New law threatens all mink farms

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The Independent Online
FUR FARMING will be outlawed in Britain in three years' time if Parliament passes a private member's Bill unveiled yesterday by the Labour MP Maria Eagle.

The Bill, which has all-party support and the backing of the Government, as well as that of the RSPCA and other animal welfare bodies, would mean the end for Britain's 13 remaining mink farms.

The conditions in which mink are kept and slaughtered - highlighted last year by releases of mink by animal liberation activists - are now widely considered unacceptable. Mink are not domesticated, but are forced to live in small cages. Many show symptoms of extreme stress before being gassed and skinned.

The six-clause Bill proposes that it be a criminal offence to keep any animals for slaughter or for breeding, where the sole or primary purpose is to obtain the value of their fur, punishable by a fine of up to pounds 20,000. The remaining mink farmers are likely to be offered compensation. Between 100,000 and 150,000 young mink, or "kits", are slaughtered on farms each year for their pelts.

Ms Eagle's Bill is likely to be successful, unless it is deliberately sabotaged. Even then, the Government might provide parliamentary time, as it is committed to abolishing fur farming. "The Government has made clear its intentions to end fur farming as soon as practicable," said the farm animal welfare minister, Elliot Morley. The Bill is published tomorrow and its second reading is set for 5 March.

Although compensation for fur farmers was not legally necessary, Ms Eagle said, it should be provided where they would lose their livelihood.

Ms Eagle, MP for Liverpool Garston, said only 10 MPs had fur farms in their constituencies and she had talked to most of them, with a "positive response".

She had impressive all-party support yesterday, and was flanked at her presentation by Jackie Ballard, Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton, and Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for Worthing East. Mr Loughton said: "The fur farming industry or what is left of it is not exactly something we want to be proud to be British about. It really has no place in this country in 1999."

Mark Glover, campaigns director of the pressure group Respect for Animals, said he had seen highly stressed behaviour among mink, including self- mutilation and cannibalism, on "every fur farm I've had the misfortune to look at".

The RSPCA's acting chief veterinary officer, Chris Laurence, said: "It is impossible to recreate a mink's natural free-roaming environment in fur farms."

The Bill was also endorsed by Alan Clark, the former Tory minister and animal welfare activist. He said: "This is a breakthrough, but I would like to think it can be but a stage in a move towards a lot of other legislation ... there are many other fields where animals are exploited and have pain inflicted on them for profit."

Meanwhile, four Spanish and Italian models yesterday stripped to make an anti-fur protest beneath the statue of Eros inPiccadilly Circus, London. The stunt, organised by Peta - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - was intended to communicate an anti-fur message to a European audience during London Fashion Week.

Organisers had installed a giant bed beneath the statue. The models quickly stripped off to nothing but their briefs, despite a temperature of 6C (43F). They then joined hands to bounce up and down on the bed, chanting: "Fur out, love in".