For more than a decade, I spent my professional life promoting and defending the fur trade. To my shame, I was the face of fur; presenting the welfare-washing slick PR narrative that was used – and is still used – to try to persuade people and politicians that fur is ethical and responsible. Now, three years after my conscience compelled me to resign as CEO of the British Fur Trade Association, I have a very clear message for Boris Johnson: don’t buckle under pressure from my former employer, bring forward legislation to end the UK’s cruel trade in fur.
Prime minister: you said that one reason to get Brexit done was so we could be world leaders in animal welfare and change laws to protect animals suffering at home and abroad. You have a chance to do that by ensuring the Animals Abroad Bill is included in the Queen’s Speech on 10 May, providing a legislative vehicle to bring to life the pledges in your government’s much trumpeted Animal Welfare Action Plan.
But with just days to go before the Queen is due in parliament, Number 10 appears to be bowing to lobbying by the fur trade and animal cruelty apologists like MPs Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mark Spencer, by dropping the fur import ban. The irony of Rees-Mogg, the Minister for Brexit Opportunities, standing in the way of a clear Brexit opportunity must be emphasised and questioned. A fur import and sales ban – likely impossible while the UK was a member of the EU – would end the UK’s two decade long double standard whereby we banned fur farming in this country but continue to support it overseas by allowing fur to be imported and sold in British shops.
Insiders say that Jacob Rees-Mogg and Mark Spencer argue that British consumers should be free to buy whatever they want – even if that means products of hideous animal cruelty such as fur and foie gras. I started my fur trade career also believing in freedom to choose but having seen the horrors of fur farming and acknowledging the clear shift in our societal zeitgeist, I could no longer in all good conscience argue that my right to choose cruelty is more important than an animal’s right not to be abused and killed. I believe that anyone with an ounce of empathy for animals would feel the same.
Opinion polls also show that the vast majority of Brits don’t even want to choose fur cruelty but do want to see it banned. In fact, latest MRP polling – commissioned by Humane Society International/U.K – shows that 77 per cent of the British public support a fur ban. So it would seem that Rees-Mogg and Spencer’s views are vastly out of touch with the public.
The fur trade has no doubt warned No 10 that a fur import ban would be bad for business and impose unnecessary red tape. I’m very familiar with that line. I argued it myself many times when desperately trying to breathe life into the dying fur industry. Prime minister, I urge you to reflect instead on the fact that although the cost in animals’ lives is high, the value of fur imports to the U.K. economy is undeniably small.
Most British retailers don’t want to sell fur because most of their customers don’t want to buy fur. Every single year, sometimes even every month, more major designers ditch fur, even Canada Goose has done so, and the likes of Gucci and Dolce & Gabanna have made clear that innovative cruelty free materials are the future.
As well as being cruel, fur comes with an enormously damaging environmental footprint, and customers and brands simply don’t want that. The fur trade in the UK is in terminal decline and, consequently, the number of retailers selling fur is a tiny fraction of what it used to be. The fur trade in Britain employs only a relatively small number of people, almost all of whom could utilise their skills and adapt to faux fur fashion instead. Brand Britain has nothing to lose and everything to gain by ending its fur trade shame and embracing a kinder future for fashion.
Prime minister, instead of listening to fur trade lobbying or pandering to the whims of the privileged few, please keep your promise to the British public that this Conservative government will be a leader in animal welfare, and ensure the Animals Abroad Bill with a proposed fur ban, is in the Queen’s Speech. Britain must no longer be party to nasty animal cruelty. Killing animals for fur is unutterably immoral and must end. You have the power to make that happen. Don’t betray animals, don’t betray the British public. Let’s get the ban done.
Mike Moser is the former CEO of the British Fur Trade Association