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Italy Moves to Permanently Ban Fur Farming’s ‘Unspeakable Suffering’

Italy is close to permanently banning fur farming.

The budget committee of the Italian Senate voted Tuesday to approve a modified version of an amendment to a budget law that will shutter the country’s 10 remaining mink farms within six months. While the decision still requires final approval by Parliament, it’s expected to sail through, making Italy the 16th European country after Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and others to outlaw breeding animals for their pelts.

The vote followed discussions with Humane Society International/Europe which said that it presented “practical, strategic solutions” to close and convert fur farms into “alternative, humane and sustainable businesses” in a recent report. A number of Italian designers have already gone fur-free, including Armani, Prada, Valentino and Versace.

“This is a historic victory for animal protection in Italy, and HSI/Europe is immensely proud that our fur farm conversion strategy has played a central role in dismantling this cruel and dangerous industry in our country,” Martina Pluda, director of Humane Society International in Italy, said in a statement. “There are very clear economic, environmental, public health and of course animal-welfare reasons to close and ban fur farms.”

Animal activists have argued not only against the cruelty of fur farming but also the public health risks it can pose. Some 60 percent of all human diseases and 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning they originate from animals, scientists say. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is one that’s been known to bounce between animals and people. Denmark culled 17 million mink last November after a variant of the virus was detected in both the animals and their handlers, sparking fears of further mutations that could undermine vaccines.

“Today’s vote recognizes that allowing the mass breeding of wild animals for frivolous fur fashion represents a risk to both animals and people that can’t be justified by the limited economic benefits it offers to a small minority of people involved in this cruel industry,” Pluda said. “With so many designers, retailers and consumers going fur-free, conversion of fur farms offers people a sustainable future that the fur trade simply cannot provide.”

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The approved amendment puts an immediate ban on the cultivation of fur-bearing animals, including mink, foxes, raccoon dogs and chinchillas. All active farms have until the end of June to close, and farmers will receive a total of 3 million euros ($3.4 million) from the Ministry of Agriculture to cover their losses. Fur-containing products will still be permissible in the marketplace, however.

Michela Vittoria Brambilla, president of the Parliamentary Intergroup for Animal Rights and the Italian League for the Defense of Animals and the Environment, called the vote the “best victory” for animal rights over the past three decades.

“Finally, a parliamentary vote sanctions the end of unspeakable suffering inflicted on animals only in the name of profit and vanity,” said Brambilla, who spearheaded efforts to implement the conversion strategy with existing public funds. “Italy is the 20th European country to introduce a ban or severe restriction on fur farming: better late than never. Now we await the final approval of the budget law, but the political will has been clearly expressed. A dream comes true that animal protection associations have cultivated for decades in our country.”

News of the amendment arrived after a study concluded that luxury companies are especially “behind the curve” when it comes to eliminating animal cruelty from their supply chains, more so than fast fashion. Italy’s Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Prada, which continue to employ fur and exotic skins, received scores of 0 percent “due to their high rate of wildlife exploitation and a general lack of transparency.”

“Our report shows that despite high community expectations for animal welfare, most fashion brands still know extraordinarily little of the conditions faced by animals within their supply chains,” Jessica Medcalf, global corporate engagement manager, textiles, at animal-rights group Four Paws, said in a statement. “Brands talk the talk about caring for animals, but dig a little deeper and you’ll often find weak or patchy animal-welfare policies or none at all.”

An undercover investigation by Humane Society International/United Kingdom, published last month, uncovered evidence of “deplorable” conditions and “distressing” suffering on so-called “high-welfare” fox farms in Finland, where luxury brands such as Fendi, Max Mara, Moncler, Woolrich and Yves Salomon source much of their fur. Researchers described animals trapped in small wire cages with “painfully swollen” eyes, “deformed” feet with overgrown claws and poor body condition, including obesity. Two of the farms, the organizations said, held “monster foxes” bred with “huge pelts and rolls of fat” rippling across their bodies to increase the amount of fur that can be gleaned.

Fur farming in England and Wales has been verboten since 2000, with Scotland and Northern Ireland following suit in 2002. It’s still legal, however, to buy and sell fur-containing products, which animal campaigners have been fighting to change. Israel is the first—and so far only—country to ban the sale of fur.

“Fur trade buzzwords about welfare ring incredibly hollow when you are staring into the eyes of an animal tormented by a life of deprivation for a frivolous fashion item that nobody needs,” said Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/United Kingdom, who visited the farms. “Most fashion-forward designers have gone fur-free because of the indefensible cruelty. But to those designers who still use fur, and to the U.K. government that still allows British businesses to trade in fur, our message is clear—it’s time to stop being complicit in this cruelty.