Frank Zilberkweit is Chairman of the British Fur Trade Association.
I’m pretty sure that the majority of Conservatives did not campaign to leave the EU so that a majority Conservative Government could close down a highly regulated and legal sector, putting many SMEs and sole traders out of business and forcibly restricting personal choice.
Yet, animal rights activists, supported by a small number of MPs and an handful of unelected individuals in positions of influence are actively lobbying Government for a ban on natural fur sales whilst trying to portray it as a ‘Brexit bonus.’
The current campaign to ban fur sales is a classic of the anti-freedom genre: deploy selective claims and anecdotal evidence; generate headlines with celebrity backers (who have scant idea what they are being asked to endorse let alone of its consequences); table an Early Motion Day to claim ‘political support’ (despite it attracting almost zero Conservative support); commission the polling to elicit the response you require to claim ‘public endorsement’ and latch on to a minister, Lord Goldsmith in this case, willing to champion your minority views because it aligns with their own personal position.
Such shrill voices do not represent the silent majority who do not support such a ban and whose views should be recognised and respected rather than being cancelled. Those that shout the loudest seldom have the support of the majority or their moral backing.
Shamefully, such groups care little for the unintended consequences of their actions: banning fur in the UK would damage and set back animal welfare standards, not enhance them. Indeed, the Defra Secretary, George Eustice, himself made this very point in Parliament in 2018:
“It is not possible to make a difference just through the restriction on trade to the UK, because we represent a tiny portion, about 0.25 percent, of the entire global market. We would probably be more effective agitating for change through international forums such as the World Organisation for Animal Health, CITES and others.”
Banning fur would not end the international trade. It would though be unenforceable, moving supply from highly regulated sources to others unregulated and unlicenced, sold online and untaxed. The question is this: does the UK want to be seen as a leader that works to drive up standards globally, working with fur producing and manufacturing countries, or a country that is captured by pressure groups and prohibition campaigners that ban highly regulated international sectors?
This debate has consequences for other animal materials including wool, leather and, indeed, food production. Such groups have a Trojan Horse agenda: to end the use of all animals or animal-derived products whether for human consumption, for clothing, or for other use. Ban fur and they would simply move onto the next item on their list including silk, leather, wool and, yes, your Christmas turkey, as the group leading the fur ban campaign also advocates. Such activists also claim that there is ‘moral outrage’ around the continued sale of fur, yet the significant increase in fur sales in recent years firmly knocks that myth on the head.
A ban also sends out entirely the wrong message at a time when the UK is looking to conclude free trade deals with many fur producing and manufacturing countries. Already the US Ambassador has raised his concerns about a possible UK ban. What does it say about post Brexit Britain and its commitment to free trade that one of its first acts is to ban a highly regulated, legal trade, present in every single country in the world? It is also highly likely that major fur-producing, and manufacturing countries including the US and Canada would seek to challenge the legal veracity of a UK ban. Animal rights activists care not one jot about any of this.
So here is the crux; you might not like fur, you might not wear it yourself, but others do and actively want to. Fur is popular and sales have increased by 200 percent in the last decade. Fur is no different to any other natural material, like leather, wool or silk. So, so long as that fur comes from responsible, certified and humane sources (as the fur that is sold in this country does), people should be free to choose to buy and wear fur and those rights should be respected. Banning fur is not a ‘Brexit bonus’ and a Conservative Government should trust British people to make up their own minds, not legislate on the whims of a small, yet vocal, minority.
Finally, the Daily Telegraph, in its recent editorial opposing a ban, captured it perfectly: “It is untrue that people who wear fur are ‘sick’, as Carrie Symonds the Prime Minister’s fiancee, tweeted last year. Britons must not be forbidden by diktat from wearing wool, leather or fur”.