Regarding the fur trade, my ministerial colleagues and I are united in the Government’s commitment to upholding our high standards in animal welfare. The Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare sets out the Government’s vision to introduce a range of world-leading reforms to improve the welfare and conservation of animals at home and abroad.
Fur farming has been banned in the UK for 20 years. As well as this, there are already restrictions on some skin and fur products which may never be legally imported into the UK. The UK has established controls on fur from endangered species protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and does not allow imports of fur from wild animals caught using methods which are non-compliant with international humane trapping standards.
I appreciate that there is considerable support for banning all imports of fur products. However, while there are existing import restrictions, it is still possible to import other fur from abroad. I therefore welcome the Government’s decision to seek views on animal welfare through a recent call for evidence, which will be used to inform any future decisions on the fur trade. I am aware that 30,000 responses were received from businesses, representative bodies and individuals, demonstrating the strong public interest in this area. Ministers are reviewing the evidence and I know that a summary of responses will be published soon.
I am also aware that there are currently no faux fur alternatives that meet the required standard for the Queen’s Guards ceremonial caps. I am assured that bears are never hunted to order for use by the Ministry of Defence (MOD). I understand that the suppliers source pelts made available by the Canadian authorities following a licensed cull as part of a programme to manage the wild bear population. Where appropriate, I know that the MOD uses faux fur alternatives for ceremonial wear, providing they meet the specific user requirements.
In order for an alternative fabric to be considered for use in the ceremonial caps, it would need to perform successfully in the following five areas: water absorption, penetration, appearance, drying rate and compression. It would also need to gain user approval for shape and comfort for a parade length of duty. I know that the most recent test results on artificial fur were provided by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). While it met the basic standard for water absorption, I understand that it showed unacceptable rates of water shedding and performed poorly on visual assessment. As the ceremonial cap is worn throughout the year and in all weathers, I am aware that the MOD has no plans to take this particular man-made fabric forward. However, I believe that the days of wearing animal fur in any circumstances should be well behind us and I am strongly encouraging the MOD to conduct other trials on man-made fabrics for use instead of real fur.
Furthermore, in relation to the production of pâté de foie gras, I am clear that the production of foie gras from ducks or geese using force feeding raises serious welfare concerns. I am glad that this method of production has been banned in the UK for over 15 years following the introduction of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which brought forward a legal requirement to provide for an animal’s welfare needs, such as supplying a suitable diet and protecting the animal from injury and disease. Under this legislation, it is a criminal offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal. I would like to assure you that ministers are united in their commitment to upholding our world-leading standards in animal welfare.
As previously mentioned, I welcome that the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare sets out the Government’s vision to introduce a range of world-leading reforms to improve the welfare and conservation of animals at home and abroad. Through this Action Plan, my ministerial colleagues have committed to building a clear evidence base to inform decisions on the import or sale of foie gras.