This petition was started by Occupy for Animals at date of August 31, 2012 and has been submitted to the European Parliament for official registration at the same date.
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While wearing fur clothing in cold weather as protection goes back to the stone age, the source for this material came from the wild. As human populations grew, furs, leathers and hides for use in clothing came from farm stock such as sheep (sheepskin), rabbits, cattle, pigs and goats. The earliest records of breeding mink for fur in North America were in the 1860s. Foxes were first raised on farms for fur in Prince Edward Island in Canada in 1895.
Historically, the fur trade played an important economic role in the United States. Fur trappers explored and opened up large parts of North America, and the fashion for beaver hats led to intense competition for supplies of raw materials. Starting in the latter half of the 20th century, producers and wearers of fur have been criticized by animal rights activist because of the perceived cruelty involved in animal trapping and because the availability of synthetic fibers (from petroleum oil) that competed with natural fibres such as fur and wool.
Today, 80 percent of the fur clothing industry's pelts come from animals raised on farms. The rest is from animals caught in the wild. The most farmed fur-bearing animal is the mink (50 million annually), followed by the fox (about 4 million annually). Asiatic and Finnish raccoon and chinchilla are also farmed for their fur. 64 percent of fur farms are in Northern Europe, 11 percent are in North America, and the rest are dispersed throughout the world, in countries such as Argentina and Russia.
Fur used from animals caught in the wild is not considered farmed fur, and is instead known as 'wild fur'. Most of the world’s farmed fur is produced by European farmers. There are 6,000 fur farms in the EU. The EU accounts for 63% of global mink production and 70% of fox production. Denmark is the leading mink-producing country, accounting for approximately 28% of world production. Other major producers include China, the Netherlands, the Baltic States, and the U.S. Finland is the largest United States supplier of fox pelts. The United States is a major exporter of furskins. Major export markets include China, Russia, Canada, and the EU. Exports to Asia as a share of total exports grew from 22% in 1998 to 47% in 2002. China is the largest importer of fur pelts in the world, therefore making them the largest re-exporter of finished fur products.
Animals on fur farms spend their entire lives confined to cramped, filthy wire cages. Fur farmers use the cheapest and cruelest killing methods available, including suffocation, electrocution, gas, and poison.
Whether it came from an animal on a fur farm or one who was trapped in the wild, every fur coat, trinket, and bit of trim caused an animal tremendous suffering - and took away a life.
Several EU Member States have recognised the inherent cruelty of raising wild animals in intensive confinement and have already taken steps to restrict or ban fur production altogether. Austria and the United Kingdom are the two countries that have thus far passed legislation to fully prohibit the breeding of animals for fur production.
Production of fox and chinchilla fur was banned in the Netherlands in 1995 and 1997, respectively. Following a long phase-out period, all fox and chinchilla farms were eradicated by 2008. The Dutch Parliament also voted in favour of a ban on mink production in the Netherlands in June 2009. This legislation, which must still be approved by the Dutch Senate, would lead to the phase-out of all mink farms by 2024. At present, the Netherlands is Europe’s second largest mink producer, with nearly 5 million mink being gassed to death there each year.
Although it is the world’s largest fur producer, Denmark recognised the inherent welfare problems associated with raising foxes in captivity and consequently prohibited fox farming in 2009. The Danish ban does, however, include a phase-out period for fox producers.
Sweden also effectively ended fox farming in 1995 through an amendment to its Animal Protection Ordinance, which required that foxes be kept in such a way that they can engage in natural behaviours, such as digging. This legislative change rendered fox farming economically unviable and all Swedish fox farms closed by 2000.
Finally, it should be noted that Croatia, which is expected to accede to the European Union in 2012, already passed a ban on fur farming in December 2006.
We now request the European Parliament to please consider banning the practice of fur farming in the entire European Union for the following reasons:
Animal welfare problems on fur factory farms
The main species, namely mink and fox, that are reared on fur factory farms are still essentially wild animals. As the European Commission’s own Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) concluded in its 2001 report, "The Welfare of Animals Kept for Fur Production":
“...these species, in comparison with other farm animals, have been subjected to relatively little active selection, except with respect to fur characteristics. There has thus been only a limited amount of selection for tameness and adaptability to captive environments.”
Mink and fox are carnivores, predators and highly inquisitive, active animals, with complex social lives. Unlike most other types of farm animals, who tend to be flock or herd species, mink are solitary by nature. Mink and fox are territorial and, in the wild, go to great lengths to defend their territories. These animals are unsuited to farming conditions and especially intensive breeding and rearing.
Kept in small, wire cages, animals on fur farms have been found to exhibit stereotypical behaviour (such as pacing along the cage wall, repetitive circling/nodding of the head, etc.) as well as self-mutilation (i.e. sucking or biting of the animal’s tail fur, or other parts of their pelts).
Studies on Swedish farms showed that 70-85% of the adult minks were performing stereotypic behaviours. This is a serious behavioural disorder and a clear sign that the animals are stressed and can not act naturally.
Killing methods for fur animals
The methods used to kill fur animals also leave much to be desired. Mink, for example, are generally gassed to death after being placed one after the other in killing boxes.
Carbon monoxide (either pure source or associated with other gases) is the most widely used technique for killing mink. EU legislation continues to permit the use of gas produced from engine exhaust, despite scientific evidence which shows that even filtered exhaust gases induce unconsciousness in mink more slowly than pure CO, while first provoking excitation and convulsions.
EU legislation also continues to allow the use of carbon dioxide as a manner of killing mink. The aversiveness of carbon dioxide and the practical difficulties in achieving reliable high concentration of gas in the killing chamber make CO2 an unpalatable and unacceptable method for killing mink in groups. Semi-aquatic and highly evolved physiologically to hold their breath, mink are able to detect a lack of oxygen in their blood and are prone to hypoxia, which means that they can suffer particularly during gassing.
Finally, anal electrocution is also a permitted means of killing animals on factory fur farms. However, electrocution requires considerable restraint, and use of electrodes inserted into orifices. If cardiac arrest is caused without first inducing unconsciousness, there is potential for the animal to experience severe pain and distress. It should be noted that New York State banned electrocution of foxes; this method was also banned in the UK before fox farming was prohibited there altogether.
Fur farming legislation in the EU
There is no specific EU legislation providing detailed animal welfare requirements for the keeping of animals for fur production. Fur factory farms are covered by Council Directive 98/58/EC, which lays down the general minimum requirements for the protection of all animals kept for farming purposes.
According to this Directive, EU Member States may maintain or apply stricter provisions than those laid down in this legislation, thus creating the possibility for individual countries to restrict or prohibit the keeping of animals for fur production.
In addition to the aforementioned legislation, killing methods for fur animals are also included Council Directive 93/119/EC on the protection of animals at the time of slaughter or killing. This legislation was revised and, from 1st January 2013, will be superseded by Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009.
Unfortunately, under the terms of this legislation, killing methods such as the use of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide (pure source, or associated with other gases) and anal electrocution will still be permitted in the killing of fur animals.
Impact on the environment
The farming of animals for fur - while a profitable venture for fur farms - has proven to be an environmental disaster for the planet.
The intensive confinement of animals, in it's self, has always been of environmental concern. With thousands of animals being kept over a small area, the build-up of excrement is obvious concern, as it will either be soaked into the soil and end up in our ground water, or it will run off into near-by streams as a result of heavy rain. There is an obvious health factor involved with groundwater contamination. Each mink skinned by fur farmers produces about 44 pounds of feces in his or her lifetime.
The nitrogen of these farms also impedes the wintering of trees. This accounts for added frost damage and easier access for insects and fungi into the weakened tree.
Fur farms are a source of air pollution as well due to the tons of ammonia they produce every year!
Fur is only "natural" when it's on the animal who was born with it. Once an animal has been slaughtered and skinned, his or her fur is treated with a soup of toxic chemicals to "convert the putrefactive raw skin into a durable material" (i.e., to keep it from rotting). Various salts - along with ammonia, formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, and other chromates and bleaching agents - are used to preserve and dye fur. Furs are loaded with chemicals to keep them from decomposing in the buyer's closet, and fur production pollutes the environment and gobbles up precious resources. Producing a fur coat from ranch-raised animals takes more than 15 times as much energy as does producing a faux-fur coat.
Considering the above facts and with all the natural and synthetic materials available today, there is simply no justification for this disgusting industry to continue and we request the European Parliament to consider a ban on fur farming in the entire European Union.