Prohibition of Fur Farming Bill 2018: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to prohibit the keeping of animals solely or primarily for slaughter for the value of their fur and to make related amendments to the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013.

This Bill gives the Dáil the opportunity to ban the cruel and unethical practice of fur farming in Ireland. It is a Bill that has the active support of campaigners in Ireland and is gathering huge momentum internationally as well. I thank the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Fur Free Alliance, the National Animal Rights Association, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, Respect for Animals and many other campaigners who support this Bill and are campaigning for a ban on fur farming in Ireland. I welcome those in the Gallery who are watching the beginning of this debate today and who have been waiting anxiously for this to be raised in the Parliament.

In Ireland, fur farming is done on three farms where there are approximately 200,000 mink. In the past, there was fox farming here as well, which is still legal although it is not done at the moment. I emphasise that mink are not domesticated animals and they fear humans. All other farmed animals generally are domesticated and do not fear humans in their daily contact. The EU Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare has described fur farming as inherently unethical and stated that it is not possible to stop it being cruel through regulation.

Mink are native to North America and Russia. They are semi-aquatic and live as solo hunters. In fur farms, they are kept in cages and away from what would be considered their natural habitat. Given that they are ferocious hunters-----

I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy, but is it not normal for a Minister to be in attendance in the House during the presentation of a Bill? Is that not a requirement?

It is a requirement.

I have become so used to this kind of thing that I did not bother raising it.

It is shocking. A Minister should be here.

Will we hang on, a Cheann Comhairle? There should be a Minister from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine present, should there not?

I understand the Minister for Education and Skills may join us.

It is disrespectful.

I thank Deputy Howlin.

I am sorry about that. My colleague stepped out.

Should we start again, a Cheann Comhairle?

The Deputy should start from where she left off.

In fur farms, mink are kept in cages and away from what would be considered their natural environment. Given that they are ferocious hunters, they are kept within strictly secure premises. The first law related to mink in Ireland was aimed at keeping them out of Ireland and to have regulations attached to any that might be here.

Public opinion is very firmly against fur farming and the fur industry. That is reflected in the fact that none of the major retailers in Ireland stocks fur products. When fur is identified in stores by campaigners, it is usually swiftly removed by retailers. Fur is produced here for the export market.

Fur farming is already illegal in Britain, the North and a range of countries across Europe. The Bill amends the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 to clarify that fur farming would be illegal here. The Act prohibits farming that is not in line with an animal's nature, type, species and breed, development, adaptation, domestication, psychological and behavioural needs. However, the Minister continues to issue fur farming licences. This Bill will give legal clarity on the need to ban fur farming.

To address the history of this issue in the Dáil, fur farming was to be wound down following a Government decision in 2009. Unfortunately, in 2011 the Labour Party-Fine Gael Government reversed that decision. While we would welcome a decision by the Minister not to renew licences and to issue regulations on this matter, I believe law is needed to prevent future Ministers reversing any such decision. People are aware that Fine Gael and the Labour Party voted for the 2005 Bill to ban fur farming before reversing their position in a later decision.

I have no doubt an argument will be made about jobs. The work on fur farms is seasonal and generally done by people who do not live here and travel in and out of the country. This is an idea whose time has come. Solidarity proposed a ban on circus animals and the Government acted swiftly in advance of that Bill being debated in the Dáil to regulate in that area. I appeal to Members of the Dáil of all parties to support the Bill. I also appeal to people who care about the issue to campaign vociferously and to ask Deputies and Senators to support the Bill. Under capitalism, the cruel treatment of animals can be highly profitable but any measures to stop cruel practices can challenge the profits of an industry. I have no doubt the fur farming industry will retaliate. It is, therefore, important that people lobby their public representatives to support this Bill.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.