Norwegian fur farms face a highly uncertain future after repeated reports of negligence and injured animals in recent years. Now state regulators have found more suffering minks, and say it’s difficult to secure animal welfare at the farms.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Wednesday that exasperation among the authorities at state food and animal safety agency Mattilsynet is running high. “When there’s been so much attention paid to the injured animals that have been found, it’s sad that we continue to uncover so many serious cases,” Torunn Knævelsrud, chief of the animal welfare division at Mattilsynet, told NRK.
One mink nearly skinned itself alive
New figures from Mattilsynet show violations in nearly half of the inspections conducted, despite all the harsh criticism that’s been directed at the industry not only from animal rights activists but also from Members of Parliament and government officials. Many of the violations are technical in nature, but inspectors remain shocked by the animal injuries and neglect they continue to find.
NRK reported that five recent cases highlight “serious negligence” on the part of the fur farmers involved. One of them, located in Rogaland County, was fined NOK 30,000 after several of his caged minks were found with such large open sores that they had to be put to death at the scene.
According to the inspectors’ report obtained by NRK, the Rogaland fur farmer was charged with a lack of supervision of his animals, including one that had crawled into a plastic pipe and all but skinned itself alive in its efforts to free itself. “You had not seen that this mink was stuck in a pipe before Mattilsynet came for inspection, even though the extent of the injuries indicate that it had been stuck for many days,” wrote the inspector. “We also point out that we found several of your animals with extensive sores that hadn’t been attended to … you have not followed up on your sick and injured animals in a good manner … you have shown a lack of empathy …” The fur farmer denies he’s guilty of cruelty to animals and his attorney told NRK he will likely appeal the fine.
Fur farmers on the defensive
The fur farmers’ trade association and lobbying group, Pelsdyralslaget, also defends its members, claiming that many farmers have improved their practices and that most violations involve “technical deficiencies.” The group’s communications chief, Guri Wormdal, argues that animal welfare is no worse within fur farming than other farming operations. “We are also inspected the most often by Mattilsynet,” Wormdal told NRK.
The fur industry has been given many chances to reform and improve operations, and major state reviews have been undertaken, but now its fate is more uncertain than ever.
The state agriculture ministry is due to deliver its assessment to Parliament this fall, which is expected to determine whether the ministry will allow yet another chance for “sustainable development” or order a phase-out over the next several years. Many politicians, including several from the government parties, are already supporting the latter option. The opposition Labour Party has also supported a phase-out of the controversial industry.