How Does The U.K. Feel About Fur?
Almost 100 million animals are killed annually for the global fur trade, most of which are raised on farms (85%) with the remainder trapped in the wild (15%). Legislation in the early 2000s banned fur farming across the U.K. due to welfare concerns. Despite these bans, the importation and sale of fur products to the U.K. continue. This is because the U.K. remained a member of the European Union (E.U.), and as such was allowed to freely trade goods and services, including animals and their products. Since the U.K. left the E.U. in 2020 under Brexit, the British government is exploring a potential ban on these activities in the post-Brexit period.
Opponents of fur farming argue that the model of intensive confinement cage systems used in the fur industry is inherently inhumane and that the system is unable to provide animals with a life worth living due to the immense suffering caused by the methods used to restrain and kill them. The susceptibility of some species, such as mink, to contracting and transmitting COVID-19 has put a further spotlight on the industry.
Historic data presented in this report show that U.K. public opposition toward the use of fur has been consistently high, starting as far back as 1997. Since then, a substantial majority of residents have claimed they would not wear fur products, ranging from 87% in 1997 to 95% in 2010. Similarly, most have supported banning the importation and sale of animal fur in the U.K., ranging from 69% in 2018 to 72% in 2021.
More recent data were collected for this report from 326 U.K. residents (84% women; 16% men) in the post-Brexit period. The authors surveyed the following topics:
- Current attitudes about fur-farmed and wild-trapped animals and their welfare
- Beliefs about the legal context of the fur trade in the U.K.
- Support for regulation or prohibition of the trade
Researchers found that nearly three-quarters of respondents (around 72%) do not believe animals on fur farms have a good life. Furthermore, 78% believe fur animals are not killed humanely, 75% do not think welfare standards on fur farms are well-regulated, and 75% think fur farms cannot meet the welfare needs of certain species, such as foxes and mink. Nearly all respondents (96%) believe that leg-hold traps cause suffering to wild species such as coyotes and lynx.
Many respondents (60%) are aware that farming animals for their fur is legally banned in the U.K., with approximately 81% aware that fur from farmed animals is imported and sold in the United Kingdom. Slightly fewer (67%) are aware that fur from wild-caught species is also imported and sold in the United Kingdom. Almost all respondents (96%) believe that fur products should be labeled as ‘real’ or ‘synthetic.’
Regarding the fur trade, a majority of respondents (83%) do not believe it is morally acceptable for the U.K. to import and sell fur, and 78% would support a ban on the importation and sale of all animal fur. When asked about the statement ‘there is no moral difference between farming animals for meat (e.g., chickens, pigs) and farming animals for fur (e.g., mink, fox),’ a slight majority of respondents disagreed (53%), while about one third (36%) agreed.
Although this report focused on the attitudes and beliefs of U.K. residents, fur has been a highly controversial issue in much of the Western world since the second half of the 20th century. China, the U.S., Canada, and the E.U. are all major fur producers, and scientific reviews have found significant welfare issues in several species farmed for their fur. Adding to the significant moral issues of fur farming presented in this report is a public health threat, due to the susceptibility of mink and other fur-farmed species to become infected with, and spread, COVID-19. Because of the strong moral opposition to fur farming and the health risks of this industry, now is the time for animal advocates to capitalize on the momentum and push for legal changes to support animals used for their fur.