Fur farming should be allowed continue in Ireland despite widespread animal welfare concerns, a Department of Agriculture review has found.
The news will come as a blow for animal rights activists who had been hopeful that a ban, promised under the Fianna Fáil/Green Party coalition, would be introduced at the end of this year.
The five mink farms operating in Ireland are located in Donegal, Kerry, Laois, and Sligo. They account for around 200,000 to 225,000 mink, 62 full-time jobs, and salaries of €1.3m per year. Exports of mink are worth about €5m per year.
The review group was set up this year by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, who said he would need a “good reason” to ban the practice, as his department would have to compensate owners of such farms by between €8m and €12m.
However, despite concerns about the welfare of the animals kept on the farms, the review group said the practice should be allowed to continue under licence.
While the group acknowledged that the economic benefits to the country of fur farming were “modest”, it said it was “an essential economic activity to those families directly involved in the production of mink”. It did not accept arguments restricting licensing to existing operators.
Instead of a ban, the review group recommended the Department of Agriculture double its inspections of fur farms, animal welfare be enhanced, and security on mink farms be improved to prevent escapes or the unauthorised release of animals into the wild.
It also said mink should be killed by international best practice, usually by gassing with carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide.
Reacting to the report, ISPCA chief executive Noel Griffin said there was no sense in allowing a cruel farming practice to continue simply to keep people in fur coats and hats.
“Mink are solitary animals. If you’ve ever been to a mink farm, they are kept in cages for up to six months. They don’t do anything that is natural to them. In fact, they are surrounded by other mink that’s making them uncomfortable.
“They have absolutely no freedom, they are there day and night. They’re there day and night, 24/7, and they are really just killed for their fur. There is no logic to it, particularly as the animals are killed and skinned just so some people can wear fur coats and hats” he said.
Mr Griffin also questioned the economic value of retaining fur farms, particularly as the report itself admitted they were of “modest” value to the economy.
“I think the decision shows Ireland in a bad light really. I just don’t see the logic of it either from an economic sense as it’s such a small industry.
“Also, from a political point of view, it simply seems as if the decision to continue the practice is just so people can have mink coats and hats. It defies logic.”
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