Veterinary inspectors find violations at more than half of fur farms
EU-mandated inspections yield evidence of widespread violations of animal welfare rules
More than half of fur farms targeted by spot checks by regional veterinarians last year were found to be in violation of applicable laws.
The number of shortcomings rose significantly from previous years. According to the Finnish Food Safety Authority (EVIRA), violations were found in more than 60 per cent of fur farms where EU-mandated veterinary inspections were conducted.
The most frequent problems were detected in the structure of cage doors, where jagged wires would protrude as a result of wear and tear, causing injuries to the mink and foxes inside.
There were also violations of rules on minimum space for the animals. Some fox cages lacked the required shelf for lying on, and lacked chewing material and other objects for stimulation. Sometimes inadequate records were kept.
Violations were found in 28 per cent of all farms that raised animals for production. Problems had increased sharply at facilities raising pigs and egg-laying chickens. Conditions for sheep and goats had improved.
Two cattle farms had shortcomings that required speedy action.
As was the case in previous inspections, the most frequent shortcoming at piggeries was the lack of material with which the animals could fulfil their natural rooting and digging instincts. Nearly one in three farms that came under inspection did not have enough stimulating material for the pigs, such as straw or peat.
The most frequent shortcomings concerned cleanliness and safety, and the inadequate size of the pens where the animals were kept. In some cases they were not given enough water.
At some pig farms the teeth of piglets were routinely broken off, and male piglets were castrated at a later age than the law allows.
EVIRA says that the problems were not caused by ignorance or a lack of expertise, but rather the expense that would have been incurred from following the regulations, and from the increased demands for productivity.
Last year was the first time that the EU animal welfare inspections were conducted by provincial veterinarians specialised in enforcing regulations, and not by municipal veterinarians. Consequently, the supervision was more uniform on a national level.
The number of inspections conducted on the basis of a suspicion of neglect rose to nearly 4,400, which is about 1,000 more than in previous years. Action was taken in about 40 per cent of the inspections that were undertaken on the basis of suspected neglect, and in six per cent of cases, urgent measures were required.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Bigger cages, or a ban on fur farming? (18.1.2011)
Finnish animal rights group releases fresh video material taken at fur farm (5.11.2010)
Agriculture Minister urges fur farmers to shape up (19.2.2010)