I absolutely agree with that sentiment. I know that people in Wales are very conscious when it comes to farming and other sentient animals. I take that fully on board, and I hope that the Minister will do the same.
According to the Humane Society International, around 100 million animals are bred each year to be slaughtered in intensive fur farms, including foxes, chinchillas, mink, raccoons, dogs and rabbits. The majority of this fur—around 85%—is produced by intensively farming animals in callous, claustrophobic battery cage systems to specifically supply the fashion industry. The ban on the sale of real fur is long overdue. Subjecting animals to extreme cruelty in the name of fashion is an abhorrence in direct opposition to animal welfare standards, and the values we hold dearly in Scotland—and of course in Wales and across the devolved nations.
While the farming of animals for fur has been illegal in the United kingdom since January 2003, and the sale and importation of cat and dog fur has been illegal since December 2008, each year the UK still imports around £75 million-worth of fur sourced from other animals. That is roughly 3 million dead animals. It is undoubtedly clear that the Government cannot be trusted on animal welfare. In response to an open petition calling for an end to the fur trade, the UK Government stated that
“national bans are less effective than working at an international level on animal welfare standards.”
They went on to say that they were helping to phase out cruel practices, as well as encouraging an outright ban on fur from species such as cats and dogs.
The answer from the UK Government is a total cop out. In Scotland we see all fur production as cruel and inhumane; there is no need to differentiate between species in such a way. No animal is more or less important than the other. Once again, this proves that Scotland is leading the UK on the issues that matter, not for the first time and not just in this area. There is no more important a step that we can take towards ending this cruelty than to simply end our participation with it. If this Government continue to allow the sale of fur from overseas, then we will remain complicit in an industry that causes immense animal suffering and environmental harm. The sale of fur is simply not aligned with the ethical trajectory of Scotland. This is what Scotland wants and has asked for from this Tory Government from day one.
Animal welfare is an area that the Scottish National party takes extremely seriously, and I would urge the UK Government to follow the Scottish Government’s leading example on these issues. We have created new legislation to further protect animals and wildlife, with the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill, which enforces tougher penalties on perpetrators of animal abuse, increases sentences from a maximum of 12 months in prison and a £20,000 fine to five years in prison and an unlimited fine, and also enshrines animal sentience into law. Nevertheless, regulation of international trade remains a reserved matter, and as such, it is a decision for this Government. We are imploring them to make the right decision. I urge the UK Government to listen to the people, listen to the morality of the argument, and prohibit the import of new fur products.