Fur farming is to be banned in Ireland, the Irish Examiner can reveal.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed is to bring a proposal to Government this week to phase out fur farms.
The Government has been under increasing pressure to follow the lead of 14 other EU countries, which have already banned fur farms.
However, the move is a dramatic shift in Government policy.
Solidarity-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger, a long-time anti-fur campaigner, had already received support from across opposition, including from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, Independents 4 Change, the Green Party, and the Social Democrats, for her Prohibition of Fur Farming Bill. It is due back before the Dáil on July 3.
However, it is understood that the Government will now move on the matter.
Mr Creed is to seek approval for the drafting of legislation that would unwind the fur sector in this country in a legally robust manner.
Ending fur farming is thought to have been under consideration by the minister for some time. However, concerns around the constitutionality of such a ban, and the rights of those employed on fur farms, had delayed progress.
Around 100 people are employed in the fur industry and these jobs are in Donegal, Kerry, and Offaly.
Earlier this year, Údarás na Gaeltachta was criticised when it emerged that two Donegal-based fur farms, once of which has since stopped operating, had received over €200,000 in State funding since 2009.
The Government had already raised concerns about Ms Coppinger’s bill, claiming it is legally flawed and could expose the State to significant legal liability.
It is understood that they will now draft their own legislation, instead of adopting the Solidarity-PBP bill.
A ban on fur farming would be a policy U-turn for the Government, which, in defending the industry, have often cited the employment impact on remote and rural areas.
In February of this year, Mr Creed told the Dáil:
He said a report commissioned in 2011 did not find the arguments in favour of banning fur farming compelling and recommended that, instead, it be allowed continue under licence and subject to official control.
Under questioning from Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, he said more rigorous controls had been adopted in recent years in animal welfare, animal accommodation, security, and nutrient management.
Answering questions in the Dáil last week, Communications Minister Richard Bruton gave no indication that the Government was working on its own plan to stop fur farms.
The decision to press ahead with a phased ban on mink farming comes after calls from Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Veterinary Ireland to shut down the industry in Ireland for the welfare of animals.
Major fashion brands are turning their back on fur, including Prada, which said that they will no longer use fur in their women’s wear products by next February.
Ms Coppinger had asked the Government to support her bill at second stage, having secured opposition backing.
In the Dáil last week, she described the farming of mink, and of other animals, for their fur, as “cruel, backward, and barbaric”.
Questioning Mr Bruton on the issue, she said fur farming, which is “all for the sake of a luxury product that most people will never see and no-one really needs,” is an example of capitalism “willing to disregard life and welfare for pure profit”.
Ms Coppinger said: “As solitary, wild, and semi-aquatic creatures, packing mink into metal cages in groups is alien and unnatural.
“For that reason, Veterinary Ireland asserts that it is impossible to regulate the fur trade and somehow make it kinder. It is not farming at all. The mink are gassed at six months and their skins are pulled off.”