Smashing the U.K. Fur Trade
from No Compromise Issue 11

1998 at last has seen the grassroots anti-fur movement in Britain finding its feet again after a period of inactivity, with only a couple of notable exceptions. Partly through the coordinating efforts of the U.K. chapter of the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade (CAFT UK), grassroots groups have again taken up the issue. Today there are now campaigns against several of the U.K.'s 14 remaining mink farms.

The Fur Free London campaign (FFL) has been going strong for some years with regular pickets outside the city's fur shops, which has resulted in some stores closing down and others restricting their hours. FFL gained mega publicity in November when activists were leaked a list of customers from an internal source at Calman Links, furriers to the Royal Family and various aristocracy. The shop went mad, denied there was a leak (claiming the list had been stolen), called in the police, and held a crisis meeting with the British Fur Trade Association (BFTA). It appears that the list, which has been circulated amongst the animal rights movement, was used to send a hoax letter to customers announcing bankruptcy of the store and advising customers to collect furs from cold storage or repairs or else they would be destroyed!

Members of the Cornyhaugh Fur Campaign, protesting against a Northeast mink fur farm, were acquitted of charges under the Protection from Harassment Act in October. The Act, brought in to protect women from violent stalkers, has increasingly been used to prevent peaceful protests against specific animal abuse establishments. Two protesters--earlier found guilty under the Act--were banned from ever again going within one-half of a mile of the farm or risk up to five years in prison! In the latest case, the magistrate found the activists not guilty of harassing mink farmer (and BFTA director) Peter Harrison, stating that as fewer people in the U.K. are buying fur and the government intends to ban fur farming, "[T]his has to suggest that in the view of the public, the trade is considered bad, and this is in turn an item to add to the scales in considering the balance exercise [balance between right to protest and protection from harassment]. In other words, it may be easier to justify campaigning against something which can be shown to be at the very least unpopular, even though presently lawful, in the eyes of the public." The Crown Prosecution Service, however, under pressure from the fur trade, are trying to overturn the acquittal by taking the case to the High court. The fight is really on and we wish the activists the best of luck.

This same fur farmer is also currently on police bail after an unprovoked attack on a CAFT investigator who was trying to film the gassing of mink at the farm. The investigator was hospitalised with head, leg, and chest injuries and his camera equipment damaged. We are still waiting to hear if charges will be brought against the farmer.

This year also saw the Animal Liberation Front looking once again at fur farming in the U.K. In August, activists released 6,000 mink from a Hampshire fur farm where that very day a worker had pleaded guilty to six counts of cruelty after being secretly filmed by an anti-fur group beating mink before gassing them the previous winter. The farm owner is currently awaiting trial for a mass of cruelty charges. The media rolled head first into silly-season with claims that the released mink would attack babies and devastate all the local wildlife. A week after this raid some brave people returned to release another 1,000 minks from the same farm.

In September, a Staffordshire farm owned by the chairperson of the U.K. Fur Breeders Association was raided, resulting in the release of approximately 8,000 mink. The following night, two cars outside his home were damaged and traps used to catch mink taken away. Despite all the claims of ecological disaster made by the media and some animal groups who should know better, little damage appears to have been done and a lot of mink have settled into their new homes. Those the ALF couldn't reach, or those captured and returned to the farms, have now been gassed and turned into coats.

Even Ireland joined in the liberating festivities with what must be the first fur farm raid there. In October, several thousand mink were released from a farm in County Waterford in the Irish Republic. The view of several fur farmers is that they just can't wait for the government to hurry up and ban them and give them some compensation money so they can either find something else to do or retire. Fur farming has become just too much hassle.

With the National Week of Action against the fur trade just over and 1998 coming to a close, all in all it's been a busy year for CAFT. Our investigations over the last year have exposed the breeding of mink (filming day-old kits), fur farming (filming stereotypic behaviour, self-mutilation, and cannibalism on U.K. fur farms), killing (filming gassing of mink), and even the disposal of skinned corpses in a landfill site. No longer can the fur trade hide behind a mask of secrecy. CAFT is here to expose the evil trade, and the attack on one of our investigators shows how much we're getting to the industry.

The Labour Government still carries on with its promises to ban fur farming, in line with pledges made before the election in May 1997. But they also promised to ban various animal tests, hold a Royal Commission to investigate vivisection, and give parliamentary support for a ban on hunting with hounds if MPs voted for it (which they did by probably one of the biggest majorities ever seen). But they all turned out to be lies to fool the electorate and get voted in, so there's no way we're just going to wait for the government to ban this evil trade without all giving it a big shove ourselves. Last week I witnessed thousands of mink being gassed using a method that just two months ago scientists proved to be inhumane. Those mink were born under a Labour Government and murdered under a Labour Government.

It really does look as though the fur farming industry in the U.K. is on its last legs, and it's just a matter of time--and a bit more hard work on our parts--before we see an end to this evil trade once and for all.