Shamed fur farms likely to survive

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More shocking photos of sick and injured animals at several Norwegian fur farms have set off demands once again that the country’s fur industry be phased out. Disagreement within the government coalition, however, along with support for the industry from several of the non-socialist parties in Parliament, suggest Norway’s often-shamed fur business will nonetheless survive.

This photo taken by animal rights advocates shows a caged fox with one of its paws chewed off. It believed that the cramped conditions inside the cages lead to aberrant behaviour among the animals, which end up injuring themselves and then failing to get any treatment. PHOTO: Nettverk for dyrs frihet/Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge

Even the spokesperson for the fur farmers’ national organization (Norges Pelsdyralslag) was shaken over new evidence of what were called “gruesome” conditions for animals at 24 fur farms around Norway. Photos taken and video shot during unannounced visits to fur farms this past summer by two leading animal protection organizations were aired Wednesday evening on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s nightly national newscast Dagsrevy.

The pictures, taken at fur farms from Troms in the north to Agder in the south, showed animals clearly suffering from illness and injury. “We found mink (at a farm in Telemark) with their hind legs bitten off, animals (at a farm in Trøndelag) with huge sores on their heads and down their backs, animals with ears and tails that had been chewed off,” Odd Harald Eidsmo, information chief at the animal protection organization Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge, told NRK. The group’s website reports that at one farm in Hedmark County, a mother fox was found dead and rotting in her cage, while her pups struggled to survive in the same cage.

He and his colleagues claimed they encountered “some of the worst conditions” they had seen “for a long time,” despite earlier and ongoing promises of improvements by fur farming officials and the politicians protecting them.

This mink was among those found with large sores on the necks and backs. PHOTO Nettverk for dyrs frihet/Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge

“This is clearly a violation of the rules that everyone is of course supposed to follow,” admitted Guri Wormdahl of the fur farmers’ own organization after seeing the photographic evidence of animal cruelty at so many Norwegian fur farms. “And this is serious.”

She claimed nonetheless that her organization thinks it has “good control” over conditions at the majority of Norwegian fur farms, and the industry’s most staunch political protectors, the farmer-friendly Center Party (Senterpartiet, Sp), wrote off the new evidence as coming from rogue members who ignore regulations.

“We need to get rid of the scoundrels who don’t want to follow the rules, but such rogues are found in all businesses,” Harald Oskar Buttedahl, state secretary from the Center Party in the Ministry of Agriculture, told news bureau NTB.

The Center Party, part of the government coalition, has flatly refused to go along with demands from their government partners Labour and SV (the Socialist Left party) to phase out the industry following years of complaints over conditions and broken promises of improvement. The Center Party instead proposed formal protection for the industry last year to ensure its survival.

Neither SV nor the dominant Labour Party would go along with that and the issue remains unresolved. Meanwhile, NRK reported Thursday that the Conservative Party (Høyre) now opposes a shutdown of the industry as do most other non-socialist parties in Parliament with the exception of the Liberal Party (Venstre). Its leader, Trine Schei Grande, was also clearly shaken by the conditions for animals at fur farms from north to south, and supports a “controlled phase-out” of fur production in Norway.

Any vote on phasing out fur farms would thus be close at this point. The animal protection activists aren’t giving up.

“In 2002, a unified Parliament supported a demand that the fur farm business must make considerable improvements in order to avoid being shut down,” said Per Arne Tøllefsen, spokesman for Nettverk for dyrs frihet (Network for animal freedom). “Ten years later, animals are still living under the same terrible conditions. We now expect that the government begins a phase-out.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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