Fur industry faces shutdown

Norway’s fur (pels) industry is now under threat of shutdown from the highest political levels, after even more photos from local fur farms have showed injured animals and conditions that state authorities call “completely unacceptable.” Thousands marched in protest against the industry over the weekend, but it’s fighting back.

A fox peers out of a cage on a Norwegian fur farm. PHOTO: Nettverk for dyrs frihet & Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge

Government minister Kristin Halvorsen, leader of the Socialist Left party (SV), issued the strongest threat yet on Sunday, when she told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the latest evidence of injured and sick animals suggests that fur farming in Norway should be shut down immediately. The photos taken by both animal rights groups and the state authority in charge of animal welfare (Mattilsynet) have also spurred condemnation from most political parties including the farmer-friendly Center Party.

“When we see that this isn’t a business that people will accept in the long term, and that it doesn’t manage to maintain animal welfare at an acceptable level, then it’s time to say now that it should be shut down,” Halvorsen told NRK. “We should agree on a deadline for the shutdown.”

Politicians from the Labour Party, which holds government power with SV, have also come out strongly against the business after photos revealed animals held in small cages with open sores, tails and limbs that had been chewed off and even some dead animals found lying in cages with live animals. Ole Fjetland of Mattilsynet called the situation “completely unacceptable” and said he was “disappointed that we’re again seeing such pictures of this business.”

Broken promises
Industry officials have promised repeatedly that conditions for their animals would improve, but patience seems to have run out. Even the chairman of the industry’s trade association Pelsdyralslaget was found to have injured animals on his mink farm late last week, after state inspectors made an unannounced visit.

The industry is fighting back hard, though, with its own veterinarian Gorm Samson claiming that the number of injured animals is small compared to the total (20 out of 13,000 on the farm run by the chairman of Pelsdyralslaget) and that the fur farmers are trying to “clean up.” On Sunday night, they voted to impose a certification system on their members immediately, in an effort to boost standards.

Samson was furious with government minister Halvorsen, claiming she had no idea what she was talking about. He asked rhetorically about “the hundreds of millions of salmon that die in fish farms,” and “the more than 100,000 chickens” that die on their way to the slaughterhouse.

“What shall we do about the cats that eat 50 million birds every year?” he exclaimed to NRK. “You can greet Kristin Halvorsen back, and tell her she doesn’t have a clue.”

Protesters took to the streets
Meanwhile, thousands of fur farming opponents and animal welfare advocates marched in demonstrations over the weekend that were organized by animal rights group NOAH in Oslo, Trondheim, Tromsø, Bergen and Kristiansand. Demonstrators holding flaming torches decried animal abuse and were cheered by support from celebrities including author Unni Lindell, who said it was “unnecessary and vain” to wear a fur coat.

Agriculture Minister Lars Peder Brekk of the Center Party is a major supporter of farmers and business ventures in Norway’s rural areas, but he, too, has been shaken by the ongoing violations of animal welfare regulations. Brekk, responsible for such regulators as Mattilsynet, already has warned of new sanctions or prohibitions if the industry doesn’t improve. Labour wants documented improvements within six month.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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