Call for Evidence Fur Sector – Letter to DEFRA

Animal Welfare in Trade

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

Government of the United Kingdom

28 June 2021

In response to the Call for Evidence Fur Sector, we are submitting on behalf of the Sustainable Use Coalition South Africa (SUCo-SA) as well as the South African Taxidermy and Tannery Association (SATTA), a few points to consider in your deliberations. We do not include the research, or references, as it is widely and freely available already and we are certain that many experts have already provided the same. This submission simply seeks to serve as a reminder:

  1. Culture and History: Value to communities and people.

Harvesting, using and trading fur and other products of nature is an inherent human right, since ancient times, not a privilege.  The harvesting of fur and food from abundant wildlife populations is central to many people’s relationship with the land and their survival. The inherent right to responsibly harvest and trade nature’s gifts, is recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

Trapping, hunting and fur farming, provide food and important income for people living in rural or remote regions where alternative employment may be hard to find.

Many people around the globe (still) eat meat and therefore generally consider it ethical to use leather, a “by-product” that would otherwise be wasted. With Fur, it is often assumed the rest of the animal is not used, however, most wild fur-bearing animals – as most other animals –   do provide food for both indigenous and other people. Nothing is wasted.

  1. Value to the environment.

Due to human populations soaring, arable and wild habitat is diminishing at an alarming rate. There is the need, in many regions, for animals to be culled annually to maintain healthy and stable populations, to preserve their habitat, to protect endangered species and to safe-guard human health, livestock and property.

Animals that have a value to humans will usually be protected and cared for. It safeguards them against extinction.  The environment they live in is protected.  Most people, specifically, but not exclusively Indigenous people, have respected and protected the survival of the environment and the animal populations upon which they depend since time immemorial.

  1. Fur (and leather and hides) vs fake and other natural fibres

Humans need clothing, bedding and carpeting as isolation – especially in colder climates.  Fur, leather, wool, down and hides for clothing, bedding, and carpets – is sustainably produced, remarkably long-lasting, re-usable, and will eventually biodegrade – all important environmental virtues.

By contrast, the fake furs and other synthetic fabrics are generally made from petroleum, a non-renewable, non-biodegradable, and polluting resource. Advances have been made in synthetic polymers, but almost all are still made from petrochemicals. The biggest drawback of these polymers is that they do not biodegrade.  The petrochemical industry is an important source for the greenhouse gases causing global warming.  Ozone layer depletion, acid rain, air pollution etc. … all impact the environment.

The fur trade in its current form has almost no negative impact on the environment, certainly compared to alternatives like petroleum-based synthetics, but also some natural products such as cotton and rayon.  Rayon is made from plants, but due to its toxic production and deforestation not eco-friendly because of. The environmental impact of Cotton result from the use of agrochemicals (especially pesticides), the consumption of water, and the conversion of habitat to agricultural use. Both these fabrics require regular washing, which adds to the impact on water usage and environmental pollution.

  1. Taxidermy and Tanning

Last but not least, Tanning is used to preserve the leather that is holding the fur, or making the jacket, or the shoes or the hide on the floor. Opponents to the Fur and Leather industry likes to accuse the tanning process of pollution. The process to create hair-off hides, (leather) is more detrimental than hair-on (fur) tanning, as it uses more chemicals. The worst environmental  effect  is a bad smell, some chemicals and secondly usage of water. It is noted however that the water can-and is being decontaminated and recycled.  Tanning uses far less chemicals than synthetic alternatives and is constantly being improved with natural substances. This is especially true for hair-on /fur.

Pollution from tanning pales in comparison with the manufacture of synthetic fabrics, also because of the volumes. Synthetic fabrics do not have as along a lifespan as leather and fur.

In closing

It is the right of all humans to live their life as Hunters, Trappers, Fishers, Shepherds & ranchers, or to benefit from the products that these people provide. Hunting and trapping create by far a lesser environmental impact than say vehicles, airliners, cities, and synthetic fabrics.  What we need is a holistic approach to environmental management that scrutinises the indirect impacts of human activities as much as the direct ones, instead of hiding the bigger issues by creating scapegoats in the fur (and leather) industry.

But wait – that will require most of the world population to forego their conveniences and luxuries – vehicles, houses, cities, factories, plastic products – much better to target a smaller, more vulnerable group of people.

We therefor totally and unequivocal support the British Fur Trade and calls for the rejection of the proposal to ban all fur products in United Kingdom.

Pieter Swart


South African Taxidermy & Tannery Association

Founder member: Sustainable Use Coalition South Africa (SUCo-SA)

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