farming is not a traditional Irish rural industry with a heritage that needs to be preserved. In fact only one fur farm is owned by an Irish family, the others are owned by parent companies originating elsewhere in Europe.
Mink, the only species of animal currently reared in fur factory farms in Ireland, are active wide-ranging carnivores and inherently unsuitable to be kept in wire mesh battery cages. They are semi-aquatic, but in fur farms are deprived of access to water for swimming, bathing or hunting. Mink bred for their fur are still essentially wild, and their behavioural needs cannot be met on fur farms. Furthermore, to preserve their pelts mink are killed by inhumane methods such as gassing. Because mink are semi-aquatic, they are highly evolved physiologically to hold their breath making them prone to hypoxia. This means they will potentially suffer when killed by gassing.
According to a 2001 European Commision report on the welfare of animals kept for fur production, animals kept for fur have been subjected to relatively little active selection for tameness and adaptability to captive environments. The battery cage system deprives animals of the opportunity to express their species-specific range of behaviours.
In its natural environment, a mink's home range can be up to 3 square kilometres, or as much as 7.5 square kilometres along rivers or coasts. This stands in stark contract to the bare battery cages in which they are kept on fur farms, which are no longer than the lengh of a human arm, so that the mink are easier to catch at the time of killing.
Furthermore, mink are naturally solitary animals. Yet they are crammed in close quarters on fur farms and are unable to avoid social contact.
On fur farms they are not able to run, swim or hunt. This, coupled with the stress of their environment causes mink to exhibit stress-related physical or behavioural symptoms (stereotypic behaviour) such as repetitive circling, fur-chewing, self-mutilatio, which often causes serious injuries and open wounds can become infected.
Fur farming has been an important pathway for the introduction of invasive alien species (IAS), which can cause significant damage to native biodiversity. American mink, a species that were introduced by escapes from fur farms - are included on the list of the 100 worst invasive alien species in Europe.
Feral populations of mink are found in more than 20 European countries, including Ireland, and the numbers are increasing. Feral mink can have a severe impact on groundnesting bird populations, rodents and amphibians.
In Ireland, escaped mink are widespread and have a significant impact on ground nesting birds, including seabirds and waders. First recorded in the wild in Ireland in 1961 and in stable population by the 1980’s, NPWS is constantly involved in the control and management at huge cost.
The fur industry is represented by various trade bodies which can be compared to tobacco industry lobbyists or sponsored climate change deniers, both of which are narrow, self-interest groups whose aims are to defend certain practices and stave off legislation or regulation aimed at limiting their damaging activities and protecting the public.
Recent initiatives such as WelFur – the fur industry’s latest scheme that tries to put a gloss on their cruel practices – can be seen in this context.
The WelFur scheme is being promoted by the fur industry, despite being comprehensively debunked by the recent report by Respect for Animals: ‘The Case Against Fur Factory Farming: A Scientific Review of Animal Welfare Standards and ‘WelFur’’.
Drawing on the best and most up to date science, the report concludes: ‘WelFur is not able to address the major welfare issues for mink and foxes farmed for fur, nor the serious inadequacies in current labelling and regulation’.
The fact is that fur farming is cruel, the fur industry is incapable of making it humane. A ban on fur farming in Ireland should be introduced as soon as possible on animal welfare, ethical and moral grounds.
For more information, download our briefing document and factsheet about fur farming in Ireland, and post on social media using the hashtag #FurFreeIreland to show your support for the Bill to ban fur farming.Viewed 4110 times.