A fur farm near Kaustinen, Central Ostrobothnia, on 22 August 2023. Most Finns view that fur farming is unethical and almost half that the industry should be prohibited, reveals a survey commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)


THE MAJORITY of Finns do not regard fur farming as ethically acceptable, reveals a survey commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat.

The daily newspaper reported at the end of last month that 60 per cent of the 1,044 survey respondents stated that they do not consider fur farming ethically acceptable and 49 per cent that fur farming should be prohibited in Finland.

The proportion of respondents in favour of prohibiting the industry has crept up by four percentage points in the past two years.

Over a quarter, or 27 per cent, of respondents contrastively viewed that fur farming is ethically acceptable and 33 per cent that it should not be prohibited.

Most EU members states have prohibited fur farming fully or partly. Austria, Germany and the Netherlands called for a bloc-wide ban on fur farming on grounds of animal welfare and public health risks at a meeting of agriculture and fishery ministers in Luxembourg in June. With the proposal drawing support from 14 other member states, Finland was part of a smaller group of member states opposing the ban.

“Animal health and welfare are a prerequisite for all sustainable animal production, including fur production. A fur industry that recognises its responsibility is responsible for its part for looking after and improving animal welfare,” Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Sari Essayah (CD) stated to Helsingin Sanomat in June.

“The well-being of fur animals can and must be improved based on the latest scientific knowledge and best practices without having to ban the industry.”

Many member states have already prohibited the industry in their national legislation.

The fur industry has faced scrutiny and difficulty this summer following the detection of a highly pathogenic strain of the avian influenza at several fur farms in Finland. The detection has led to the culling of tens of thousands of fur-bearing animals over a concern that minks, in particular, could simultaneously contract the avian and regular influenza and produce a recombinant virus that poses a serious threat to humans.

Helsingin Sanomat on 31 August wrote that attitudes toward fur-farming vary significantly based on the age and gender of the survey respondents, with women more likely than men and young people more likely than old people to both view the industry as unethical and support its prohibition.

Supporters of the Green League and Left Alliance viewed almost without exception that fur-farming is unethical and should be prohibited. The sentiment was shared by over half of those who identified as supporters of the Social Democrats.

Roughly half of Centre, Finns Party and National Coalition supporters viewed contrastively that the industry should not be banned.

The problems of the industry stem not only from public health concerns but also the economic sustainability. Nordea and OP Financial Group, the two largest financial groups in Finland, are effectively no longer granting loans to fur farms due to weak profitability and ethical and social considerations, Helsingin Sanomat reported on 26 August.

“When we weigh up risks related to natural production, we don’t look exclusively at economic indicators but also at ethical and social perspectives,” said Nina Arkilahti, the head of business banking at Nordea.

The demand for furs, she reminded, is declining in the West.

“And for perfectly valid reasons. Business operations that are based on animal production where only the furs are utilised to produce clothing aren’t on a sustainable foundation,” she commented to the newspaper.

The number of active fur farms has collapsed from well over 4,000 in 1980 to 400 in 2022. Last year, 62 per cent of companies in the industry reported an operating loss, according to another report by the newspaper.

Finnish fur exports to two key markets have been disrupted in recent times. Exports to China were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and exports to Russia by the export ban imposed on luxury items worth over 300 euros over Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. The ban does not apply to raw skins, tanned furs or modified furs.

The Finnish Fur Breeders’ Association (Fifur) has been caught in recent years exaggerating the employment, export and tax impact of the declining industry. Statistics Finland in August 2022 confirmed that Fifur has double-counted jobs in the industry by claiming that the industry has a direct employment impact of 3,185 people.

The industry lobby did not immediately correct the exaggerated figures, according to an investigative report by YLE.

Actually the industry provided employment to slightly fewer than 1,600 people and generated products worth 64 million euros, equalling less than a tenth of a per cent of the value of Finnish goods exports. The vast majority, or 96 per cent, of the value was generated in four counties in Ostrobothnia.

Helsingin Sanomat's survey found that 52 per cent of respondents believe people who make a living from fur farming should be encouraged to pursue another occupation with public subsidies. Three in ten expressed their opposition to the idea.

The respondents were also asked about their level of concern about reports that the avian influenza is spreading at fur farms: three per cent told that they are very concerned, 38 per cent that they are somewhat concerned, 37 per cent that they are not particularly concerned and 20 per cent that they are hardly at all concerned.

The survey was carried out on 25–30 August by Kantar Public.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT