I have been contacted by my constituents about banning imports of animal fur.
Fur farming in the EU mainly involves minks and foxes. In the wild, these animals are predominately solitary and occupy large expanses of land (for example, male minks occupy around 2,500 acres of wetland territory). Those involved in the fur trade, though, are kept in small wire cages and studies have demonstrated that animals kept in this manner exhibit symptoms of distress. In 2001, the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) investigated this matter and recommended improvements in regulatory requirements for mink and fox cages.
The UK was the first country in Europe to ban fur farming in 2000. The Labour Government banned the breeding and slaughter of animals for the value of their fur on 'public morality' grounds, as 'fur farming is not consistent with a proper value and respect for animal life' though imports are still permitted.
I know animal welfare charities have long campaigned against the fur trade and for animal fur labelling so consumers to have the right information to make ethical shopping choices. EU textile labelling regulation requires an item to be labelled if it "contains non-textile parts of animal origin" however, research by the Humane Society International found high levels of non-compliance with this law in practice. Animal fur labelling requirements are already in place in the US and Switzerland.
Despite repeated questioning by Labour MPs, the Conservative Government has failed to set out the effects on the UK of leaving the European Union - not least which regulations it will, or will not, retain. I believe the Government needs to set out its strategy for the future and whether it remains committed to keeping the current, hard-won, animal welfare and environmental protections introduced as a result of our membership of the European Union and what more they will do to show leadership in this area.
I would like to see animal welfare standards improve abroad as well as in the UK. National governments have a duty to work together to fight animal cruelty across the world and I therefore hope that we can continue to work with our European neighbours to raise welfare standards. For example, Denmark - the world's largest mink fur producer - is currently in the process of phasing out fur farming, and the Netherlands has recently banned the farming of foxes and chinchillas. I believe the humane treatment of all animals should be a benchmark for any civilised society.