Reasons for Necessity of Banning of Breeding Animals for Fur in Croatia

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Animal Friends Croatia organization thinks that Draft of the Animal Protection Act, which is to be produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, should contain a regulation about banning of breeding animals for fur, and that the arguments of Ministry of Agriculture Department and the opinion of Croatian Chamber of Commerce against such regulation do not take into consideration scientific cognitions related to protection and welfare necessity for animals which are bred for fur, as well as other reasons which refer to necessity for such ban, which we want to point out.

Absence of the legal regulation for breeding animals for fur

Except for the general stimulations from the Directive about farm animals, European Union currently doesn't have any specific regulations whatsoever to regulate keeping and breeding animals for fur production, it is left to discretion of the national legislations of the member states. On June 22, 1999 Standing Committee of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes adopted the Recommendation for the Welfare of Animals kept for Farming Purposes, but which it is not legally binding.

In Croatia, protection of animals bred for fur manufacturing is not regulated even by the actual Animal Welfare Act (National Gazette 19/99), neither by sub-legislation official acts. Book of regulations on animal welfare concerning slaughtering or putting to death (National Gazette 116/05) prescribes only the manners in which animals bred for fur manufacture are to be killed.

In the Draft Proposal of Animal Protection Act, Article 37, section 4, it is enacted that Minister establishes conditions and manners in which the animals bred for fur manufacture should be kept, and also registration methods for physical persons and legal entities and keeping records from Article 44 of this Act. That means that book of regulations with which conditions for breeding animals for the fur manufacturing purposes would be enacted are yet to be made, but we hold that even in that way, welfare protection of animals bred for fur in Croatia cannot be regulated, so the only way is prohibition of that kind of breeding.

Breeding animals for fur in Croatia

Chinchilla d.o.o. is the only fur manufacturer in Croatia and years ago it held 50% of the chinchilla fur world production, but production is in decrease for the last few years, which Mr. Robert Tkalcec, the firm owner, personally confessed, the argument of the Chamber of Commerce that there is a significant number of subcontractors, almost 300 families, among whom are a lot of demilitarised Croatian soldiers, who gain their primary or additional earnings in that way, doesn't go in favour of allowing fur-bearing animals in Croatia. According to information we received from veterinary inspectors and subcontractors, Robert Tkalcec is the only one who profits from such manufacturing, while subcontractors have complained on number of occasions that they have invested a lot, and but have gained a little, and that the buy-out itself has not been conducted in a fully legal manner.

Chinchilla breeders don't have registered companies, and they keep animals in basements, attics, garages, byres, so even veterinarians admit that it is impossible to conduct breeding surveillance. Even if there was a book of regulations it is impossible to supervise breeding conditions because the number of veterinarian inspectors is too small and the black market is rather big.

Chinchilla breeding isn't a significant industry in Croatia on which depends the existence of numerous families, nor it can be put on the same level as cattle breeding or some other industry, as the Bureau of Agriculture wants to suggest. One company and few hundred people's earnings (for lot of them it's just an extra profit) cannot be an argument for that kind of manufacture preservation in Croatia, the state with a few million people – considering the total number of people in Croatia, we are talking about very small percentage of population, whose existence does not depend on chinchilla fur production. Five-year transition time (which is quite a lot of time), which we proposed for the Draft Proposal of Animal Protection Law, allows adjustment to everyone involved in chinchilla breeding to some other kind of production.

Welfare and protection of animals bred for fur

In 2001, Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW), upon EU Commission request, issued a statement about breeding of animals for fur production in EU. Although the statement is discussing welfare of all animals bred for fur in Europe, it is emphasized that the biggest problems are perceived exactly in the chinchilla farm raising, though that kind of breeding includes only a small part of fur industry. The statement contains scientific evaluation of animal welfare, scientifically established recommendations towards animal welfare improvement and emphasizes an absence of scientific works relating to protection of chinchilla in breeding.

It is concluded that in chinchilla farm raising for fur production very little attention is given to their welfare. Biggest disadvantages in keeping animals are cramped cages and impossibility of a normal animal behavior, as well as breeding pots insufficiency, restricted access to sand bath, big plastic collars on females necks, and insufficient space in cages makes jumping impossible. That kind of keeping and breeding conditions results in abnormal stereotype behavior, fear, reproduction disorders, and offspring mortality. Considering chinchillas are wild animals that jump when upset and during movement, inadequate cage height can cause injuries because animals hit their heads onto the top of the cage. Keeping conditions itself causes abnormal behavior like endless repetition of same movements and motions in the cage, food-taking refusal, self-inflicted injuries, infliction of injuries to each other (fur biting, ears injured or snapped off, eyes poked out, tails snapped off) which are a result of boredom, stress, cage congestion, absence of food enrichment elements, inadequate feeding and noise (Haferbeck 1982; Kersten 1996; Schuurman 1996).

There are only a few studies about frequency of diseases with farm-bred chinchillas. Christensen (1989), based on research conducted between 1983 and 1987 says that offspring mortality is 24%. In second research babies' mortality from pneumonia is around 47%, from starvation 16% and from listerosis disease is 1%. In other 26% death is caused by various infections. The most common cause of death for chinchillas is gastrointestinal diseases. Gastroenteritis is the cause of high mortality, and it is a result of stress, low hygiene, vitamin insufficiency, rotten food, unclean water or food poisoned with chemicals, which results in loss of appetite, total apathy and sudden death. Flatulency caused by feeding changes and absence of certain kind of bacteria result in anxiety in animal that lies in the cage with its legs outstretched, obviously suffering in pain. Listeriosis is common infection caused by bacteria that attacks nervous system resulting in convulsions, blindness and rectum prolapse. Symptoms are apathy, loss of appetite, animal is suffering from spasms and makes a whining sounds. Haemorrhagic septicaemia is an infectious disease with symptoms like pneumonia, coughing, diarrhoea and apathy in animal. The disease develops due to environmental change, congestion and stress.

Other diseases are: infective skin diseases; abnormal teeth growth due to inadequate feeding; mastitis, which as a result has a partial or total lack of milk production, and because of what mother sometimes kills its baby; metritis – acute womb infection developed during littering and similar.

Chinchilla d.o.o. used to kill chinchillas by neck breaking, and now they claim that they are suffocating animals with gas. During the killing by gas, suffocation and muscle spasms occur, and animals make painful sounds. Other methods of putting chinchillas to death are 5 ml injection of 40 percent chloral hydrate solution into the abdominal cavity or by electrocution.

Considering the number of diseases which can develop with chinchillas due to breeding conditions itself and considering the cruel killing methods, it is clear that it's impossible to conduct breeding control, evaluation on whether the breeders are giving the medicine to animals or in which way they are killed. Therefore, the only way for chinchilla protection is prohibition their breeding for fur production.

Ecological consequences of breeding animals for fur production and threat to human health

Chinchilla d.o.o. from Cakovec for example, only during first six months of 2001, made 10,5 tons of corpses, which is a horrifying quantity considering how small animal chinchilla is. That kind of quantity opens questions about excoriated animals corpses disposal and disastrous consequences for environment.

Process of chemical tanning stabilizes collagen and protein fibre so skin actually stops to biodegrade. Workers employed in fur production process in Chinchilla d.o.o. use a carcinogenic three-valent and six-valent chrome, which increases the risk of testicle cancer, while high concentrations of dangerous substances for fur processing like led, cyanide and formaldehyde pollute water, which can cause leukemia with local people. According to American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all toxics that contain chrome is considered hazardous and dangerous. Inadequate waste handling can lead to water contamination. According to study issued by Ministry of Health State of New York, more than fifty percent of testicle cancer victims are among skin-tanning employees.

Ethical unacceptability of breeding animals for fur production

Breeding animals for fur production is considered unacceptable in civilised world, and United Kingdom and Austria banned breeding animals for fur production by law. Austria issued such a ban primarily based on ethical unacceptability of such breeding, although the fur manufacture itself was a significant industry – 1970s in Austria existed few hundred farms, in 1990 there was 43, and in the time the ban got issued there was only few left. Based on present actions and campaigns, which Animal Friends Croatia organization has carried out, it was clear that citizens' consciousness regarding fur industry is extremely high. Because of that, Croatian citizens covet such ban and consider fur industry a disgrace for Croatia. On March 28, 2006, Environmental Protection Department upon Ministry of Culture issued a Book of regulations regarding transboundary transaction and trading protected species (NN 34/06), in which seal fur import is banned. We think that due to global disapproval of breeding animals for fur, irrelevancy of fur industry for Croatian economy, local public support to ban of fur-bearing animals breeding, and Croatian political reputation in European Union and world, it is necessary to include regulation about ban of breeding animals for fur production into the Draft Proposal of Animal Protection Act, and thus to give Government and parliament mandataries opportunity to express their opinion.


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Published on April 13th, 2006.

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