Have we finally reached the point where buying fur is no longer acceptable?
Britain’s parliament, the UK’s top legislative body, is debating a ban on the sale of animal fur in response to the submission of the 425,834 signature strong petition delivered to Number 10 Downing Street by the #FurFreeBritain coalition earlier this year, in addition to another 110,000 signature strong online petition.
Ahead of the debate, designer Stella McCartney wrote an open letter in support of the cause, highlighting the recent shift in attitude toward fur as an indication that the country needs to take a step further and ban fur, to reflect the public sentiment.
MPs from all political parties spoke out in favour of a UK ban on fur imports on Monday evening, during a landmark debate held at Westminster Hall, voicing their concerns with the fur trade, calling it “vile”, “loathsome” and the “grimmest of human activities.”
While parliamentary debates don’t necessarily lead directly to changes in the law, they can influence decision-makers and significantly raise the profile of a campaign.
Image courtesy: Protesters calling for a ban on fur imports outside Westminster, where Parliament is debating the topic. (Humane Society International UK)
The campaign, in this case, reflects a larger movement that keeps on gaining momentum. In the past year, major fashion brands like Gucci, Michael Kors, and Versace have said they will no longer use fur in their collections. Meanwhile, the city of San Francisco banned all sales of fur, and both Norway and the Czech Republic announced plans to end fur farming in their countries.
While other parts of the world do not agree with this stance, with sales of fur items remaining strong in Asia, America and parts of Europe, especially when the fur is used as a trim, fur farming was banned in England and Wales in 2000, followed by Scotland in 2002.
However fur products can still be legally imported from other countries and sold here in the UK. Much of this fur comes from countries that have very weak or no animal welfare laws at all, which is where the dispute before Parliament now lies.
Image courtesy: Fur activists stage a silent protest outside Parliament, Maja Smiejkowska
The petition that prompted the debate says imports are coming from countries that aren’t safeguarding animals. While some fur products may never be legally imported into the UK the Government’s view is that national bans are less effective than working at an international level on animal welfare standards.
Mike Moser, CEO of the British Fur Trade Association, called it “seriously flawed,” in a statement issued by the group. The petition “erroneously states that much of the fur imported into the UK comes from countries ‘that have very weak or no animal welfare laws at all’ as justification for a fur import ban,” he said. “In fact, all fur farms, wherever they are, must be licensed by authorities and independently inspected in order to operate.”
Yet despite regulations already existing in these countries, critics of the fur industry point to investigations that keep turning up cases of animal abuse, despite regulations. Recently, 50 veterinarians and animal behaviourists sent a letter to Michael Gove, the UK’s secretary of state for environment, food, and rural affairs, saying there are “severe animal welfare deficiencies inherent to the fur trade.” They supported Humane Society International UK’s call for a ban on fur imports to Britain.