Deformed and sick foxes and others eating the remains of their own kind. New videos released on Thursday by animal rights groups paint a “horrible” picture of the Finnish industry that breeds animals for fur production. With around one million furs produced every year, the Nordic country is the European market leader in fox breeding and number two in the world behind China.
Videos taken in 2022 at six Finnish farms, four of which are certified for good animal handling, and released by AFP illustrate the controversy surrounding the sector trying to counter calls for its ban.
— Fur farming should already be banned in Finland. I find it unfortunate that this is not the case yet,” Mai Kivela, a parliamentarian for the Left Alliance, which is part of the governing coalition, told AFP.
In December, a European citizens’ initiative calling for an EUwide ban garnered a million signatures, enough to force a response from the European Commission. Several countries in the group have banned animal reproduction, but the appeal aims to extend it to all 27 members as it is considered an “inherently cruel” practice.
In Finland, Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced in 2020, under pressure from her partners in the Left Alliance and the Greens, that she would support the ban. But the head of government could not find a majority in parliament. Many MPs defend the sector, which generates 360 million euros (about BRL 2 billion) in exports, generates 3,000 jobs and is vital to certain rural regions.
The videos, recorded without permission, were obtained by the Finnish association Oikeutta Eläimille (Justice for Animals).
The sector’s group of companies, the Finnish Fur Farmers’ Association (FIFUR), confirmed to AFP that four of the six farms identified by environmentalists have health quality certification.
“It’s not the reality”
Locked up in apparently very small metal cages, giant pedigree foxes with extremely thick fur appear there with eye diseases and ear and tail infections.
“The living conditions of these animals on these farms are terrible,” the association’s activist Kristo Muurimaa told AFP.
Foxes that are unable to meet their need for exercise are susceptible to behavioral diseases such as compulsive walking, he explained. According to the association, the animals are subjected to excessive breeding to increase their size, which leads to deformities of foxes, for example, their furs.
In the videos, some foxes are so overweight they don’t even look like foxes anymore. Some are also seen devouring the corpses of their own young.
According to the association, the problem is widespread and “all fur farms in Finland are more or less identical in the treatment of the animal”.
FIFUR condemned the unauthorized recording of the videos, stating that they did not reflect reality.
“You give a completely false picture of fatherhood,” his spokesman OlliPekka Nissinen told AFP.
The organization says it has shown the videos to its breeders, but they say they don’t recognize their animals except for a silver fox. Still, veterinary visits are being arranged to investigate the allegations, FIFUR said.
— They are well managed, certified and have breeders who take care of their animals — explains Nissinen about the four certified farms
The certification system, which is intended to certify the health of the animals, includes annual inspection visits.
— In general, a farm with between 5,000 and 10,000 animals (…) can have sudden infections. (…) [as estatísticas mostram que] Injuries and mortality are quite low,” argued Nissinen.
Several European countries have already banned fur farming, including Austria and the United Kingdom. The Covid19 pandemic has accelerated the movement with total or partial bans in France, the Netherlands or Estonia. Denmark, world champion in mink, has decided to kill more than 15 million of these animals for health reasons. But in early January, reproduction tentatively resumed.