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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 14:02 GMT

UK Politics

Government to end fur farming

The keeping of animals primarily for slaughter for fur will be banned

The government has set out plans to keep its pre-election pledge to ban fur farming in Britain.

The BBC's Robert Hall: "Campaigners are already claiming a victory"
A bill to ban the keeping of animals solely or primarily for slaughter for the value of their fur was announced in the Queen's Speech.

But the proposed legislation will not prohibit the keeping of animals where the primary purpose is the production of meat and fur is a by-product, nor the production of fur which can be clipped or shorn.

The Queen's Speech
The bill will provide some compensation for existing fur farmers and there will be a winding-down period until at least the end of 2002.

Under the new legislation, anyone found guilty of keeping animals for slaughter for their fur could be fined up to £20,000 by the courts and any animals subject to forfeiture.

Mark Glover, campaigns director of anti-fur group Respect for Animals, said the bill would be the culmination of a 15-year fight to stamp out fur farming.

He said: "The government ban on fur factory farming is long awaited, but ground-breaking legislation, designed to stop the brutal suffering and deaths of animals merely for their skins.

[ image: The fur industry will fight the bill]
The fur industry will fight the bill
"We applaud this step as a first move in a worldwide campaign to ban the $10 billion international fur industry."

British fur farms kill up to 100,000 animals every year although there are now 13 registered mink farms left in Britain compared with around 70 in the mid-80s.

Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram attacked the timing of the measure.

He said: "The most extraordinary thing is that at a time when we have the biggest crisis that the rural economy and farming has faced in generations the only mention of farming is the abolition of fur farms.

"I think it is the sign of a government which has run out of steam."

A spokeswoman for the British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) said the fur industry would fight the bill.

The association argues the bill would sideline Britain in the future debate on improving animal welfare standards that remain in more than 6,000 fur farms throughout Europe and that British fur farms adopt high animal welfare standards.

A statement by the BFTA said: "There are significant international implications if such a draconian step was taken as 85% of the world's fur is produced on farms - the majority within the European Union.

"It would be unjust if Britain went out on a limb to ban fur farming based only on emotion whilst ignoring sound, internationally agreed scientific animal welfare parameters."

A private members' bill to end fur farming was blocked by Conservative MPs and ran out of parliamentary time in May, despite having cross-party support.

Maria Eagle's bill had aimed to end the "cruel exploitation of essentially wild animals" by closing down fur farms by 2002 and compensating farmers for their loss.

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