Animal Welfare

Sweden rejects ban on fur farming with reference to scientific facts


Jan 15 2020 - There is no scientific foundation for claiming poor animal welfare in the Swedish mink production, and Minister for Rural Affairs Jennie Nilsson has consequently rejected a ban on fur farming in Sweden. In a debate in the Swedish parliament today the Minister referred to the scientific recommendations of the Swedish Board of Agriculture, published in January 2018. This work was commissioned with the exact purpose of scrutinising the mink production for animal welfare issues, and point to new legislation if needed. The Swedish Board of Agriculture did not find reason to suggest new legislation on basis of a scientific review of the current literature. Instead the Board of Agriculture pointed out the improved animal welfare performance in the Swedish mink production since 2012, which has been fuelled by the Swedish fur farmers' own, voluntary health scheme. The industry initiative was also highlighted by the Minister, who stressed the scientific basis of the 2018 recommendations, as well as the importance of legislation based on scientific knowledge: "The Board of Agriculture relied on the Scientific Committee. As a responsible minister this is an incredibly important tool in such [animal welfare] contexts. I think it is important to make decisions, that to the extent possible are based on scientific facts," she said. Other relevant welfare issue were likewise scrutinised by the Swedish experts. The 2018 study established that the farmed mink is domesticated and cannot be compared to its wild counterpart. Likewise the study established that swimming water is not an essential need for farmed mink, and found the appearance of stereotypical behavior is at a very low level, which furthermore cannot be associated with herds, but only individuals. It was further noted that more research is desirable, and the option to utilise the European-wide WelFur programme, that is based on the principles of the European Commission's Welfare Quality programme, for future welfare improvements in the Swedish fur production.

Animal Welfare

The European Fashion Industry buys WelFur Certified pelts


Jan 08 2020 - As the first WelFur certified skins go on sale at international fur auction house Saga Furs in December 2019, brokers buying on behalf of European fashion brands are the most active buyers in the auction room. Blue Frost Fox pelts are effectively the first sourced from WelFur certified European fur farms. Fur broker Alex Tarantola was amongst the 200 international buyers in the audition room who arrived in Helsinki to buy skins. He is noticing a shift in the attitude of the fashion brands he works with when it comes to certified natural fur. "It’s not only increased interest in getting certified pelts. For brands now, certification is a must," says Alex while carefully observing the auctioneers at the podium. ''They need to be covered by a credible certification. And it’s not a matter whether it’s worth more or less. It is a matter of whether they are in or out." Tia Matthews, the Fashion Business Director at Saga Furs, says this is not a surprise. Regardless of whether it is fur or cotton, traceability is still one of the biggest challenges across the complex fashion supply chains. "That’s why brands want to use WelFur skins sourced from European certified farms. It allows them to show their commitment to sustainability and demonstrate that the materials they use could be traced back to sustainable productions." Also on the Asian market many see the WelFur certification as a means to enhance competitiveness and demonstrate quality, according to Samantha Vesala, Saga Furs’ Asia Business Director. "There is a noticeable difference in the quality of the material depending on where they originate from. Asian brands require certification proof because they want to be able to say that the lots come from Europe." As buyers and brokers follow the prices on the screen and check order papers, farmers sit at the back of the auction room observing. Jari Isosari is amongst them. A third-generation farmer living in Ostrobothnia, a region in Finland living mainly out of fur farming, he says that WelFur helps him to see how to improve his farming practices. "We can show to the people that we have a responsibility toward the animals, and we care about them in the same way as any farmer would."

Animal Welfare

World premiere of certified natural fur pelts


Dec 19 2019 - Fox pelts certified in accordance with the European WelFur standard will be on offer for the first time during the international fur auction at Saga Furs in Helsinki, Finland, 19-20 December 2019. WelFur is the biggest and most comprehensive animal welfare programme ever to be implemented across an entire continent, which count 2,918 European mink and fox farms currently housing 35 million animals. "Consumers today want to know how the products they buy have come about. Animal welfare is an important societal value, it means the world to a lot of people, and we are incredibly proud of European fur farmers setting a new standard for on-farm animal welfare assessment across an entire industry. This has not been done anywhere before. Still, product transparency is clearly the direction society moves towards, and we are proud to be livestock first movers," said Mette Lykke Nielsen, CEO of Fur Europe, a Brussels-based umbrella organisation for the entire European fur industry. WelFur is developed by independent scientists from seven European universities and sets out to establish a reliable, fact-based picture of the level of animal welfare on each fur farm. The farm assessments, as well as the issuing of WelFur certificates, are carried out by independent third-party Baltic Control. The WelFur programme is based solely on the principles and methodology of the European Commission’s Welfare Quality project and has been endorsed in the European Commission’s database for self-regulations. It is the first and only animal welfare programme to be obtained in the database for self-regulations that requires testing against principles of openness, reliability, good faith, monitoring, continuous improvement and inclusiveness. "The independence of the programme has been critical to us from the beginning because as a producer, you cannot reliably assess yourself. I think independent assessments are particularly important when it concerns animals since all animal debates quickly become very heated and emotional," Mette Lykke Nielsen said. The auction sales of WelFur certified fur pelts kicks off in the morning of 19 December. Due to the lengthy manufacturing process of handmade fur products, natural fur products carrying the WelFur certification will only become widely available to consumers from September 2020 onwards.   Facts about WelFur WelFur is based on the principles of the European Welfare Quality project and developed by independent scientists from seven European universities*. External reviewers have secured the conservation of the scientific quality and alignment with the original Welfare Quality project.  All farm assessments are undertaken by independent third-party Baltic Control . Baltic Control is also the sole issuer of WelFur certificates. Animal-based measurements are central in WelFur. These measurements are an indirect way to ask the animals themselves about their well-being. They are widely endorsed by animal welfare experts, albeit they are not yet commonly used in animal welfare assessments. 2,918 fox and mink farms across 22 European countries have been assessed in the period 2017-2019, which concludes the implementation phase. Two percent of the fur farms did not achieve a WelFur certificate. There is an increasing interest of WelFur outside Europe, and the programme is being expanded to individual fur farms outside Europe as well. A WelFur protocol for finnraccoon has been developed following the protocols for mink and fox. The finnraccoon protocol is currently being tested. The first sales of WelFur certified mink will take place at Kopenhagen Fur, Denmark, in February 2020. * University of Eastern Finland, MTT Agrifood Research (Finland), Aarhus University (Denmark), Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, University of Utrecht (The Netherlands), French National Institute of Agronomic Research  

Animal Welfare

EU Animal Welfare Centre designated to Fur Animals


Oct 14 2019 - The European Commission has designated the second EU Reference Centre for Animal Welfare to the welfare of poultry and other "small farmed animals", effectively covering species farmed for their fur in Europe. The centre is constituted of a consortium formed by the Agence Nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire de l’Alimentation (France), and also composed of the Institut de Recerca I Tecnologia Agroalimentàries (Spain), Aarhus Universitet – Institut for Husdyrvidenskab (Denmark), and Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Lombardia e dell'Emilia Romagna (Italy). Paradoxically, animal lobby groups earlier this year protested against an Animal Welfare Reference Centre designated farmed fur animals, and vegan lobby group Four Paws raised this objection again at a meeting at the EU Platform on Animal Welfare on 7 October. However, now former Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis replied that if fur farming is based on science and animal welfare standards "it is not his business to ban the activity." He referred to his own upbringing in Siberia where fur clothes were necessary to keep warm. A new institution in the EU, the Reference Centres represent an important part of European animal welfare policy. The Reference Centres aim to improve the enforcement of the legislation on animal welfare, which is one of the Commission's priorities. They also contribute to the dissemination of good practices on animal welfare in the EU. In particular, by providing scientific and technical expertise, carrying out studies and developing methods for improving and assessing the welfare level of animals. The second EU Reference Centre for Animal Welfare will start operating in 2020.

Animal Welfare

It is time for a new European animal welfare law


Oct 08 2019 - EU’s animal welfare legislation is not comprehensive enough. This is the clear-cut conclusion of a survey undertaken amongst EU’s 28 chief veterinary officers on commission of the Finnish Presidency. No less than 88 percent of the 24 vets who responded to the questionnaire are in favour of stricter animal welfare legislation, Politico reports. "This is a very clear message from the state vets, and it matches the expectations of the European people, who repeatedly ask for more animal welfare according to the annual Eurobarometer surveys. I think it’s time to seriously consider a European animal welfare framework Law," Mette Lykke Nielsen, CEO of Fur Europe, said. The idea of having a single EU animal welfare framework law enjoyed support from 63 percent of the countries in the survey, while 87 percent said there is a need for additional legislation on areas where no detailed laws are in place at the moment. A whopping 91 percent answered that animal welfare should have a more central role in EU trade agreements with third-countries. EU has not adopted any animal welfare legislation since the killing method regulation from 2009. It is widely recognised in Brussels circles that this is due to animal welfare simply not being high on the political agenda. The Finnish Presidency however, seems determined to change that with the likely outcome being a European Council conclusion by the end of Finland’s term. Conclusions are adopted by the by consensus between all EU Member States and used to identify specific issues of concern, and influence EU’s policy agenda. "Animal welfare is clearly a common European matter, and all parts of our society is pointing in the same direction. We believe EU should take the cue and lead the way on animal welfare. When EU is passive on animal welfare they leave a room for all kinds of radical animal initiatives, and to be honest I think both people and animals are best off if we approach animal welfare with a base in scientific knowledge rather than emotional hysteria," Mette Lykke Nielsen said. She points out that EU already has the tools to efficiently improve animal welfare standards in Europe from the Welfare Quality project, the largest animal welfare project in the world to date, which set out to develop principles for animal welfare assessment from a multidisciplinary perspective. The European fur sector’s WelFur programme is based on and peer-reviewed against these principles. "WelFur has already been validated and adopted in the European Commission’s database for self-regulations. Soon we will have the assessment data ready and thus a clear picture of our welfare standards. The extensive data set is also the starting point for future welfare improvements as well as new research, for example under the umbrella of the new animal welfare reference centre for fur animals. This is the real quality of WelFur and Welfare Quality," Mette Lykke Nielsen said.

Animal Welfare

WelFur meets animal welfare standards of Kering Group


Sep 07 2019 - International luxury group Kering, who amongst its brands counts Gucci, Yves Saint Lauren and Alexander McQueen have published their animal welfare standards earlier this year. The European fur sector’s science-based animal welfare programme WelFur is highlighted in the report as it meets the ‘Kering Animal Welfare Standard’ for farmed fur. In addition to farmed fur, the Kering animal welfare standards apply to raw materials sourced from cattle, calves, goats, sheep, ostrich, crocodiles, alligators and python. "Improving the welfare of animals must be an imperative for our industry and Kering wants to amplify the focus of attention from a few species to all of the animals, including livestock, within fashion’s global supply chains. We hope for widespread adoption of the standards through collaborating with our suppliers, our peers in luxury, the fashion industry at large, and with the food sector, in these shared supply chains to ultimately shift how we, as a society, treat animals and nature," said Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of International institutional affairs, Kering. CEO of Fur Europe Mette Lykke Nielsen thinks the development within Kering is positive. "I can only applaud Kering for putting forward strict animal welfare demands to suppliers of natural fibres from animals. When WelFur was initiated it was exactly with the purpose to document the good animal welfare on European fur farms. Because of Kering's animal welfare initiative, we have worked with them professionally for a while, so I know from experience they do not take these things lightly," she said.

Animal Welfare

Fur animal welfare: New WelFur protocol is underway


May 23 2019 - While the science-based animal welfare programme WelFur currently is being implemented on 3.200 mink and fox farms across Europe, the development of science-based measurements for a much less known fur animal are quietly underway. Finnraccoon, also known as a raccoon dog, is farmed commercially in Finland, and the production counted 160.000 pelts in 2018. Right now a pilot phase is taking place in which animal welfare researchers are testing the validity of measurements, while at the same time the calculation model is being developed. The new protocol - that effectively work as a manual for the independent third-party assessors - will be handed over to an external review committee by the end of the year. The committee will review the protocol for its scientific validity and alignment with the methodology and principles of the European Commission’s Welfare Quality protocols. “All animals matter, also when the production is quite small. The WelFur protocols developed for mink and fox are already a success before consumers can buy products from certified farms. As the only animal welfare programme in the world, WelFur has been obtained in the European Commission’s self-regulation database, and Fur Europe’s board did not hesitate in deciding to move on with a finnraccoon protocol,” CEO of Fur Europe, Mette Lykke Nielsen, says. Recently, it was also revealed that fur farmed species will be a part of the European Commission’s next reference centre for animal welfare together with poultry and rabbits. The reference centres gather species-specific animal welfare expertise across Europe, and Mette Lykke Nielsen is pleased with the focus on scientific knowledge: “We think independent, scientific knowledge should underpin decisions on animal welfare. The WelFur protocols are dynamic, scientific tools, and the protocols and score system will change as new research and better welfare measurements emerge. WelFur is based on animal indicators, and while everybody knows animal indicators are ‘state of the art’ in animal welfare assessment, the fur sector is the first industry to implement animal indicators across an entire continent,” Mette Lykke Nielsen says.