EU agriculture ministers make an ‘urgent plea’ to end fur farming

A majority of EU countries have pushed for an EU-wide ban on fur farming alongside a ban on the sale of fur products – however, the European Commission said it is waiting on further scientific opinions to steer its work on the matter.

On Monday (26 June), a coalition of EU member states supported a potential ban on fur farming, the practice of breeding and killing wild furred animals solely for their pelts, such as mink, foxes, and raccoon dogs.

The initiative, raised by the German, Austrian, and Dutch delegations, was discussed during the monthly gathering of agriculture ministers (AGRIFISH Council) in Luxembourg.

German agriculture minister, Cem Özdemir, voiced the ‘urgent plea’ to the Commission to “take into account the banning of the breeding of fur-bearing animals” under the upcoming revision of animal welfare rules expected in September this year.

“We are talking about non-domesticated animals with complex needs, that […] are not properly taken into account,” he said, adding that “it is ethically indefensible to breed and kill these animals to produce non-essential luxury products.”

Other countries, including Belgium, Estonia, Luxembourg, Czechia, and Lithuania have shown support for the initiative.

“The Commission has said it wants to free these animals from their cages in the context of the review of the animal welfare regulation, fur-bearing animals should not be forgotten,” said Lithuanian vice-minister Vytautas Abukauskas.

While Lithuania opposed the ban during an AGRIFISH meeting last year, it is now about to become the 20th country in Europe to ban fur farming.

Finland and Poland are currently the EU countries with the highest number of fur farms, but other countries such as Spain, Greece, and Lithuania made it to the top of the list of mink breeding.

Finland and Greece were among the countries that voiced their opposition to the proposed ban – while Spain did not comment on the issue.

“Fur animal welfare can and should be developed on the basis of the latest scientific knowledge and the best practices without the need to ban the industry,” said Finland’s agriculture minister Sari Essayah.

Similarly, Greek representative Giorgos Topoglidis, highlighted the ‘financial importance’ of the industry in the country and pointed out that it is ‘an eligible activity’ in their Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) national strategic plan.

No scientific opinion, yet

Stella Kyriakides, EU Health Commissioner in charge of animal welfare rules, told ministers that “there is no scientific opinion available as yet from the [European Food Safety Agency] EFSA on the welfare of fur animals to steer the Commission’s work on this area.”

“Priority was understandably given to the species that are mainly farmed today in all member states, such as dairy cows, or two species such as broilers or pigs,” she said.

She also added that “an additional roadmap was agreed for future opinions on several species to further support the Commission’s work after the adoption of the proposals.”

However, the EU executive considered a potential ban on fur farming in a draft impact assessment seen by EURACTIV in April.

The impact assessment does not select a preferred option on fur farming “pending political decision” – but it does acknowledge that a ban on fur farming “would be the more effective option from an animal welfare point of view, compared to the option of establishing new basic requirements” based on future EFSA assessments.

In addition, the document foresees that 1,000 EU farms will be impacted by a ban, at an estimated cost of €225 million, which “will have to be economically supported, especially if only a short transitional period is provided”.

Over a million citizens’ call

The ministers’ debate comes roughly two weeks after the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘Fur Free Europe’ announced it had officially surpassed one million validated signatures to ban fur farms.

In total, 1,502,319 signatures were officially submitted to the European Commission, which will be meeting with the initiative’s organisers in July.

Reineke Hameleers, CEO of Eurogroup for Animals, said that “with the constant decline in fur production since the last decade, followed by a sharp decrease due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fur industry has had a low impact in the EU economy, and therefore an economic argument holds no ground.”

Likewise, Joe Moran, Director of the animal welfare European Policy Office FOUR PAWS, added that “the next six months to a year will be the most important for the direction of animal welfare legislation within the EU for the past twenty years.”

“The citizens have spoken […] they cannot be ignored,” he said.

[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna]


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