The people have spoken: On September 29, Humane Society International/UK and coalition partners presented the UK government with a petition that included almost 300,000 signatures in support of a nationwide fur and foie gras import ban. The handover of the petition coincided with indications that the newly formed government of Prime Minister Liz Truss plans to weaken previously declared commitments on these and other animal welfare concerns.
The argument we and others are making is that the UK’s import rules should align with its domestic production rules by disallowing importation of fur and foie gras. Bans on fur and foie gras imports were originally scheduled for consideration as part of an “Animals Abroad Bill” advanced under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Fur farming has been banned across the UK since 2003, and the force-feeding of geese and ducks to produce pâté de foie gras is prohibited under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act. Yet the UK continues to permit trade in fur and foie gras. Since the fur farming ban took effect, government records indicate that the UK has imported almost one billion pounds’ worth of fur from countries including China, Italy, Finland and Poland. The petition urges the Prime Minister to “send a global message that we will not trade in such disgusting cruelty.”
When we worked to ban imports of whale meat, ivory and fur from seals, dogs and cats in the European Union, we won. I hope we can enact similar change for animals when it comes to fur and foie gras in the UK because it is a matter of a society uniting to take a moral stand against unjust treatment of animals. The petition was launched earlier this year by British naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, and he nicely captured the issue when he likened fur and foie gras to others that account for tremendous animal pain: “We don’t allow the freedom of choice to import elephant ivory, or whale meat, or seal, dog or cat fur, because all these things are unutterably immoral.” Former Animal Welfare Minister Zac Goldsmith pressed his colleagues to maintain a strong commitment to animal welfare issues.
Each year more than 100 million animals worldwide suffer and die for their fur; the majority (around 95%) spending their entire lives trapped in barren wire cages on fur farms. National polling carried out in April 2022 shows that over three-quarters (77%) of British voters think the government should ban the importation of animal products for which the production methods are already banned in the UK, such as fur.
In May 2021, following HSI/UK’s Fur Free Britain campaign, the UK government opened a Call for Evidence on the UK fur trade, which gave the public an opportunity to weigh in on the issue; it received almost 30,000 responses in a month. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has completed its analysis of the results but has failed to release the information, despite HSI/UK’s call to do so and ministers’ reassurances that they would.
This week, HSI/UK’s lobbyists attended the Conservative Party annual conference with a call for recognition that animals matter but were sorely disappointed that, under the new regime, protections for animals and the environment appear to have been rejected as “anti-economic growth.” We will continue to advance our evidence to the contrary; the value of the global fur trade has almost halved in the last four years, so it couldn’t be a better time for the UK to unhitch from it and instead position itself as a global center for investment in humane and sustainable fashion.
Organizations that advocate for animals are keeping the pressure up to stop the fur trade. More than 70 organizations across Europe have formed a coalition in support of the “Fur Free Europe” European Citizens’ Initiative. That initiative, launched in May 2022, calls for an EU-wide ban on fur farming and the import of fur-farmed products and has gathered more than 400,000 signatures to date. Our recent investigation of chinchilla fur farming in Romania has further driven demand for reform in that country and within the EU.
We continue to fight the fur and foie gras industries in the U.S. as well. For instance, we’ve worked with major fashion brands to achieve commitments to ending their use of fur and have passed fur sales bans in California and 11 jurisdictions across the country. Thanks to our public education campaigns, litigation work and legislative arenas, we’ve never been closer to bringing these cruelest of industries to heel, and we won’t stop our efforts until those fights are won.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.