The business of raising thousands of mink to slaughter and make into fur coats suffered a big setback Tuesday when a Dutch appeals court reinstated a 2012 law that will effectively shut down the industry.
The Netherlands is the world’s fourth-largest producer of mink fur. The country has 160 fur farms that raise about 6 million minks per year.
Animal rights groups have long argued that these farms are cruel and unsafe. Reports from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say the mink are crowded into small, confined cages where they have little ability to move. Mink are solitary animals that normally have ranges of hundreds of miles in the wild. Confined minks often go cage mad, pacing endlessly and mutilating themselves, according to activists. Animals are often poisoned or electrocuted to kill them without damaging their fur.
The Dutch senate agreed with animal rights groups and banned the industry in 2012 after discussing the issue for 13 years. At the time mink farms were given until 2024 to phase out their operations. Farmers were offered 28 million euros to compensate for the transition.
They sued, though, and the courts overturned the law in 2014. This week’s appeals court ruling places the law back on the books. The industry will still have until 2024 to close down.
“With this decision, the Netherlands has unwaveringly proclaimed that the welfare and lives of six million mink is more important than the economic interests of fur farmers and mink breeders profiting from the cruel exploitation of these animals,” said Adam Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, one of more than 40 organizations which supported the move under the banner of the Fur Free Alliance. Roberts said he hoped other fur-producing countries, including the United States, would follow the Netherlands’ example and ban their own fur industries.
Other groups also praised the decision. Nicole van Gemert, director of a Dutch anti-fur organization called Bont voor Dieren, said in a statement that last year’s court ruling was a major setback. She said 20 new farms were established or expanded after that ruling and called those expansions illegal under the reinstated law.
The activist groups will continue their efforts to shut down any farms they believe are illegal and to ensure that the court-ordered shutdown of the industry continues on schedule. They are also working in other countries. A mink farm in Norway was raided by authorities in October after finding “serious injuries and open sores” among the facility’s 30,000 animals.
The Dutch fur industry has vowed to appeal the ruling to the country’s highest court. A spokesperson for the Dutch Federation of Noble Fur Holders told news agency ANP that the group will “pursue this case to the bitter end.”