I would disagree slightly, because some out there would try to picture hunting with some degree of romanticism, but that is just not true of the fur trade, which is barbaric and cruel. It is not hunting, but catching animals in traps and leaving them to bleed out or even worse, so although I disagree on that point, I completely agree with my right hon. Friend’s sentiment.
Brexit has given us a unique opportunity to forge a new standard for animal welfare and protection, in keeping with our values as a country. Previously, 80% of animal welfare legislation came from the European Union, and last year the Minister of State, Lord Goldsmith, confirmed that following the end of the Brexit transition period we will be able to properly consider raising our standards on the fur trade even further. We must now move forward from those words and legislate for real change.
Leaving the European Union has started a new chapter in our trading relationship with the rest of the world, and banning fur will send a strong message that our trading principles will be synonymous with our high standards of animal welfare. Cities, states and countries around the world are implementing their own versions of this legislation, with Israel recently becoming the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur. Our new trading freedoms are ours to become an integral part of the global movement against this outdated industry, and we must not let this opportunity pass us by.
Supporters of the fur industry—unfortunately there are a few, and I have been trolled by many of them in the last few days—claim that it should be left purely to the market and consumer choice. Yet despite the unpopularity of fur and its almost complete absence from the high street, the UK is still responsible for importing a large amount of animal fur and online sales are persistent.
We already have laws in place banning the sale of cat, dog and seal fur. We do not leave the fate of these species to market forces, nor should we, but we do for other fur-bearing animals. A ban on both imports and sales of fur can guarantee an end to the UK’s status as a global trading hub for fur.
Backers of fur have also claimed that an import and sales ban could jeopardise the UK’s effort to strike new trade deals around the world. This claim is little more than hyperbole and fearmongering. A ban not only would be consistent with our World Trade Organisation obligations but would be unlikely to be a red-line negotiation issue in any trade deal, because trade in fur is not economically significant enough.
I would also take this moment to pre-empt any suggestion that such a thing as humane fur farming exists. That is a fallacy and a downright lie, but do not take it from me alone. I would like to read a brief quote from a former CEO of the British Fur Trade Association, who recently, of his own volition, left the industry after 10 years and now supports a fur ban. He said:
“Over time I realised that whatever soundbites we devised to reassure consumers, retailers and politicians, neither welfare regulations nor any industry certification scheme, would ever change the reality of these animals being stuck in tiny wire cages for their entire lives.”
It is now time that we end the double standard of having a ban on fur farming while importing the same cruelty from overseas. The fur industry is outmoded and out of touch with the modern values and principles of the humane treatment of animals. I implore my parliamentary colleagues to join me in condemning it to the history books, as we have so many other cruel and archaic treatments of animals.
In conclusion, following the Government’s call for evidence on the fur trade over the summer, given the strong public and parliamentary support for this measure and noting the Government’s commitment and ambition to be a world leader on animal welfare standards, I ask the Minister to use her response to today’s debate to reassure me and everyone in this room that legislative action to end the UK’s involvement in the global fur trade will be imminently forthcoming. It is not just a popular thing to do; it is the right thing to do.