Does the fur debate aid our pursuit of knowledge – or is it just counterproductive?

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”You are going to work for the fur-industry? I can’t respect you in the same way anymore”. This, among others, was a reaction I received, when I told my friends where I was going to work during the summer.

I’ve been working as an intern at the European Fur Breeders’ Association for almost three weeks now, and can gladly say that it has been a very informative and enjoyable experience. I’ve learnt a great deal about how the fur industry operates – and probably forgotten even more.

Before I arrived here in Brussels, I had a discussion about fur farming with a couple of close friends of mine, and I was not entirely sure what my stand was with regards to the industry. Many of them were disappointed with my choice of summer job due to own thoughts about the industry. But certainly, after this experience, I can say that I now have gotten a more informed and objective insight into the matter and I am glad to share it with anyone interested.

A few months ago, in Finland, a petition gathering signatures for a ban on fur production was organised. This is of particular interest as people came to our school to gain signatures from students who just had turned 18. By showing pictures of cute animals and by presenting all kinds of arguments against the fur industry, not surprisingly, a majority of the students signed the petition. Consequently, this raises a question of the significance and credibility of the petition. It just made me wonder if it is a fair representation of the opinion of the public when a great number of the ones who signed the petition have not got a clue of what is really going on?

During my stay here at the office, I have worked a lot with public affairs and communication, and when there have been less tasks at my table I have taken the opportunity to surf around on various different websites – both against and for fur – to find out more about what the opposing parts have to say. This ’research’ has given me insights on different points of views in the ongoing debate. That is, whether fur farming is something unethical and old-fashioned that should be banned, or if it is a legitimate agricultural activity that prioritises animal welfare and wants to get rid of the delusive claims that encircle it. Regardless of my own stance on these questions, I find it frightening how much the arguments and ’facts’ coming from each sides differ from each other. E.g. a Finnish anti-fur organisation writes on their website that the farmed animals still have the same needs and instincts as their wild cousins, and that they cannot behave in a manner that is typical for their species due to small cages. However, a scientific study on domestication states that ”fur farmed animals have [...] lived in a stable cage environment for at least 60 years. As compared to wild conspecifics, they are changed by domestication to cope better with farm conditions, including close proximity to humans and neighbouring animals”.
Now I wonder, how can people ever get to a fair and reasonable conclusion when contradicting claims circulate in the media and elsewhere? Maybe the ones who are the loudest shouters should check their facts to avoid misleading the public, or maybe the public should start thinking more critically and base conclusions on scientific research instead of opinionated claims.

Nevertheless, after this internship here at the office, I have definitely learned a lot when it comes to the fur sector; not only the political aspects, but also the importance of transparency and openness that appertains to the job. This opportunity to work closely with people who know the industry well and being able to ask them questions if something comes to mind, accompanied by reading and hearing about the thoughts on the opposing side, has given me a good overview of what is going on, and I think I am able to draw my own conclusions. All in all, I want to highlight that before deciding what you think about fur, do your research, visit a farm, look into the industry and see it with your own eyes and not through someone else’s.

Christina Rehnberg has been an intern at the European Fur Breeders’ Association for three weeks. She is 19 years old and from Finland.

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