Sustainable Fur Forum

EU Needs Comprehensive Legislation on Animal Welfare


Jun 09 2020 - The European Fur community welcomes the recent publication of a roadmap for the evaluation of the EU legislation on the welfare of farmed animals. The Fitness Check is part of the actions on animal welfare foreseen by the Farm to Fork Strategy to help the European Commission reflect on what further legislative and non-legislative actions are needed to align the EU’s animal welfare regulatory framework with the objectives of the F2F Strategy and the Green Deal. According to the fur sector, a simplified legislative framework and appropriate communication and information to consumers are the two critical aspects for a successful strategy. Far before the release of the F2F Strategy, Fur Europe has been advocating in favour of a single and comprehensive EU legislative framework for animal welfare. Up to now, the legislation mostly includes general provisions (e.g. Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes) and some rules regarding species-specific issues but no overarching legislation. Thus, various animal production systems and different parts of the value chain are covered by differing requirements, which has caused a fragmentation of animal welfare rules for livestock. The solution against this fragmentation is the adoption of a single and comprehensive Animal Welfare Framework Law on the model of Regulation (EU) 2016/429 on transmissible animal diseases (‘Animal Health Law’). The latter lays down general and specific rules for the prevention and control of transmissible animal diseases and ensures a harmonised approach to animal health across the EU. Similarly, a comparable Framework Regulation for animal welfare should apply to the entire EU livestock sector to streamline the amount of existing legislative acts and identify a harmonised set of science-based animal welfare principles. This includes clarity of duties and harmonised training for all actors of the value chain (farmers, transporters, vets, competent authorities), a uniform AW assessment methodology and sharing of good practices between the Member States. A new legislative framework will only be effective if it leads to a shift from input-based to output-based indicators. Animal scientists called for adopting animal-based indicators as a way to measure animals’ wellbeing rather than resource-based as they look directly at the individual animal and assess their physical and mental states. The WelFur programme, developed and launched by the fur sector in 2009, is a good example of such an approach. The Welfur certification requires three farm assessments and the maintenance of the certificate involves one assessment per year. It covers all EU fur farms, and without it, fur farmers cannot sell their production via international fur auction houses. Despite total compliance with animal welfare requirements and private industry initiatives like WelFur, often, consumers’ knowledge of animal welfare is not based on the reality of farming systems but prejudices and received ideas. The mismatch is often attributed to the disconnection between the rural and urban world. European farmers rely on adequate communication to help consumers understand fully the animal welfare improvements taking place on farms. Adequate discussion about animal welfare should start with a clear definition and explanations about measuring methods expending beyond emotions and anthropomorphism. In this regard, the EU should take a position in favour of fact-based and science-based indicators for animal welfare. But the Union also has another role; to encourage certification and labelling systems based on science and third-party assessments, on the model of WelFur, through financial and non-financial incentives. Such a move could steer consumers’ purchasing habits through reliable product information and offer a commercial advantage to producers adopting responsible practices. Such a step would be in line with the increased transparency foreseen by the F2F Strategy and is directly linked to the objective of improving animal welfare within the EU livestock sector. Fur Europe will gladly bring its contribution to the European Commission’s fitness check by hoping that Commission will agree that AW is not a cost but an asset. Farmers’ livelihoods depend on the quality of their products, which in turn depends on the good health and welfare farmers provide to animals. This asset requires an overarching Animal Welfare Framework Law relying on science and fostering transparency and labelling schemes.

Sustainable Fur Forum

Farm to Fork Strategy: Opportunity for Animal Welfare


May 12 2020 - "It’s going to be a strong proposal," said the Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans on 22 April in the European Parliament regarding the upcoming 'Farm to Fork Strategy' (F2F), one of the cornerstones of the Green Deal, the EU’s flagship environmental policy. Twice delayed, the F2F Strategy is expected to be released in May. Although not directly involved in food production, Fur Europe looks forward to the publication of the Strategy as it should trigger evaluation and possible revision of the EU animal welfare legislation, according to a version of the draft Strategy leaked in March. Indeed, Fur Europe – which represents the European fur value chain - regards the F2F Strategy as an opportunity to develop coherent and future-proof animal welfare policies in the agri-business. The last available version of the draft leaked on 6th of March is promising "the Commission will evaluate the existing EU legislation with the view to revising it”. Since long before the arrival of the new Commission and the communication around the Green Deal and the F2F Strategy, Fur Europe has been advocating the adoption of a new EU Animal Welfare Strategy, including an animal welfare framework law covering all farmed animals (food and non-food producing animals) at all life stages, to update and replace current legislation. In the context of a future review of the EU legislation on animal welfare, Fur Europe points out that decision-making related to animal welfare should be based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence and facts from the field in order to provide legal protection for high animal welfare standards essential for sustainable animal farming systems. Priority should be given to the development of animal welfare indicators. The particularity of animal-based indicators is that they measure several aspects directly on individual animals. Since the launch of the animal welfare programme Welfur in 2009, the European fur industry has worked with animal indicators as the modern, professional way to monitor different aspects of animal welfare (housing, feeding, health, behaviour). Welfur is based on the principles of the European Commission-funded Welfare Quality® project and has been developed by independent scientists from seven European universities. European fur farms under the WelFur scheme are certified by independent assessors. Fur farms are assessed with 20 different measurements chosen for their reliability and scientific validity. The certification requires three farm assessments, while the maintenance of the WelFur certificate requires one assessment per year. Fur farmers who do not score high enough do not obtain the WelFur certificate. Without the certificate, fur farmers cannot sell their furs via international fur auction houses. So far, 21 fur farms in Europe, less than 1 per cent of assessed farms, have failed to obtain a WelFur certificate. All fur producing countries or regions have a so-called Welfur advisor available for them. These advisors are veterinarians who help fur farmers analyse the WelFur data to improve animal welfare systematically. Likewise, Welfur is part of the self-regulations recognised by the European Commission. Such a recognition implies that the system has been scrutinised for its validity and credibility and therefore qualifies for legal implementation. The EURCAW-Small Animals (or the European Union Reference Center for the Welfare for poultry and other small farmed animals) – which has started operating in 2020, will have the responsibility to introduce animal indicators. Indeed, the comparison of Welfur results from different countries could be helpful for the centre, which is competent for the welfare of fur animals, although its primary focus should be on poultry welfare until 2022. In parallel to EURCAW-Small Animals, Welfur would bring a significant contribution to the work of the EU Platform on Animal Welfare, whose role is to promote an enhanced dialogue on animal welfare issues, which are relevant at EU level among competent authorities, businesses, civil society and scientists. The representation of the fur industry in the Platform should thus be ensured, or at least ad hoc invitations should be guaranteed to interested stakeholders. The F2F Strategy will aim to develop a baseline and indicators on key animal welfare provisions, and the Welfur method offers a good example of an animal welfare programme. Definitely, Welfur and the future revision of the EU animal welfare legislation triggered by the F2F Strategy will be in the coming month major topics of discussion within the Sustainable Fur Forum, the informal platform of discussion in the European Parliament that offers high-level expertise and scientific knowledge on fur related topics to MEPs.

Sustainable Fur Forum

“We must make sure the fur sector stays viable and can weather the crisis”


Apr 08 2020 - Fur Europe is glad to count on the support of MEP Juozas Olekas, who has kindly accepted to Chair the Sustainable Fur Forum (SFF). Mr Olekas became Member of the European Parliament in July 2019. Originally from Lithuania, he has a long-standing experience as former Defence and Health Minister. A surgeon by training, he sits in the European Parliament in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, and he has taken upon himself to promote the interests of the EU farming sector. We asked him some questions about his new engagement as SFF Chair: Mr Olekas, why did you decide to become involved with the SFF? For many years, the fur industry has been surrounded by many unanswered questions or stereotypes that are unrealistic. Personally, I feel it is my duty not only to ensure that these questions are answered to our citizens but also to replace stereotypes with reality-based facts. Moreover, one of the main things that attracted me to the SFF was the promotion of the WelFur certification – which is a modern animal welfare standard, based on concrete scientific evidence and assessed by independent parties. A sector so dedicated to this kind of practice deserves our support. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges the fur industry will face in the next five years? Currently, with the coronavirus sweeping across the world, there is a need to focus on the effects this major health crisis will have on the economy. The fur sector will also, unfortunately, feel the consequences. In essence, natural fur is a very specific product, and the demand for it can drop if the crisis persists and people’s income suffers a considerable decrease. The sector should continue to innovate and offer quality products, while also working on showcasing the environmentally-friendly and sustainable aspect of fur farming. Therefore, we must take all possible measures to ensure that the fur industry can continue to guarantee animal welfare and also high-quality products, which are two inseparable aspects. In light of the current health and economic crisis caused by the spreading of the coronavirus, what do you think the EU should do to support the European fur sector, considering that many SMEs like farms and manufacturers will be severely hit by the countermeasures adopted across Europe? The fur sector should be supported just as all the other sectors of the economy will be. It makes up a significant portion of the economy – exports of furs from the EU makeup almost three billion euro – and is an important employer in the rural areas, where jobs, in general, are not too easy to find. A hundred thousand people all over the UE work in the sector – people who usually live in areas where employment is scarce. If the sector is left to collapse, all those jobs will be lost, and a significant number of people will have few other opportunities for gainful employment. Therefore, we must make sure the sector stays viable and robust and can weather the crisis with as little loss as possible. We must bear in mind that the fur industry is mainly based on family businesses, which we Socialists and Democrats aim to secure throughout Europe. It is indisputable that it is these family businesses based on tradition, togetherness and solidarity that should be our priority, in order to protect our citizens and their interests during this crisis. When, if not now, can we provide them with the kind of essential support they currently need so much? The first event of the Forum will be focused on the new Circular Economy Action Plan recently launched by the European Commission. What role do you think the fur industry can play in making the EU economy more sustainable and circular? The fur industry can be a very important player in the circular economy – mainly because the sector itself, by its specifics, is very sustainable and an example of circularity. Fur farms use the waste from other agri-food sectors as a feed for the animals, thus using up the waste from food production that would otherwise remain out of the circle of production. The waste of fur farms is also used in other sectors of agriculture – as fertiliser or biofuel. And the product of those same farms – the fur – is inherently long-lasting and biodegradable, as opposed to most synthetic fabrics. We must recognise the benefits provided by the fur sector and make sure its role as an example of a circular economy is noted.

Sustainable Fur Forum

Sustainable Fur and the Circular Economy Action Plan


Mar 09 2020 - The textile and the clothing sectors are becoming central to the EU political discourse around the circular economy. This is illustrated by the European Green Deal, the new roadmap for a sustainable growth launched by the European Commission, which openly mentions the textile sector when referring to the European Commission's 'Circular Economy Action Plan'. This new plan aims to increase the circularity of the EU’s economy, preserve its natural environment and support the contribution of the EU’s industry in order to achieve a climate-neutral continent. The plan was presented on 11 March, and the fur sector is keen to contribute to its effective implementation at the coming Sustainable Fur Forum event in September. Natural fur is the ultimate example of a circular product The European Commission rightly counts the textile sector among those relying "mainly on unsustainable and sub-optimal use of resources, leading to excessive production of waste, and increasing the environmental footprint of our economy instead of bringing the needed decoupling". Yet, natural fur is a material characterised by longevity that generates little to no waste when it finally leaves the user-phase. Indeed, with proper care fur clothes last for decades, contrary to materials that intensify the environmental impacts due to their premature replacement. The longevity of natural fur stems from the material's durability as much as its ability to maintain a fresh look, and not 'wear out'. This makes natural fur an ideal material to repair, remodel and recycle. Keeping products in use for a long time is textbook circularity, but many modern products are not designed for longevity, and often most repair logistics are lacking. After decades of use, natural fur has the ability to biodegrade. As demonstrated by tests realised in 2018 by the Organic Waste Systems laboratory of Ghent (Belgium), natural fur biodegrades in landfill conditions through consumption by microorganisms of the carbon inside the fur. On the contrary, fake fur does not biodegrade as it is made of synthetic fibres, which break down into ever smaller pieces and eventually form microplastic fibres that are a serious polluter of all the world's oceans and waterways, as well as a serious threat to wildlife and human health. Upstream of the circularity of the material, farmed fur animals feed on waste products from the production of human food including chicken- and fish offal, pig blood and other protein sources. By buying these by-products, fur farms contribute to upcycling of waste generated by human food production and provide a source of revenue for thriving European bio-economy. Once the farming process is completed, fur farms supply by-products (manure, carcasses and soiled straw bedding) to other industries in order to produce second-generation biofuel, organic fertilizers or cosmetic products, thus completing the nutrient cycle. Sustainable Fur Forum: discussion about the Circular Economy Action Plan and beyond While fur owns intrinsic characteristics of sustainability (long-lasting, renewable, biodegradable) which make it one of the flagship productions of a circular economy, it is essential that the upcoming Circular Economy Action Plan enables the European fur value-chain to realize its potential to contribute to the transition towards responsible and sustainable use of the available resources. In this context, key concepts for the textile sector must be clearly defined (for example "recycling", "re-manufacturing", "reuse"), financial instruments shall be envisaged to help companies in their transition towards a more circular production, while consumers must be properly informed about the environmental impact of their choices and about the sustainable consumer behaviour. Beyond the Commission's next action plan, it is clear that the reflection around the further development of the economy in a circular way is one of utmost importance, and that this ground-breaking paradigm is likely to modify production and consumption patterns for many years to come. The role of fur in the circular economy will be at the heart of the next Sustainable Fur Forum event that is set to take place in September in the European Parliament of Brussels. More information will soon be available on the website sustainablefur.com.

Sustainable Fur Forum

Successful kick-off for the Sustainable Fur Forum


Jan 23 2020 - Set up at the initiative of Fur Europe, the Sustainable Fur Forum (SFF) is a new platform of discussion within the European Parliament about fur related topics. It is intended for all Members of the European Parliament who consider sustainability to be an essential component of today's production and consumption dynamics. On the side of the exhibition « This is Fur 2020 », which is displaying in the European Parliament from 21 to 23 of January the incomparable know-how and quality of fur production made in the EU, the actors of the European fur value chain have launched on Wednesday, 22nd of January, a cross-party and cross-committee Forum of discussion for all interested MEPs. The SFF will provide science-based and fact-based input on different topics of European interest which involve natural fur and highlight its potential for helping the EU to manage the different aspects of a sustainable transition: circular economy, environmental footprint, traceability, respect of the welfare of animals and protection of biodiversity. The SFF launch took place during a convivial reception hosted by MEP Juozas Olekas (S&D, Lithuania) in the European Parliament in the presence of the EU fur sector and many other prominent European policymakers. MEP Olekas, who kindly accepted to be the Chair of the SFF, declared: « In a time when the EU institutions announced ambitious plans to make the European economy more sustainable, circular and transparent, the Sustainable Fur Forum is a much needed initiative. The Forum will bridge the gap between policymakers, industry, academia and civil society to find solutions that protect both the environment and consumers and make the European fur sector more sustainable and competitive ». MEP Manolis Kefalogiannis (EPP, Greece), will be the SFF Vice-Chair. SFF events will bring together European policymakers and relevant stakeholders allowing to hold balanced and constructive debates. The first event will take place in April 2020 and will be focused on the upcoming Circular Economy Action Plan to be adopted by the European Commission.