Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 16:08 GMT


UK

Inside the fur farms

It takes around 40 of these to make a coat

Fur farms have come under attack by animal rights campaigners for years and now they face being banned by the government.

But scrapping fur farming in the UK, as proposed in Wednesday's Queen's speech to Parliament, would barely scratch world production of pelts.

There are 13 fur farms in the UK, turning out around 150,000 of the 28.6m mink pelts produced worldwide a year.


[ image: Cages are tall enough for the mink to stand]
Cages are tall enough for the mink to stand
And no other country in Europe - where 6,000 fur farms produce 85% of the world's furs - shows any signs of following the British lead.

Britain's biggest fur farmer, Mike Cobbledick, who produces 70-80,000 pelts a year, said: "I'm proud to be a mink farmer, but here, I can't blow my own trumpet."

It's no surprise he is bashful about his job, because whichever way you dress it up, mink production does involve pretty little animals who live in small cages and are gassed to death aged about seven months.

And all for the sake of human beings' vanity.


[ image:  ]
But Mr Cobbledick points out that intensive chicken farming, in which the animals are kept in worse conditions than mink, has been left relatively unscathed by campaigners.

He said: "It's a class thing. Animal rights people resent people who wear fur because they think they have more money."

Fur farming in the UK began about 50 years ago when mink were imported from America.

Escape to the wild

Since then many have escaped and mink have become part of the English wildlife scene - equalling the number kept in captivity.

At his Devon farm, Mr Cobbledick's mink live in 1ft by 3ft cages, with up to four mink in each.

All cages have nest boxes and allow the animals to stand on their hind legs, in line with European regulations.

They are born in the spring and culled around November for auction in December.

Pelts fetch around £20-£30 each, giving Mr Cobbledick a turnover of around £2m in an average year.

It takes around 40 pelts to make a coat for the "dumb animals" of the anti-fur ads.


[ image: Furs are still popular in Milan and New York]
Furs are still popular in Milan and New York
Fur farmers maintain there is no cruelty involved - and there has only been one successful prosecution of a farmer.

Mr Cobbledick said: "The way we treat our animals is second to none - there is no argument that stands up against us."

Animal rights campaigners say the gassing of the animals is cruel, because the gas panics the animals.

But Jan Elnif, associate professor of fur animal science at the Danish Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, has said video evidence has shown the mink can't smell the gas.

"Within 20 seconds they lose consciousness and are clinically dead in two to five minutes. Moreover, as you take an animal out of its cage it might scream but that doesn't disturb the others."

Campaigners have also suggested that mink, being semi-aquatic, might like to have swimming facilities in their cages.

But Professor Elnif is doubtful: "It doesn't swim like an otter. It can't see more than 30 centimetres in the water. It sits and watches for prey from the shore and then dives in for perhaps 10 seconds."

The fur industry, while angry at the proposed ban, is not quaking in its boots.

Despite fur's fall from grace in London, where the number of fur salons has plummeted in the last two decades from around 300 to 29, its popularity in fashion capitals such as Milan and New York has remained undimmed.

And while breeding mink for fur may soon be banned in the UK, the trade in furs on the London markets - which accounts for 40% of the worldwide fur trade business - continues unabated.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Scotland
Wales
England

Relevant Stories

17 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Queen unveils packed programme

17 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Queen's Speech: At a glance

11 Mar 99 | UK
Mink farm's ¿5,000 cruelty fine

23 Feb 99 | UK Politics
Fur farming could end by 2002

17 Sep 98 | UK
Escaped mink remain at large





Internet Links


Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

PETA

International Fur Trade Federation

RSPCA


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online