Fur flying in Norway's fur industry

Bookmark and Share

Fur farmers all over the country were scurrying around their caged animals this week, trying to correct any violations before state officials showed up for unannounced inspections. The industry is the target of sharp criticism after Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) aired a shocking report on conditions for the animals raised for their furs.

Animal rights activists finally accomplished what years of sabotage, protest actions and political lobbying didn’t: They’ve won public sympathy and grabbed the attention of politicians by filming caged and highly stressed animals suffering from open sores, or with their paws or ears gnawed off.

That has finally pressed the fur farmers, who have existed in Norway for around 100 years, up against the proverbial wall. “Clean up or get out,” railed Norway’s agriculture minister, Lars Peder Brekk, who comes from the small Center Party that long has been one of the fur industry’s biggest supporters.

Brekk was disgusted by the NRK report, prepared with material from activist group Network for Animals’ Freedom (Nettverk for dyrs frihet) , which visited 45 fur farms around the country this summer. “This concerns the fur farmers’ future,” he said, and personally ordered officials from state food safety authority Mattilsynet , which has jurisdiction over the fur farmers, to immediately inspect the farms.

Industry officials themselves, realizing their industry is now actually under threat, also are inspecting all of Norway’s roughly 350 fur farms and offering “to guide them on what standards apply.” The farms, down from 625 just five years ago, house an estimated 650,000 mink and 250,000 foxes.

The animal rights activists and others opposed to fur farming aren’t celebrating just yet, though. Some worry that with national elections looming in less than two weeks, Brekk is simply grandstanding and that fur farm monitoring will soon be forgotten. Brekk “can show that he’s taking action, and then declare the industry healthy again after Mattilsynet delivers its report,” Live Kleveland of Dyrevernalliansen (an animal protection alliance) told newspaper Aftenposten . “Unfortunately, I don’t believe the politicians will really do anything this time either.”

Others are more optimistic, not least since Norway’s veterinarian association (Den Norske veterinærforening) has gone on record opposing the caging of mink and fox, claiming they remain wild animals and need activity. “The best way to relieve their suffering is to put down the fur farms,” association president Marie Modal told Aftenposten .

Arne Spydevold, who raises mink at Rolvsøy in Østfold and claims his animals are well-treated, said he hopes the politicians “aren’t so stupid that they destroy an entire industry because of some aberrations.” His father Kjell claims the activists “don’t want us to follow the rules, they want to get rid of us.”