UK parliament debated ban on fur imports this week

fur hats in Alaska
CC BY 2.0 Paxson Woelber -- Fur hats in Anchorage, Alaska

Fur farming was banned on UK soil in 2000, but imports are still allowed, which activists say simply 'outsources' the cruelty.

Earlier this week the British Parliament debated a ban on fur imports. The debate was in response to a petition that garnered nearly 110,000 signatures, and would push the UK's commitment to animal welfare even further.

As the petition states, fur farming was banned in England and Wales in 2000, followed by Scotland in 2002. But the fact that fur products can still be legally imported from other countries and sold in the UK, including from countries with "very weak or no animal welfare laws at all", bothers many Britons. They see it as simply outsourcing the animal cruelty, rather than taking a firm stance.

The debate was spirited and intense, as would be expected for such a topic. MP Patricia Gibson argued,

"Consumers have made an ethical choice away from fur, a ban is important to keep these loathsome and vile products from our country, to help us wash the blood from our hands... The door for a fur import ban is open, will the Minister walk through it?"

Just-Style quotes another MP, Kerry McCarthy, who said:

"The idea of ethical fur farming even in countries which report to be high welfare has been shown time and time again to be a complete fiction. The UK's ban was introduced only after our farm animal welfare council spent years gathering evidence eventually concluding that fur farms are simply unable to satisfy even the most basic needs of the wild animals kept in them."

The arguments were bolstered further by a letter sent on May 25 to Michael Gove, secretary of state for the environment, by a group of 50 veterinarians and animal behaviorists (including Jane Goodall), stating that there are "severe animal welfare deficiencies inherent to the fur trade." From the letter, which supported the ban:

"More than 100 million animals, including foxes, chinchillas, minks, raccoon dogs and rabbits, are killed for their skin and fur every year, the majority (around 85%) are raised intensively in battery- cage farm systems that fail to satisfy some of their most basic needs, particularly their need to display normal behaviours essential for mental and physical well-being."

These arguments, however, were insufficient to sway Parliament to make a decision. The debate concluded with the government saying it believes the most effective way to fight to improve animal welfare is to work toward global animal welfare standards and phase out inhumane farming and trapping practices.

"Firstly, these regulations include a blanket ban of the importing of furs from a number of animals, including cats and dogs as well as most seal skins and products. Secondly, there are regulations that ensure any fur that can be imported into the UK comes from animals that have kept been treated, trapped and killed humanely."

Finally, it promised that these regulations would not disappear following the UK's departure from the European Union.

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