June 6th The situation in the Netherlands has escalated, with the Dutch government ordering that the already maltreated mink be prematurely killed at 9 fur farms infected with Covid-19 1. A team of veterinary and infectious disease experts advised that mink could act as a reservoir for Covid-19. Mink farming is due to be phased out by 2024 in the Netherlands but given the present Covid-19 outbreak at farms, compounded by the scale of cruelty, organisations are compelling governments to accelerate closures. Importantly, the risk and cruelty is not limited to the Netherlands, it is endemic to all countries with fur farming.
Our demand for animal products has led to one of the worst abuses inflicted on animals – industrialised farming.
Industrialised farming imprisons masses of animals in unsanitary and abysmal conditions. In these awful conditions animals become immunocompromised, creating the perfect breeding ground for deadly viruses to mutate and spread2. The perils of this are increasingly becoming apparent within factory farming, including fur farms in the Netherlands, which were recently quarantined after mink and several employees tested positive for the Covid-19 virus3.
The magnitude of the suffering of animals within the fur industry is staggering – with estimates of over 100 million animals slaughtered annually4.
Fur farming is a part of the disastrous industrialised farming system, imprisoning millions of animals for life in tiny, barren, filthy cages in order to produce frivolous fashion items. These already greatly suffering animals are then slaughtered in horrific ways, including being skinned alive.
In 2019, FOUR PAWS carried out a joint investigation with the Animal Justice Party in Victoria, making the alarming discovery that faux fur contained real animal fur from raccoon dogs and other animals. Thus, undoubtedly the issue of fur farming demands urgent action, and it is vital that we stop supporting this cruel industry in Australia.
Laws in Australia, Banning a Barbaric Industry
Currently, dog and cat fur is banned from being imported or exported into Australia, but unfortunately exemptions exist5. Further, the use of cat and dog fur is not expressly banned within Australia – there are no specific laws in any state or territory governing the use of fur.
Australia is a party to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, and this is implemented in Australian legislation6. But while there are some additional import prohibitions on fur derived from animals who are categorised as endangered, such as tigers and certain fur seals7, fur from mink, foxes and raccoon dogs is perfectly legal to import into Australia – so we must do more.
Australia needs to expand prohibitions to include ALL fur, to ensure all animals are protected from the horrific suffering caused by the fur industry.
Whether an animal is considered endangered or not, the agony they are subjected to is the same. In addition, a ban is needed to reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases as fur farming has also been shown to pose inherent risks.
States can move on this urgent issue by legislating a ban on all new fur products. Councils can also take the initiative and enact bans to prevent the sale of fur – in fact, Sydney Council has announced plans to carry this out8. Likewise, Canterbury Council will be undertaking an investigation into both fur and exotic animal products, with plans to impose a ban9. While Victoria has passed a motion to investigate illegal fur labelling10, with plans for future action on fur cruelty following our investigation.
Many countries, both in and outside of Europe11, and councils in major cities in the US have instituted bans on fur12. California has also become the first state to ban fur in America13.
Fur Farming in Australia
Although there is no large-scale fur farming in Australia, fur products continue to enter the market, including fur used in trims, cheap clothing, souvenirs, children’s toys and even as so-called faux fur14. Alarmingly, fur made from dogs and cats is used in China, and China appears to be the biggest producer of fur in the world15. Fur is deliberately mislabelled when exported to countries such as Australia because of the import prohibitions on cat and dog fur16.
Australians are concerned about animal welfare within various areas of fashion. A recent YouGov survey showed the most common being fur, with 75%17 of people surveyed expressing concern. With a large percentage of the Australian public concerned about cruelty in the fur industry, it is critical that governments do not delay and begin working towards ending the import and sale of all fur in Australia.
You can help
Our new campaign Wear it Kind calls for more compassion in fashion, and we are beginning to see a global shift dawning as the fashion industry embraces change. Ethical fashion is taking over catwalks, designer labels and moving into the mass market as shoppers call for clothing that is both on trend and kind.
In 2020, Mulberry announced a ban on exotic skins, joining fellow fashion houses Diane von Furstenberg, Vivienne Westwood and Victoria Beckham, meanwhile fashion heavyweight Versace and Paul Smith became the latest fashion brands to ban the use of kangaroo skin in their designs. An additional 1000 fashion labels including Chanel, Prada, H&M, Michael Kors, Gucci, and Armani have all committed to fur free policies through the Fur Free Retailer global program, not only prioritising animal welfare and consumer demands, but also supporting an end to fur’s image as a ‘luxury’ item.
Together we can keep this momentum going! In the midst of such turbulent times, it has never been more important to raise your voice for change. As a nation of animal lovers, now is our chance to make fur history in Australia.
Posted on May 29, 2020 by Sel Burek
2 The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, ’HSVMA Statement on Fur-Farmed Animals and the Risk of Disease’, HSVMA Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (Web Page) <https://www.hsvma.org/fur_riskofdisease>
3 Dutch ban transport of mink after farm workers infected with COVID-19’. CTV News, (Web Page, 28 May 2020) < https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/dutch-ban-transport-of-mink-after-farm-workers-infected-with-covid-19-1.4958975>
4 ‘The Fur Trade’, Humane Society International (Web Page) < https://www.hsi.org/news-media/fur-trade/>.
5 Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956(Cth) r 4W (3)
6 Environment Protection and Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 (Cth)
7 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, opened for signature 3 March 1973, 993 UNTS 243 (entered into force 1 July 1975) Appendices
8 Emma Hurst, ‘City of Sydney moves to ban fur in Australian first: Animal Justice Party MP says Council is leading the way for change’, Emma Hurst MP (Web Page, 11 March 2020) <https://www.emmahurstmp.com/city_of_sydney_moves_to_ban_fur_in_australian_first>
9 Canterbury Council, ‘Minutes of the Ordinary Meeting of Council Held in Council Chambers on 26 May 2020’ (Minutes from Meeting, 26 May 2020)
10 ‘Fur Trade’, Animal Justice Party (Web Page) https://www.ajpvic.org.au/fur_trade
11 ‘Fur Bans’, Fur Free Alliance (Web Page) https://www.furfreealliance.com/fur-bans/
12 Jake Flynn, ‘Blumenfield and City Council Pass Fur Ban Ordinance’, Bob Blumenfield Councilmember (12 February 2019, Web Page)
13 ‘Governor Newsom Signs Package of Bills to Fight Animal Cruelty, Promote Animal Welfare’, Office of Governor Gavin Newsom (Web Page, 12 October 2019) < https://www.gov.ca.gov/2019/10/12/governor-newsom-signs-package-of-bills-to-fight-animal-cruelty-promote-animal-welfare/>
14 ACTAsia, China’s fur trade and its position in the global fur industry (Final Report, July 2019)
15 & 16 Ibid
17 YouGov Galaxy Fashion Welfare Study AUS Poll 2019