Frank Zilberkweit: Say no to the wardrobe police – the damaging impact of banning natural fur

9 Jun

Frank Zilberkweit is Chairman of the British Fur Trade Association.

On May 31, a bank holiday, the Government slipped out a four week call for evidence on the UK fur sector that could be the precursor to restrictions or a complete ban. We welcome this opportunity to contribute, and we will set out in detail the exacting animal welfare standards and extensive laws and regulations that govern the sector, and why fur remains popular – with sales increasing by 200 per cent in the last decade. We will also set out the many damaging consequences that implementing a ban on fur would have including why it would do nothing to improve animal welfare.

Let’s be clear, if the Government decides to introduce a ban on the sale or wearing of natural fur it would effectively be telling us what we could and could not wear, and what we should have in our wardrobes. We would have the unpalatable prospect of millions of people being criminalised for choosing to buy a particular natural material. Such an intrusion would be an unprecedented step for a government to take and would be a significant curtailment of consumer choice and individual rights. Unsurprisingly, with a third of Brits owning an item of fur, there is no majority for a ban on humanely produced fur in the UK and we strongly believe that informed individuals should be free to make up their own minds.

It is also clear that restrictions on fur would be the thin end of the wedge and would simply open the door for bans on other animal products including wool, leather and silk as well as modern farming and field sports. Animal rights activists, who have long campaigned for a UK fur ban and have done much to use their links with unelected individuals close to the Prime Minister to push this call for evidence, want to see an end to the use of all animal products or materials including in food consumption. Their agenda is clear, but their narrow views do not represent the silent majority and nor do they care about the consequences.

There are exacting standards and laws in place governing the fur sector, banning natural fur would damage, not improve, animal welfare and would be a purely symbolic move pushed by animal rights activists. George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, confirmed as much in 2018 when he said in Parliament “It is not possible to make a difference just through the restriction on trade to the UK, because we represent a tiny portion, about 0.25 percent, of the entire global market. We would probably be more effective agitating for change through international forums such as the World Organisation for Animal Health, CITES and others.”

A ban could not work and would be unenforceable placing huge burdens on law enforcement to try to stop imports at the borders and then police it within the country. It would simply push sales online, untaxed and unregulated and to those who care little about animal welfare. It would also impact on the indigenous groups, who still depend on fur for their survival in places like Greenland and Canada, and on religious groups who wear items of fur.

It would lead to thousands of job losses and closed businesses in the UK. It would also damage London as a global fashion hub with many designers and brands using fur and it would disrupt trade relations with some our closest allies who are major fur producing and manufacturing countries including Canada, the United States and many EU states. What does it say about Brexit Britain and its commitment to free trade if one of the first things it does is to ban a highly regulated, international trade? Hardly a “Brexit Bonus”, as some have claimed.

A ban could not operate in Northern Ireland, that remains part of the EU Customs Union, and it is noticeable that the call for evidence only covers Great Britain. We would therefore have the prospect of one part of the UK being free to trade and sell fur including exporting its goods to Great Britain thanks to the Internal Markets Act, and commitments of ministers in guaranteeing the free movement of trade between the four UK nations, again, making a mockery of any ban.

Fur is a natural, sustainable material, far better for the environment than oil based synthetic fast fashions. It would be entirely illogical and counter productive for the Government to move forward with restrictions on a natural material that would lead to an increase in the consumption of synthetic materials in the same year as it is hosting COP26. It sends out entirely the wrong message for a government that wants to be seen as global leader in tackling climate change and improving the environment.

Banning natural fur is a retrograde, damaging step and no sensible government, particularly given the scale of other priorities including the pandemic, would consider implementing such a draconian and pointless policy. Increasingly, it is clear that one part of government, Defra, with its unelected supporters appears to be operating in isolation to the rest of Whitehall. I would therefore urge everyone to get involved in the call for evidence and take the opportunity to say No to a Fur Ban: Take Part: Government Call for Evidence – British Fur Trade Association.

Sponsored Post: Frank Zilberkweit: Restricting personal choice by banning fur would not be a Brexit bonus

18 Dec

Frank Zilberkweit is Chairman of the British Fur Trade Association.

I’m pretty sure that the majority of Conservatives did not campaign to leave the EU so that a majority Conservative Government could close down a highly regulated and legal sector, putting many SMEs and sole traders out of business and forcibly restricting personal choice.

Yet, animal rights activists, supported by a small number of MPs and an handful of unelected individuals in positions of influence are actively lobbying Government for a ban on natural fur sales whilst trying to portray it as a ‘Brexit bonus.’

The current campaign to ban fur sales is a classic of the anti-freedom genre: deploy selective claims and anecdotal evidence; generate headlines with celebrity backers (who have scant idea what they are being asked to endorse let alone of its consequences); table an Early Motion Day to claim ‘political support’ (despite it attracting almost zero Conservative support); commission the polling to elicit the response you require to claim ‘public endorsement’ and latch on to a minister, Lord Goldsmith in this case, willing to champion your minority views because it aligns with their own personal position.

Such shrill voices do not represent the silent majority who do not support such a ban and whose views should be recognised and respected rather than being cancelled. Those that shout the loudest seldom have the support of the majority or their moral backing.

Shamefully, such groups care little for the unintended consequences of their actions: banning fur in the UK would damage and set back animal welfare standards, not enhance them. Indeed, the Defra Secretary, George Eustice, himself made this very point in Parliament in 2018:

“It is not possible to make a difference just through the restriction on trade to the UK, because we represent a tiny portion, about 0.25 percent, of the entire global market. We would probably be more effective agitating for change through international forums such as the World Organisation for Animal Health, CITES and others.”

Banning fur would not end the international trade. It would though be unenforceable, moving supply from highly regulated sources to others unregulated and unlicenced, sold online and untaxed. The question is this: does the UK want to be seen as a leader that works to drive up standards globally, working with fur producing and manufacturing countries, or a country that is captured by pressure groups and prohibition campaigners that ban highly regulated international sectors?

This debate has consequences for other animal materials including wool, leather and, indeed, food production. Such groups have a Trojan Horse agenda: to end the use of all animals or animal-derived products whether for human consumption, for clothing, or for other use. Ban fur and they would simply move onto the next item on their list including silk, leather, wool and, yes, your Christmas turkey, as the group leading the fur ban campaign also advocates. Such activists also claim that there is ‘moral outrage’ around the continued sale of fur, yet the significant increase in fur sales in recent years firmly knocks that myth on the head.

A ban also sends out entirely the wrong message at a time when the UK is looking to conclude free trade deals with many fur producing and manufacturing countries.  Already the US Ambassador has raised his concerns about a possible UK ban. What does it say about post Brexit Britain and its commitment to free trade that one of its first acts is to ban a highly regulated, legal trade, present in every single country in the world? It is also highly likely that major fur-producing, and manufacturing countries including the US and Canada would seek to challenge the legal veracity of a UK ban. Animal rights activists care not one jot about any of this.

So here is the crux; you might not like fur, you might not wear it yourself, but others do and actively want to. Fur is popular and sales have increased by 200 percent in the last decade. Fur is no different to any other natural material, like leather, wool or silk. So, so long as that fur comes from responsible, certified and humane sources (as the fur that is sold in this country does), people should be free to choose to buy and wear fur and those rights should be respected. Banning fur is not a ‘Brexit bonus’ and a Conservative Government should trust British people to make up their own minds, not legislate on the whims of a small, yet vocal, minority.

Finally, the Daily Telegraph, in its recent editorial opposing a ban, captured it perfectly: “It is untrue that people who wear fur are ‘sick’, as Carrie Symonds the Prime Minister’s fiancee, tweeted last year. Britons must not be forbidden by diktat from wearing wool, leather or fur”.