Frank Zilberkweit is Chairman of the British Fur Trade Association.
There are very good reasons why the Cabinet are right not to support a ban on fur, and few Conservative MPs have backed the call one.
A ban would make no difference to animal welfare as George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, himself confirmed to Parliament in 2018: “It is not possible to make a difference just through the restriction on trade to the UK.”
It would be unenforceable and would simply shift the trade online to untaxed and unregulated suppliers who care little for animal welfare. It would of course not
end the global fur sector, doing nothing to drive up standards in the rest of the world.
A ban could not be implemented in Northern Ireland given its trading status with the EU. Banning fur in Great Britain would therefore break the government’s own laws guaranteeing the free trade of goods within the UK, creating two separate regimes pushing Northern Ireland further away from the rest of the United Kingdom and placing further pressure on the already strained NI Protocol. These are concerns that the Northern Ireland Secretary has rightly identified and raised.
It would impact on relations with fur-producing nations, including close strategic allies like Canada, the US, and many countries in the EU. Already, the US Embassy in London and the Canadian High Commission have expressed concerns around the impact of a ban on bilateral trade and future free trade deals. A number of countries have also confirmed that they would seek to challenge any decision at the WTO were a ban to proceed.
We also believe it sends entirely the wrong message if one of the first acts of a post-Brexit Britain was to impose a ban on a highly-regulated global sector governed by international agreements and laws simply because of the demands of small number animal rights activists and their supporters.
A ban in the UK would be bad for the British economy. The domestic fur sector provides jobs, both direct and indirect, to thousands of people and sustains hundreds of businesses. Many of these jobs are highly skilled and specialised in SMEs across the supply chain such as retail, fashion design, manufacturing and logistics. A ban would thus impact on our recovery from the damaging economic impact of the pandemic.
According to polling by Opinium, 91 percent of the British population do not believe a fur ban should be a Government priority despite the claims of Lord Goldsmith in recent comments, who now appears at odds with the rest of his Party in his support of a ban. Indeed, walk down any street and people will be wearing natural fur.
There is no public outrage about the continued sale of fur in the UK, as claimed by animal rights activists. Indeed, fur remains popular, with sales increasing by over 200 percent in the last five years.
There is indeed an important principle here around freedom of choice and the rights of the consumer. It should be for people themselves to decide if they wish to buy and wear humanely produced fur not the Government, acting like a wardrobe police, telling people what they should and should not wear. If people didn’t want to buy fur it would not be imported and there would be no market for it.
Let’s also be clear, much of the pressure for a ban comes from unelected animal rights activists that wish to see the end of all animal production and who are incapable of differentiating between good animal husbandry and poor practice that rightly should be tackled.
After the evacuation of animals from Afghanistan, the Government needs to think and act very carefully about the influence of such groups and their supporters on Government policy. The Guardian, in reporting the legitimate concerns within Cabinet, did nothing to dispel such an impression:
“The shock decision to remove the ban from the animals abroad bill is likely to upset the prime minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, who has been vocally supportive of such measures. The decision is thought to have been taken while Carrie Johnson was away at the weekend, as she was seen returning to No 10 with her children and some
suitcases on Monday morning.”
The British fur sector is committed to the highest possible standards of animal welfare based on stringent international, national and local laws and standards. There are in place extensive animal welfare assurance programmes based on independent scientific and veterinary research, and a global welfare certification and traceability system with third party inspection, providing full visibility and transparency.
The Government should engage with us on these comprehensive welfare programmes to deliver on our shared goals around animal welfare. We stand ready to work with them.