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The decline of the Swedish fur industry

A wild mink.
Photo: Shutterstock

From over 1 300 farms to less than 40 in 50 years. The Swedish fur industry is declining at a rapid pace, and now it’s going faster than ever.

Fur farming came to Sweden in the 1920’s. Over 1300 businesses were active when it was most economically viable in the 1970’s. They farmed foxes and chinchillas, but mainly minks. After the 1970’s the farms went fewer and bigger with the same total production of around 2 million pelts a year. But when the then new Animal Welfare Act in 1988 stated that animals should be able to behave naturally, the industry started to become questioned from a scientific point of view. Shortly after that the government stated that foxes need to be able to socialize, dig and move around. That led to the closing of all fox fur farms in 2001 when the legislation came into force, because of no economically viable legal alternative to wire cages. 

The amount of farms had then declined to around 200 farms in the country. 

The chinchillas and minks were also discussed in relation to this legislation, but got no specific demands on how they should be able to behave naturally in the cages until 2012. Chinchillas would after a short transition period only be kept in larger cages with enrichment. No chinchilla farmers could live up to that criteria and all went bankrupt. The last chinchilla farm was closed in 2014.

Around 80 mink farms were then left. 

Since 2014 mink farming has also been on the decline, when it started to be mandatory to have climbing cages, and enrichment of some sort. The high production costs with a low price for pelts on the market turned many farmers into bankruptcy. It is now estimated that only around 40 farms are left, and that they produce approximately half of the number of pelts that they said were produced in 2018. At most 500 000 pelts. The corona pandemic has made the sale of pelts decline even more and it is estimated that no fur farms can handle it economically if they don’t have other businesses than minks. On top of that, they are criticized because of the risk of infection of covid-19 on minks. 

If the market for mink pelts continues to be as it is at the moment, we will probably see the last mink farm in Sweden within five years.

Anna Harenius

Anna Harenius | Sakkunnig

11 september 2020

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