“We ask the animals what they want”, says Jens Malmkvist at Aarhus University in Denmark. He is one of the scientists developing the new animal welfare standards in fur farming. They are the basis of the new on-farm assessment programme WelFur. His comments come as part of an interview with him and his colleague Steen Moller for BBC Radio 4’s programme “You and Yours”.
BBC has been looking into the new welfare assessment programme WelFur and its effect on European fur farming in a series of two special reports broadcast on 17th and 19th October 2016.
Scientists from other European universities spent the last years developing the assessment programme WelFur in a bid to understand better how fur farmers can provide the best environment for their animals, and ensure their wellbeing.
Their scientific conclusions are made after careful observations of animals’ behaviour and reactions in different situations.
“Like all other farm animals, they are kept in a confined space, so what we need to investigate is how we provide the best environment for them,” says Mr Moller.
During the research minks’ cages are equipped with enrichment such as shelves, straw and “toys” along with a small pump delivering feed, a nest box and swimming bath.
Based on animals behaviour scientists can tell which of the enrichment are necessary for animal’s wellbeing and which are luxury option such as the running wheel and the swimming water for example.
With the implementation of WelFur in January 2017 fur farms will have provide resources in order to comply with the requirement of the scientists, and to get their WelFur certificate. This will happen after the farm passes three assessments conducted by an independent party in different periods of the year.
Although the welfare scheme WelFur is voluntarily, the auction houses said they will sell only WelFur certified skins from 2020 onward.
Fur farmers applying for WelFur certification can contact national fur breeders’ association to start the procedure.
Listen to the BBC special report on fur farming here, starting from 16:08.