Last week, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched a call for contributions on projects to strengthen animal welfare standards after Brexit. The call for evidence has been launched jointly with the Scottish and Welsh governments, and will seek views on animal welfare, as well as the social and economic impacts associated with trade, both on the UK coasts and in abroad.
NO: Frank Zilberkweit, President of the British Fur Trade Association
We are pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the government’s call for evidence on the fur industry. In it, we’ll detail the rigorous animal welfare standards, the extensive laws and regulations that govern the industry, and why fur remains popular with increasing sales year over year. We will also outline the many damaging consequences that the implementation of a ban on the sector would have and why the majority of the inhabitants of this county do not support such a measure.
Let’s be clear: if the government decides to introduce restrictions on the sale or wearing of natural fur, it will effectively tell us what we can and cannot wear, and what we should have in our wardrobes. We would have the unpleasant prospect of law enforcement checking whether the coat or hat someone was wearing was real or fake. These kinds of drastic measures go too far and drastically reduce consumer choice.
There is no support for a ban on ethically produced fur in the UK, and we firmly believe that individuals should be free to make up their own minds.
It is also clear that the restrictions on fur would be the thinnest point in the corner and simply open the door to restrictions and bans on other animal products including wool, leather and silk, as well as modern farming methods. Animal rights activists, who have long campaigned for a fur ban in the UK, want to end the use of all animal products or materials, including food. Their narrow views do not represent the majority of the population of this country, nor do they care about the consequences.
There are strict standards and rules governing the fur industry, banning natural fur would do nothing to improve animal welfare standards and is a purely symbolic movement pushed by animal rights activists. A ban would also not work and would be unenforceable. It would simply push online sales, untaxed and unregulated, and to those who care little about animal welfare. It would also impact indigenous groups who still depend on fur for their survival in places like Greenland and Canada.
This would result in thousands of job losses and the closure of businesses in the UK. It would also hurt London as a global fashion hub, as many designers and brands use fur, and it would disrupt trade relations with some of our closest allies who are fur producing and manufacturing countries, including the Canada and the United States.
A ban could not work in Northern Ireland, which is still part of the European Union’s Customs Union. So we would have the prospect that part of the UK would be free to trade and sell fur, but would be prevented from selling or importing its goods into the rest of the UK. This directly contradicts the objectives of the Home Markets Act which was designed to ensure the free flow of trade between the four nations of the UK.
Fur remains popular: sales have increased by over 200% in the UK over the past decade. It is also a natural and durable material, much better for the environment than synthetic oil-based fast fashions. It would be utterly illogical and counterproductive for the government to move forward with restrictions on a natural, sustainable material that would lead to an increase in synthetic materials in the same year that it hosts the world climate conference, the COP. 26. It sends the wrong message for a government that wants to be seen as a world leader in tackling climate change and improving the environment.
The fur ban is retrograde and damaging, and no sane government would consider implementing such a drastic measure.
YES: Helen Moore, founder and owner of the Helen Moore faux fur brand
The ban on the sale of real fur is long overdue. Subjecting animals to extreme cruelty in the name of fashion is a horror, and in direct opposition to the standards and values of animal welfare held in this country.
The current consent to sell fur no longer reflects the opinion of the majority as evidenced by celebrity support from Dame Judi Dench to Gary Lineker and the ban on fur by fashion brands from Gucci to Versace. The refusal of large retailers to sell fur is indicative of a wave of sentiment.
The fur trade not only has a devastating effect on innocent animals, it creates a risk to human welfare from zoonotic diseases – note the devastating slaughter of mink in Europe because of Covid-19. Dangerous viruses thrive where animals are kept in dirty and overcrowded conditions. By allowing the sale of fur in Britain, we are inadvertently supporting a reservoir of deadly viruses.
It is clear that the fur industry itself is questioning its support, as evidenced by the misleading of real fur as fake. For an industry, denying its own provenance suggests that it is acutely aware of its bad reputation.
However, the real fur lobby is very powerful and active, and currently on the defensive. In an attempt to improve its own credentials, the fur lobby has targeted faux fur, which it is clearly determined to disparage and portray as contributing to environmental damage. However, compared to other synthetic fabrics, it has minimal impact. For example, there are much larger amounts of potentially harmful synthetic fabrics, a polyester fleece jacket is responsible for releasing 1.7 grams of microfibers with each wash.
It is the washing that allows the release of microfibers and although faux fur is washable, it is rarely washed and certainly no more than real fur. A quick sponge, brush, and shake will usually do the trick. While the faux fur industry works hard to expand the use of recycled materials, the fur industry continues to use harmful chemicals to prevent rotting.
In conclusion, as long as Britain allows the sale of fur overseas, we remain complicit in an industry that causes immense animal suffering, environmental damage and also poses risks to human health through the spread deadly viruses.