A milestone in European fur history has been reached. The board of Fur Europe has taken the important and far-reaching decision to confirm the implementation of the on-farm animal welfare assessment system WelFur. The European-wide implementation began this month, and the objective is to certify each of Europe’s 4.000 mink and fox farms in the course of three years.
The animal welfare assessment programme WelFur is developed by independent scientists from seven European universities. The system is based on the principles of the European Commission’s Welfare Quality programme, and primarily uses so-called animal indicators to assess animal welfare. Popularly speaking, animal indicators are the indirect way to ask the animals themselves about their well-being. This is state of the art animal welfare assessment. Typical current assessments of animal welfare in Europe are based on compliance with legislation rather than taking starting point in the animals.
“We are very proud to have reached the point of actually implementing WelFur on all European mink and fox farms. WelFur provides a reliable and science based farm level assessment of the welfare on European fur farms, and this means we can discuss animal welfare on a basis of facts rather than perceptions. At the same time citizens are offered increased transparency so they can make informed consumer choices,” says Mette Lykke Nielsen, CEO of Fur Europe.
A WelFur consumer label will be offered, but due to the complex certification procedure, the first WelFur certified skins will only be on offer at the international fur auction houses Saga Furs, Kopenhagen Fur and North American Fur Auctions from December 2018. A full WelFur certification requires three assessment visits of 6-8 hours on every farm, which amounts to 12.000 farm assessments before all European mink and fox farms are fully certified. The accredited inspection company Baltic Controls has been appointed as the independent third party assessment company.
“It has been important for us that both the science behind WelFur as well as the farm assessments are 100 percent independent from the fur sector itself. The credibility of the system is vitally important, and fur farmers who fail to receive the WelFur certificate from inspection body Baltic Control will not be allowed to sell their skins through the international fur auction houses, which effectively puts fur farmers with insufficient animal welfare standards out of business,” Mette Lykke Nielsen says.
Besides from being a reliable animal welfare assessment programme that offers increased transparency about the production procedures in the European fur sector, WelFur also works as a management tool that can improve animal welfare standards on fur farms. National WelFur advisory systems are being set up at the moment, so fur farmers can get professional help to analyse the WelFur data and identify the areas where animal welfare can be improved. The advisory system will also come to work in cases where fur farmers fail to obtain the WelFur certificate in order for these farmers to improve procedures and get the welfare standard up to the sufficient level.