Christian Wakeford is MP for Bury South.
Since we banned fur farming almost 20 years ago, people are often surprised to hear that the UK still imports tens of millions of pounds worth of fur each year. This equates to roughly two million animal pelts killed for their fur each year ending up on the UK market, despite fur farming being outlawed in this country.
The scale of fur imports has become particularly incongruous when you consider the fact that fur is deeply unpopular with the British public. A YouGov opinion poll commissioned by HSI UK shows that only three per cent of people in the UK currently wear fur, and that almost three quarters want to see the Government ban its sale. An estimated 83 per cent of people in Britain have never worn fur – which is reflected in the fact that almost all UK high street stores are now ‘fur free’.
So, given current public and business sentiment, the question remains: why do we still import so much fur? Numerous media exposes in recent years have shown that consumers are sold real fur masquerading as fake fur with alarming regularity; the fur trade has made a return under the radar, damaging consumer confidence in fake fur and costing animals their lives.
As it stands, current regulation includes a ban on the import of cat, dog and seal fur from commercial hunts, but there is no ban on the import of fur from other species. Bearing in mind the terrible conditions of fur farms overseas (whether in Asia or in Europe), this seems like an illogical protection of some species over others.
The Government has previously indicated that, under EU Single Market rules, a ban on fur imports or sales would not have been possible. However, with the UK heading towards the end of the transition period of its departure from the EU in January, we will very shortly have the opportunity to be a global leader in animal welfare standards, and implement a full fur ban.
That deadline is fast approaching – so it is essential we get the wheels in motion to ensure that we are ready to demonstrate the UK’s animal welfare credentials against fur at the earliest opportunity next year.
Brexit represents a new chapter for the UK in its trading relationship with the rest of the world: banning fur will send a strong message that we intend to use this opportunity to be leaders in animal welfare. Last year .California became the first US state to implement a fur ban, with several other cities and states now wanting to follow in its footsteps. In 2000, the UK became the first country in the world to ban fur farming; we now have an opportunity to blaze a trail as the first country in the world to ban the sale of this outdated and unnecessary product.
In addition to public and business support towards a fur sales ban, there is mounting evidence that fur farms could act as reservoirs for Covid-19 through infected mink. Around one million mink have been recently culled in the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain due to outbreaks.
The Government has already said that here will be an opportunity, once we have left the EU and the nature of our future trading relationship has been established, to consider further steps such as a ban on fur imports or a ban on sales.
So now is the time to signal our intent to put an end to our association with the cruel, outdated and unnecessary fur trade, and to end the double standard of outsourcing cruelties that we have already banned in our own country. A call for evidence would allow government to design legislation that would minimize impacts on businesses, and allow pragmatic exemptions where necessary.