Fur industry fends off latest scandal

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Horrific video taken inside various fur farms around Norway in recent months has once again documented what state authorities have called “shocking” evidence of animal abuse. Fur industry officials, however, are fighting hard to discredit the video and once again defend their controversial livelihood, while politicians let them stay in business.

Thousands of Norwegians marched in cities all over the country last month, calling for the fur industry to be shut down after years of evidence of animal abuse. The industry, however, continues to survive. PHOTO: NOAH/Lars Nyland

Thousands of Norwegians marched in cities all over the country last month, calling for the fur industry to be shut down after years of evidence of animal abuse. The industry, however, continues to survive. PHOTO: NOAH/Lars Nyland

The video, aired nationwide Tuesday night on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s investigative program Brennpunkt, captures brutal insemination of some animals, pictures of injured and infected animals and highly questionable methods of killing animals before they’re skinned.

The video, the latest in a series of media reports of animal abuse over the past decade,  was taped with a hidden camera by animal rights activist Frank Nervik. He obtained access to the fur farms by contacting the fur industry’s own trade organization Norges Pelsdyralslag and applying to work for a “serious fur farmer” who could offer him training. Fur industry officials have long claimed that animal abuse is found only at a small percentage of rogue operators and not representative of the vast majority of professional fur farmers.

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

These photos from a Norwegian fur farm, showing mink with large open sores, were revealed two years ago. Monitoring was stepped up, but new video shows that such conditions persist. PHOTO Nettverk for dyrs frihet/Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge

Nervik’s video suggests otherwise. His goal was to prove that problems within the fur industry can also be found among so-called “serious” operators. He could portray, for example, how he obtained certification after less than a half-hour of training, and how animals at the farm to which he’d been referred by the industry organization itself were also treated badly and suffering in their cages.

Norges Pelsdyralslag, apparently deciding that the best defense would be a good offense, started running full-page ads in Norwegian newspapers even before NRK aired the video. The ads were aimed at discrediting the video and NRK’s report, stressing that they were backed by “activists” intent on “politically attacking ordinary people and the industry they work in.”

The fur industry continues to blame cases of abuse on a minority of fur farmers whom they claim are not representative of the industry, even though abuse was found at a farm claimed to be a "serious" operator and to which an activist was referred. PHOTO: Norges Pelsdyralslaget

The fur industry continues to blame cases of abuse on a minority of fur farmers whom they claim are not representative of the industry, even though abuse was found at a farm claimed to be a “serious” operator and to which an activist was referred. PHOTO: Norges Pelsdyralslaget

The organization’s spokeswoman, Guri Wormedal, also claimed that the video was “clipped together to present the industry in the worst possible way.” She claimed the video was “speculative” and that there was “no reason to take it seriously.”

State authorities in charge of monitoring Norway’s controversial fur industry, however, were taking it seriously indeed, calling it “shocking” that such animal abuse continued despite stepped-up efforts to control it. “In no other industry have we had such an increase in control and followed up problems as vigorously as in this one,” Ole Fjetland of the state agency Mattilsynet told newspaper Dagsavisen. “We don’t know what else we can do.”

Fjetland called the treatment of animals shown on the video “completely unacceptable,” and promised to follow up again with the fur farms involved. Several Members of Parliament also reacted strongly to the video, with Knut Storberget of the Labour Party once again calling for a “gradual phase-out” of the fur industry.

The industry, though, has managed to survive years of earlier scandal and there are no guarantees the latest shocking revelations from a fur farm will have any more effect than the years of earlier revelations. On Monday a state commission (Pelsdyrutvalget) will present a report it was asked to prepare on how the fur industry can operate in a sustainable manner and how it otherwise might be phased out. Both of the parties now holding government power, the Conservatives and the Progress Party, want to maintain Norway’s fur industry, and they’ll get support from the always farmer-friendly Center Party in Parliament. Agriculture Minister Sylvi Listhaug of the Progress Party didn’t want to comment on NRK’s latest video earlier this week, pending release of the report.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund