Fur farmers fight pending shutdown

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After repeated incidents of animal abuse and complaints from animal welfare activists, Norway’s newly expanded coalition government now plans to phase out the entire industry. The country’s remaining fur farmers claim they’re “shocked,” despite years of warnings.

Photos like this one, of injured animals with chewed-off tails at fur farms in Norway, have fanned opposition to an industry that has continued to receive government protection. Now all fur farms are to be shut down by 2025. PHOTO: Nettverk for dyrs frihet & Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge

The addition of the non-socialist but environmentally conscious Liberal Party to Norway’s conservative government coalition, announced Sunday, led its new partners to go along with the Liberals’ demand to shut down fur farming. When the new three-party coalition made up of the Conservatives, the Progress Party and the Liberals presented their platform in more detail on Monday, it emerged that fur farming in Norway will be phased out by 2025.

It marked the small Liberal Party’s biggest single victory in the government negotiations that began after last fall’s election and accelerated after New Year. The party (called Venstre in Norwegian) has advocated a shutdown of fur farms for nearly 20 years, not least when animal protection authorities and activists uncovered myriad examples of animals like mink and fox found injured and neglected in their small cages on farms often located in isloated areas.

The fur industry, backed by powerful agricultural lobbyists and the rural-oriented Center Party, continued to win constant reprieves, however. Despite widespread opposition to fur farming, and amidst industry promises that conditions would improve, the fur farmers were protected while facing more restrictions.

As late as last year, Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s conservative coalition gave the fur farmers yet another chance. Now her coalition has agreed with the Liberals that time has run out and that the industry that involves only around 200 farms around the country would be phased out with the help of state compensation.

Agriculture Minister Jon Georg Dale of the Progress Party admitted on NRK’s national radio that the decision was difficult for his party, but Progress also has ushered in new animal protection programs during its time in government. Dale stressed that the shutdown of fur farms was “an important issue” for the Liberals, and that the negotiations to form a new expanded coalition involved a lot of “give and take.”

‘Shock’
Guri Wormdal, who represents the fur farmers through their industry association Norges Pelsdyralslag, claimed the decision “came as a shock” despite all the years of reprimands and warnings. The planned phaseout will run through 2025.

Wormdal claimed that the roughly 200 families who run fur farms face an uncertain future, with little other income options in the remote areas where they live. Dale claimed the state will help provide alternative sources of income during the next few years, and that they should not only have to resort to receiving state welfare payments.

Animal welfare advocates, meanwhile, were thrilled by the government’s plans. “After a 28-year-long campaign, much frustration and many broken promises, we can finally celebrate!” crowed officials of the Norwegian animal rights organization NOAH on its website Tuesday. “A major goal has been achieved!” It noted how NOAH had “fought against the fur industry since the 1980s, to make politicians and people aware of the animals’ suffering.

‘Fantastic’
“It’s just fantastic that the Liberals have shown the ability and willingness to make the animals a priority,” said veterinarian and NOAH leader Siri Martinsen. “We are incredibly glad that the politicians have finally listened to veterinary advice and opinion in this case.” She claimed that friends of animals were “celebrating all over the country.”

While they celebrated, the Oftedal family in Rogaland County, which has raised animals for their skins for 40 years, was in depair. “We have invested up to NOK 10 million in the farm, and suddenly it’s worthless,” Ove Oftedal, age 73, told NRK. He and other farmers vowed to keep fighting for their livelihoods.

“The last word has definitely not been said about this,” agreed Betran Trane Skardsem, chairman of the industry organization. “We still hope to get around this.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund