Obese foxes full of infections and a cub eating his dead sibling were part of the horrors filmed at fur farms in Western Finland between June and November 2022. Animal welfare organization Oikeutta eläimille and Humane Society International/Europe released the footage on Thursday.
On all farms, farmers kept extremely obese foxes in small wired cages. They were so abnormally fat that their skin folded, causing painful eye infections. The animals also had infected ears and wounded tails.
The animals at the farms also showed abnormal behaviour, like pacing back and forth in their tiny cage and cannibalism. On one farm, a cub was seen eating his brother or sister.
With nearly a million animal skins produced annually, Finland is Europe’s leading producer of fox fur, second in the world after China. Fashion brands, including Max Mara, Fendi, Yves Salomon and Woolrich, use Finnish fox fur.
The new footage highlights the controversy over Finland’s fur industry. “Fur farming should have been banned in Finland by now, and I think it is shameful that this has not yet been done”, Finnish member of parliament Mai Kivela told news agency AFP.
In 2021, the Netherlands and Austria urged the EU to end fur farming. Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Slovakia supported the call.
In December, the European Citizens’ Initiative “Fur Free Europe”, calling for an EU-wide ban on the fur industry, reached almost 1.3 million signatures.
The initiative calls on the EU to follow a growing number of member states -fourteen countries in the EU have banned fur farming- in banning the practice, which it considers “inherently cruel”.
In 2020, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democratic Party decided to support a ban on fur farming. But those favouring a ban are still in the minority in Finland’s parliament. The industry is still being supported for economic reasons, as the export of fox skins is a 360-million-euro business, employing around 3,000 people.
Oikeutta eläimille (Justice for Animals) filmed undercover inside six Finnish fur farms in 2022, revealing the conditions in which the foxes live from birth to death, trapped inside small, wire mesh cages.
They never experience any natural environment and live with diseases in their cages. Some of the foxes in the footage are so obese they do not even look like foxes, Oikeutta eläimille said.
“The conditions of the animals in these farms are downright appalling,” animal rights activist Kristo Muurimaa said. “All Finnish fur farms are more or less the same from an animal point of view.”
“The majority of Finns want to ban keeping animals in barren cages just for their fur, but our politicians have failed to bring an end to the cruelty. An EU-wide ban would help the animals also in other member countries, where the greed for money is valued over animal welfare,” Muurimaa said.
A spokesperson for the Finnish Fur Breeders’ Association FIFUR, Olli-Pekka Nissinen, said their veterinarians would visit the farms in the video in the coming days. FIFUR represents most fur producers in Finland.
According to Nissinen, farmers take care of their animals, calling what is shown in the video exceptions: “In general, if a farm has five or ten thousand animals, (there may) always be animals who have sudden eye infections or ear infections.”
“The ban on fur farming and fur trading is contrary to the EU treaties and the four freedoms,” Nissinen said, referring to the free movement of goods, capital, people and services that form the foundation of the EU’s constitution.
“We are just like any other countryside livestock sector that deals with farm animals,” he added.