Compassion In World Farming, Ireland

FarmFacts: IRISH FUR FARMING


What does Compassion in World Farming - Ireland want ?

Compassion in World Farming - Ireland is campaigning for fur farming to be made illegal in the Republic of Ireland (it is already illegal in Northern Ireland).

Read our summary of reasons to ban fur farming in the Republic of Ireland.


Current situation

There are currently 5 licensed mink farms operating in the Republic of Ireland and, between them, it is estimated that 200,000 to 225,000 mink are farmed. The type of mink farmed for fur is the American mink. One of the mink farms used to also rear and slaughter foxes for their fur. The types of foxes farmed for fur are silver foxes and arctic foxes. Compassion in World Farming – Ireland understands from the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that there are no foxes being farmed at present. However, fox farming continues to be legal in the Republic of Ireland. Latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (Ireland) show that fox pelts were exported from the Republic of Ireland in 2009, 2010 and a small number in 2011.


Latest news

The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, established a Review Group in his Department in November 2011 to review fur farming. Compassion in World Farming - Ireland made a detailed submission to the Review Group, calling for fur farming to be banned on animal welfare grounds. In November 2012, Minister Coveney's Review Group completed its report. The report, Report of the Fur Farming Review Group 2012, recommends that fur farming is allowed to continue.

In answer to a Parliamentary Question from by Maureen O'Sullivan, TD, Minister Coveney said: "I have given careful consideration to the series of recommendations contained in the report and I accept the recommendation not to ban fur farming." (Question Number 560, 18th December 2012)

In October 2011, fur farming was debated in Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate).

For information about the threat to native wildlife from escaped mink in Ireland, a report by the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service, A Review of Mink Predation and Control For Ireland discusses this in detail. It concludes, on page 50, that continued operation of fur farms in Ireland means that: "Escapes from these will continue to threaten the wildlife of Ireland ...".


What is fur farming?

Animals on fur farms are reared highly intensively in small cages before being killed at about 6 months old for their fur pelts. The pelts are exported for sale on the international fur markets, to be used mainly by the fashion industry. Fur farming is legal in the Republic of Ireland but prohibited in Northern Ireland.

View footage of Irish fur farms.


What type of animals are reared on Irish fur farms?

At present, mink are farmed for their fur in the Republic of Ireland. The type of mink farmed for fur is the American mink. One farm also had a small number of foxes though we understand that, at present, foxes are not being farmed. The type of foxes that were reared in Ireland were silver foxes (which are a variety of the common red fox) and arctic foxes. Fox farming continues to be legal in the Republic of Ireland.


How many Irish fur farms and fur animals are there?

There are 5 licensed mink farms in the Republic of Ireland and, between them, it is estimated that 200,000 to 225,000 mink are farmed. (Statistics are from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine 'Report of the Fur Farming Review Group 2012', see link above.)


Exports of mink pelts

Figures from the Central Statistics Office in Ireland show that 141,812 mink pelts were exported from the Republic of Ireland in 2010, valued at €4.895 million euro (i.e. just under €5 million euro).


Licensing of fur farms

All mink farms in the Republic of Ireland must be licensed by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. These farms must meet certain conditions, particularly with regard to making sure mink do not escape (mink in the wild can cause damage to poultry, wildlife, fish etc.). The Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine inspects fur farms. At present, no licence is required for fox farms.


Are there any countries where fur farming is illegal?

Fur farming is prohibited in Northern Ireland, Britain, and Austria.


How long are mink and foxes kept on fur farms?

These animals are bred in captivity on the fur farm. They are reared on the fur farm until they are about 6 months old, when they are taken out of their cages, killed and skinned for their pelts.


How are farmed mink and foxes killed?

Killing of both mink and foxes normally takes place on the farm, and there is no legal requirement for a veterinarian to be present.

Mink are pulled out of their cages and put into a gassing box that holds around 50 to 70 animals. They are gassed to death in carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide. There are welfare concerns about batch killing of mink, and also about the types of gasses used.

Farmed foxes are killed by electrocution. An electrode is placed in their anus and another in their mouth and they are killed by an electric current passing through them. Compassion in World Farming - Ireland is totally opposed to the use of electrocution to kill animals.

Read more about welfare concerns at slaughter in a detailed report, 'Welfare aspects of the slaughter of fur producing animals in Ireland' by the Irish Government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Animal Health and Welfare.


What are the conditions for the animals on fur farms?

Conditions on fur farms throughout Europe are quite standard.

An undercover investigation by Compassion in World Farming - Ireland and Respect for Animals in 2003 found that mink were kept in cages about 3 foot long and 1 foot wide, plus a small nest box at one end. Fox cages had a floor area of about 4 foot by 4 foot and were about 28 inches high.

View the undercover footage of Irish fur farms here.

A Council of Europe Recommendation Concerning Fur Animals (1999) lays down new cage sizes for fur animals, which came into place in 2010. The new cage sizes are slighly bigger than the cages that were filmed in our 2003 investigation.

Fox and mink cages are usually in rows inside buildings that have open sides. The animals’ droppings fall through the wire mesh floor of the cages.

Farmed mink and foxes are fed on a porridge-like food made from chicken, meat and fish offal. This is placed on the top of each cage and the animals eat it through the wire mesh.

Mink and foxes are confined in cages throughout their lives until they are taken out to be killed.


Do fur farms meet the welfare needs of mink and foxes?

A comprehensive scientific report by the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) , 'The Welfare of Animals Kept for Fur Production' (2001) concluded that typical farm conditions do not provide for important needs of mink and foxes, saying: 'The typical mink cage with a nest box and wire mesh floor impairs mink welfare because it does not provide for important needs' and 'The typical fox cage does not provide for important needs of foxes.'


Are farmed mink and foxes domesticated, and are they suited to being farmed?

Farmed mink and foxes are bred in captivity on the farm. However they are not fully domesticated. Other farm animals, such as cattle and pigs, have adapted to farming by humans over thousands of years and are now domesticated. Farmed mink and foxes have only been bred in captivity for about one hundred years, and selection has mainly been for fur quality. The SCAHAW report examines the extent to which species used for fur production can be regarded as domesticated and concludes that: “these species, in comparison with other farm animals, have been subjected to relatively little active selection, except with respect to fur characteristics. There has thus been only a limited amount of selection for tameness and adaptability to captive environments.” (p. 185).

Mink and foxes are not animals that naturally live in herds or flocks. This is unlike other farm animals: cattle, for example, naturally live in groups, as do chickens. It is unnatural for mink and foxes to be forced to live in such close proximity to so many other animals.


How do mink and foxes live in the wild?

Mink in the wild always live near water and are good at swimming and diving. They even have small webbing between their toes. In the typical river environment, mink have a range of about 2 km along the river. Within their territories, mink often have several dens that they use to rest in and sleep in. Mink spend part of their time in water when hunting and part on the land, walking, bounding, rearing on their hind legs and climbing on rocks or trees. Mink are solitary animals and adults hunt alone.

Silver foxes are a variety of the red fox. In the wild, they may travel great distances. The daily mean is 6 km. They can run fast, jump well and swim strongly. They dig dens or use the dens of other animals. Usually described as solitary carnivores, it is now known that red foxes have complex social behaviour.

Arctic foxes are adapted to live in the snowy environment in the Arctic regions of Eurasia, North America, Greenland and Iceland. They roam across vast home ranges of around 30 km2 and even migrate more than 100 km in a single season. Arctic foxes can travel very long distances, often 10 to 20 km in a day. They can run fast and swim strongly. They build dens on the banks of streams, on hills or in rock piles, and these may be used by successive generations for 300 years. Arctic foxes are solitary animals.


Can mink and foxes carry out their natural behaviours on fur farms?

The behaviour of mink and foxes is extremely limited on fur farms because they are confined in small cages. Farmed mink and foxes are not fully domesticated and it is essential to their welfare that they can carry out important natural behaviours such as swimming and diving for mink, and digging for foxes. On fur farms these behaviours are not possible because there is no swimming water provided for farmed mink, and no material for farmed foxes to dig in.


What happens after the farmed mink and foxes are killed?

Their bodies are disposed of (by rendering). Their fur pelts are exported to other countries where they are sold at fur markets. The pelts will be mostly used in the fashion industry to make fur coats or for fur trim on garments.


What now?

Compassion in World Farming - Ireland is calling on the Irish Government to ban fur farming.



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