It was billed as the largest demonstration against the fur industry in Europe, and organizers were pleased: Thousands of people marched all over Norway in torchlit parades during the weekend, to celebrate the government’s decision to phase out fur farms in Norway but also to speed up the process.
Even a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party, which has never actively spoken out against the fur industry, made his critcism known. “A civilized society like Norway’s is taking animal welfare seriously and saying ‘no’ to raising animals for their furs,” MP Henrik Asheim told the crowd gathered outside the Parliament in Oslo.
Asheim was joined by two other members of the conservative government coalition parties. “Keeping animals in cages is simply incompatible with good animal welfare,” said Stine Margrethe Olsen of the Progress Party. Sveinung Rotevatn of the Liberal Party added that “a deadline has been set, the fur business will be wound down.”
Those out marching on Saturday are relieved and glad that the government, backed by a majority in Parliament, finally made the decision to eventually shut down Norway’s fur farms and offer their owners financial compensation. They don’t think it will happen soon enough, however. The deadline referred to by Rotevatn is set for 2025.
“Seven years is a long time for the animals still living in cages,” Siri Martinsen, leader of the animal welfare organization NOAHs in Oslo. “We want as rapid a phase-out as we can get.”
Martinsen and her colleagues were nonetheless jubilant over the phase-out plan, and encouraged by recent decisions made by large players in the fashion industry like Burberry, Versace and Gucci. They have all said they want to cut their use of genuine fur.
NOAHs organized its first protest march against the fur industry 15 years ago, with just 200 people taking part. Last year’s march drew 9,000 around the country and demonstrators were out marching again this year in 20 Norwegian cities from Kristiansand in the south to Tromsø in the north.
Martinsen herself characterized this year’s events as “victory marches, because we’ve finally been heard. That doesn’t mean we will stop mobilizing.” She doesn’t want any possible change of government, which could usher the pro-farmer Center Party into power, to try to delay the phase-out. Center has fought to protect fur farmers and the income they generate in outlying areas, but its potential government partner Labour has promised “to stand on the side of the animals” on this issue, Martinsen said.
Labour MP Terje Aasland stressed himself that the time for keeping animals caged has run out. He was joined by deputy party leader Hadia Tajik and a string of celebrities at the protest march including authors Hanne Kristin Rohde and Unni Lindell, former government minister Heikki Holmås and designers Fam Irvoll and Kjell Nordström.
Rohde, a former high-ranking police officer who now writes crime novels, made it clear that the only fur she likes is alive. Her latest book involves the fur industry, and she told newspaper Dagsavisen this week that she promised to donate a “considerable” portion of the book’s profits to improving animal welfare.