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Coronavirus adds a new urgency to calls for a ban on the sale of fur

Since April, there have been coronavirus outbreaks on 17 Dutch mink fur farms. There is growing evidence that fur farms have the potential to act as reservoirs for novel diseases, writes Maria Eagle MP. | PA Images

4 min read

The Government must end our association with fur-producing nations, not only for our moral standing, but for the protection of our health too.

Fur farming was banned almost twenty years ago in the UK, yet we still import tens of millions of pounds worth of fur every year.

These imports require around two million animals to be killed for their fur for the UK alone, having spent their lives in unnaturally small, barren, factory farm-style conditions.

Even though fur farming is banned, by continuing to allow the sale of fur in this country and at such a scale, we are failing to achieve the aim of our legislation, which was to prevent animal cruelty.

As the MP who led the campaign to ban fur farms back in the early 2000s, I passionately believe that if fur is too cruel to farm here, logically, it should be too cruel to sell here.

But though the trade has long been known to cause devastating animal suffering, there is now another reason for the Government to end our association with the fur trade: the threat it poses to human health.

Though there is a lot we still don’t know about Covid-19 itself, the pandemic has brought the implications of the global wildlife trade to the forefront of public debate. There is growing evidence from the Netherlands that fur farms have the potential to act as reservoirs for novel diseases.

Since April, there have been coronavirus outbreaks on 26 Dutch mink fur farms.

The Dutch Government published expert findings explicitly showing that mink fur farms present an animal and human health risk, and the Dutch Parliament has subsequently voted in favour of shutting down all the country’s mink fur farms.

The strongest message the UK Government can send to all fur-producing nations, is that we are no longer open for 'business as usual'.

These outbreaks are not limited to one species or even one country. Recent scientific research has revealed other species used in the fur trade, including raccoon dogs have been similarly infected with Sars-Cov diseases and reports of Covid-19 on two fur farms in Denmark are now also emerging.

Meanwhile in China, the world’s largest fur-producing nation, the response to Covid-19 has been to ban the consumption of wildlife, but the largest proportion of China’s mega-trade in wildlife - the fur trade - has remained untouched.

Worse still, the Chinese government recently updated the country’s National Livestock Catalogue and reclassified fur bearing animals as “special livestock,” specifically in order to facilitate the continuation of fur farming.

Many countries have been calling for a closure of the kind of wildlife markets in which Covid-19 is thought to have originated, which is of course to be welcomed. But wildlife trade, in particular the fur trade, is a global trade and so as long as the UK keeps providing a market for the products, we are complicit in both the suffering to animals and the risk posed to human health.

Influencing the landscapes governing wildlife markets and trade in countries like China can and should start with UK policy change. The strongest message the UK Government can send to all fur-producing nations, is that we are no longer open for ‘business as usual.’

The good news is that most people in this country are not even interested in wearing fur. A new YouGov opinion poll commissioned by HSI UK, shows that only 3% of people in the UK currently wear fur, and almost three quarters want to see the UK Government ban the sale of animal fur.

83% of people in Britain have never worn fur – which is reflected in the fact that almost all UK high street stores are now ‘fur free.’

The Government had already committed to reviewing our position on fur sales once we had left the EU.

In light of what this pandemic crisis has revealed, they must now make good on their promise and set the wheels in motion for the UK to end our association with this outdated, unnecessary and unhealthy practice.

Not only for our moral standing in the world in ensuring we have the strongest animal welfare standards, but for the protection of our health too.


Maria Eagle is the Member of Parliament for Garston and Halewood.

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