Inside Finland’s cruel fox fur farms, the shame of the luxury fashion industry

For animal lovers, this video is difficult to watch.

Filmed in secret in Finland’s western Ostrobothnia region, the footage gives us a troubling glimpse into the condition of the country’s fur farms.

These animals are raised in awkward and unhygienic lives to meet a persistent demand for Arctic fox skins in the retail and luxury fashion markets.

The demands of the fashion industry have kept animal rights in a tight bottleneck for as long as people can remember. But this example is particularly sinister, and Finland is one of the few countries where this type of fur farming is completely legal.

“There are rows and rows of animals in small sterile wire cages,” explains Kristo Muurimaa of the Finnish Animal Rights Group. Justice for animals – “Justice for animals”.

He visited the farm as part of an undercover operation.

“Many [are] suffering from infected eyes and other injuries such as deformed legs are very common. The animals were fattened and bred to reach enormous sizes, three or four times their natural size. “

Forced into a horrible life and plagued with injuries

British veterinarian Marco Abraham he also visited the undercover fur farm and observed numerous welfare issues: arctic foxes with overgrown nails; wrist joints bent as animals try to feel less uncomfortable by sitting on their wrists; and a type of conjunctivitis caused when excessive skin around the eyes creases and rubs on the corneas.

“It’s just a miserable and horrible life for the animals who are so used to socializing and exploring the countryside […] this is absolute exploitation of animals to the millionth degree, ”says Abraham.

Another major problem affecting silver-furred arctic foxes is boredom.

“Animals simply have nothing to do. They are predators that haven’t really been domesticated, ”says Kristo Muurimaa of Justice for Animals.

“They grew up in these conditions for less than a hundred years, so they let go of all their natural instincts,” he notes, adding that in the wild, arctic foxes roam huge distances during the winter, but in Finland ‘believed to be in cages of a size. less than one square meter.

Industry lobby group responds to animal welfare allegations

Fifur, the ‘Finnish Fur Breeders Association‘he responded by saying that the video was illegally shot by intruders and that while there are a few individual foxes with diseases on thousands of animals, the activists probably specifically sought out the sickest ones to “create a false image of the fur industry. “

“It is also important to note that people involved in covert filming and nocturnal trespassing on farms cause stress and possible destructive behavior among animals through their actions,” says Fifur veterinarian Johanna Korpela.

“Intruders also cause an acute risk of zoonoses and zoonoses when trespassing on farms. Activists always violate the hygiene rules of farms “.

The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry informs Euronews that any suspicion of abandonment of the animals will be investigated and that in urgent cases direct action can be taken by inspectors to provide veterinary assistance.

Finland is an outlier in Europe, where fur farming is still thriving

The farming of fur animals has been banned, made economically unsustainable by legislation or is being phased out in most European countries, which makes Finland stand out even more.

“Finland is a huge outlier for all species, not just fox and raccoon dogs, and they now produce around 96% of the fur in the EU,” says Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International UK.

Within the European Union 12 member states have a total ban on fur farms; Germany has a de facto ban and zero production due to strict animal welfare regulations that the industry cannot meet, such as the demand for swimming areas for mink and digging substrates for foxes.

Denmark, Hungary and Sweden have partial bans in place for a number of species; while Bulgaria, Ireland, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania and Spain have all committed to banning the farming of fur animals or have entered into meaningful political dialogues on the implementation of a ban.

To give it scale: while countries like Denmark or Estonia produce a few thousand fox furs every year and Poland about 30,000, Finland 1.2 million fox skins in 2020.

Buying cruelty

So where do these furs go? In the wardrobes of wealthy consumers around the world who appreciate designer labels.

“Russia is a big market for fox fur. We know a lot of things end up going to Russian consumers, not necessarily being sold in Russia, but, strangely, Greece is a big market because Greece is a popular vacation destination for wealthier Russians, ”says Bass.

“A lot of European furs are still going to China and South Korea as well. And some of it will go to the UK. Just take a look at Harrod’s fur department to find lots of “Finnish fox fur” proudly proclaimed on brands like Moncler, Yves Saint Laurent and Fendi. “

So what is Finland doing about the fur farming industry?

Opinion polls in Finland shows regularly that the public does not support fur farming and would like to see stricter animal welfare standards.

Politically, however, there is inaction.

Three of the five ruling parties are in favor of banning fur farming, bringing Finland into line with most of the European Union, but two parties in the ruling coalition still support it because they get many of their votes traditionally from the defense of rural issues, or in particular the Ostrobothnia region, where over 90% of Finnish fur farms are located.

“Huge national shame”

“For me I feel it is a huge national shame, because we try to promote ourselves as a country that values ​​human rights and welfare issues, but fur farming is seen as a dark spot in our political talks. “, says Mai Kivelä, member of parliament for the Left Alliance, one of the political parties that make up the ruling coalition government of Finland.

Kivelä recognizes however that people depend on fur farming for their livelihoods – in fact, fewer than a thousand full-time workers – and that some sort of transition fund could be set up to help farmers find other jobs or look for alternative ways to get money from their land.

This concept is similar to the way the UK approached the problem in 2000 when it was the first EU country to ban fur farming. The government of the day introduced so many financial incentives that it became more profitable not to be a fur farmer than to try to make a living that way.

“This just and just transition narrative that we are talking about for the climate crisis, this is a good model of what we could do with fur. We want to ban fur farming, but there must be a transition, there must be a social program for farmers who are losing their livelihoods, “says Kivelä.

Despite being the largest producer of fox fur in the EU, the industry is still in long-term decline in Finland.

Ten years ago there were more than a thousand farms in the Nordic nation, but about 700 remain today. Politicians in favor of a ban on fur farming argue that this natural decline could be accelerated if farmers received compensation.

“People tend to think in our country that we take care of animals and terrible things like fox hunting or bullfighting or whaling happen in other places. When it happens in your country, it’s harder to see how horrible it is, ”adds Kivelä.

“Eventually fur farming will end in Finland, it’s only a matter of time.”

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