Since the beginning of time, people have clothed themselves in furs. In
cold regions such as Finland, furs were a means to keep oneself warm.
Animals were hunted both for their meat and their furs. Later on, furs
started to be worn mainly for fashion purposes. Simultaneously, hunting
turned into organised fur farming.
In Finland, the need to wear animal furs in order to keep oneself
warm has disappeared, and nowadays almost all furs produced go abroad.
Fur farming is a profitable industry and an important employer in
western parts of the country. Finland has expressed its support for the
industry on several occasions, even if more and more European countries
have decided to ban it.
Most Finns support the fur industry’s continuation in Finland, so it
is unlikely that the legal situation will change in the next few years.
Nevertheless, the industry has been experiencing negative publicity in
the past few years, and the number of people wanting to abolish it has
started to grow. This paper concentrates on the movement against the
Finnish fur industry. Why and how is the fur industry being attacked?
How has the activism affected the industry?
The focus of this paper is current fur farming and activism by
animal rights campaigners, especially during the past two or three
years. In light of the developments of recent years, suggestions are
also proposed concerning the future of the fur industry.
In the paper, the terms “fur industry”, “fur farming”, and “fur
production” will be used more or less interchangeably. If not specified,
these terms will always refer to Finland’s fur industry.
Fur Farming in Finland
According to Animalia1, the leading
Finnish federation for the protection of animals, the captivating of
animals for fur purposes in Finland started at the beginning of the 20th
century with foxes, followed by mink farming in the 1930s2. Fur farming reached its peak in the
mid-1980s, when there were over 6000 fur farms in Finland. However, due
to the recession of the early 1990s, the number of fur farms dropped
drastically; the number nowadays is around 1000. A great majority of the
fur farms are situated in western parts of Finland, near the
A mink on its hind legs in its cage being fed by a fur farmer
(Picture source: STKL-FPF15).
For decades, Finland has been one of the major fur countries of the
world. Some figures are presented in Turkistilojen talous ja alan
merkitys sekä tulevaisuuden näkymät Suomessa [Economy, Importance, and
Future Prospects of the Fur Industry in Finland] (Karhula, Latukka,
and Rekilä 9): In the early 1980s, Finland provided 60% of the world’s
fox pelts and 20% of the mink pelts. In 2006 the percentages were far
lower, but still impressive: 20% of the fox pelts and 5% of the mink
The fur industry also provides employment for a significant number of
people in Finland. According to the Finnish Fur Breeders’ Association,
the industry employs about 17,500 people4, and the industry’s annual exportation revenue
accounts to an impressive 300 million euros (STKL,
In the past few years the industry has run into difficulties and
average pelt prices have been low. Recently, however, the trend has been
upwards. Sales went up by 119% in 2010 (Koivikko), and the average mink
pelt price was fifty euros in early 2012, while the corresponding number
only three years previously was around twenty euros (Helsingin,
Maaseudun). It would seem that the industry is starting to boom
Finland’s policy concerning the fur industry can be regarded as
exceptional, since on most matters Finland follows the same path as its
neighbouring Scandinavian countries. In Sweden and in Denmark, fur
farming has been made impossible through legislation5. In Europe, countries that have illegalised
fur farming or made it impossible include Great Britain, Austria,
Bulgaria, Switzerland and Croatia. The Netherlands has also strongly
restricted the country’s fur farming. However, Finland does not intend
to illegalise fur farming, and has always been active in trying to
prevent such intentions in other countries (Suhonen 4-5).
Fur farms began to be certified in Finland in 2005. The optional
certificate can be gained if the farm meets sufficient requirements
concerning, for example, the animals’ wellbeing and breeding.
Approximately 50% of Finnish fur farms have gained the certificate thus
far (STKL, Turkistilojen). While the certificate is optional, it
is always beneficial to a farm’s business to have an official
certificate to draw buyers.
Why is the Fur Industry Controversial?
It would seem that a great number of people in Finland depend on the
fur industry; moreover, the fur industry is very lucrative to Finland.
In that case, why has the industry aroused so much controversy,
especially in recent years?
The fur industry is disapproved of in Finland by animal protection
federations and other people for several reasons. The Finnish Federation
for Animal Welfare Associations6 lists
the reasons why their associates wish to make the industry illegal. They
state that minks and foxes are still wild animals, forced to live in
small cages (0.8 square metres for one fox and 0.255 square metres for
one mink) and are not able to follow their natural instincts in
captivity. The foxes are unable to dig and hide in a den box. Minks have
an urge to swim, which they cannot do in fur farms. Raccoon dogs are
forced to give up their hibernation, and the mother and the father are
not able to take care of their cubs together, as they would in normal
Contrary to the fur farms, Finnish zoos are required to make sure the
animals have as natural an environment to live in as possible. For
example, in a zoo, two fox families have to have at least 1000 square
metres of living space. This is roughly 999 square metres more space
than what foxes in fur farms have (Oikeutta eläimille, Yleistä).
Oikeutta eläimille1, a federation for
the protection of animals, adds that due to the small living space and
non-stimulating environment, fur-bred animals often become deranged and
engage in erratic behaviour7. The animal
protection federations criticise fur farmers for feeding the animals
with extremely fatty food, partly consisting of carcasses of fur
animals, in order to produce shiny fur. Oikeutta eläimille also
criticises the inhuman way of killing the fur animals with electric
shocks or by using gas (Oikeutta eläimille, Yleistä).
The Finnish Federation for Animal Welfare Association points out that
fur farming is not healthy for the environment due to the nitrogen and
phosphorus effluents, and ammonia emissions spread by the animals’
manure. The effluents and emissions are dangerous for the local
environment: local forests and water areas get contaminated. The
association points out that all fur farms in groundwater areas were to
be removed by 2005 (SEY), followed by new directives in Finnish law on
water areas in 2004. Nevertheless, some farms have remained in their
places. As of yet, the fur farms have not been removed by force. The
association also states that fur farming has a negative, indirect effect
on the environment; it consumes enormous amounts of non-renewable energy
sources, and the chemicals used in the handling of the furs are
unhealthy for the environment (SEY).
Animalia publishes posters to support their campaign
Fur Free Finland [in] 2025.
This poster shows the cycle two
winner of Finland’s Next Top Model Nanna Grundfelt holding a
dog and asking: “What is the difference between an
arctic fox and a poodle?”
(Picture source: Animalia).
Animalia does not think that the fur industry is an important
provider of employment in Finland – for most of the farmers fur farming
is a secondary occupation. The majority of fur farmers are closing in on
pension age, and “they already knew the risks concerning the industry
before deciding on it”8. Animalia also
thinks that the state should financially support the fur farmers’
transfer to other businesses (Animalia, Turkiselinkeino).
Animalia thinks that like several other European countries, Finland
should shift to illegal fur farming through a transitional period. They
strive for a “Fur Farm Free Finland [in] 2025”8.
The Finnish philosopher Elisa Aaltola and the environmentalist
reporter Veli-Risto Cajander wrote in their 2005 article that Finland is
lagging behind other countries in both legislation and publicity
regarding the current state of the fur-farming industry. Since 2005,
though, the fur industry has gained substantially more (negative)
attention, so the latter claim about publicity may no longer be
relevant. Aaltola and Cajander criticised the fact that the conditions
in Finnish fur farms do not meet the minimum standards of animal
protection legislation. They pointed out that due to the fact that there
is most often only one person to take care of thousands of animals, sick
or hurt foxes or minks are rarely properly taken care of – in the
inspections in 2000, only 30% of the farms were certified as following
the animal protection law. In 2011, 61% of the fur farms under
inspection were recognised not to follow the animal protection law of
the European Union (SEY). Aaltola and Cajander think that “an ethically
aware society should recognise the intolerability of the
situation8 [of the fur industry in
In addition to the minority of activists striving to illegalise fur
farming in Finland altogether, many people think that more efficient
supervising of the fur farms would ensure the animals’ wellbeing. In other
words, many think that the current Finnish legislation concerning fur
farming is adequate, but that there are some individual cases where the
law is not being properly followed. As mentioned above, it would seem that
most Finnish fur farms do not in fact follow the law, and it might be that
people who have negative feelings for the fur industry have based their
opinion on fur farms violating the animal protection law. Some fur farmers
are themselves concerned about how a few others handle their farms, and
they have notified the authorities of these “rotten apples”8, as the fur farmer Esa Rantakangas calls them.
He also encourages spontaneous visits to fur farms, so that people could
see what the situation is really like (Huomenta Suomi).
How is the Industry Being Attacked?
Before the 21st century, the activism in Finland included mostly
releasing minks and foxes from fur farms into nature. This sort of
illegal activism is strongly criticised even by the opponents of fur
industry, since the large number of predators in one area is harmful to
other animals. Moreover, since fur animals have lived their lives in
captivity, they are most likely not able to survive in the nature for
long. Even though some instances of animal release still occur every
once in a while, nowadays the activists try to raise awareness by other
Public opposition to fur farming in Finland can roughly be said to be
of two kinds: the moderate and the aggressive approaches. The main
representative of the moderate approach is Animalia. Animalia emphasizes
that their association engages in “strictly legal activities” and wishes
to illegalise fur farming by 2025. They support illegalising via a
transitional period, adding that all fur farms should immediately be
inspected and no transitional period allowed for those fur farms that
have violations (Animalia, Turkistarhaton).
Animalia’s main focus is to influence politicians and political
parties, and to attract support from well-known Finns in order to
promote their cause. Animalia encourages individuals to vote for
candidates and political parties who are against fur farming in
elections, and also to contact Members of Parliament with reference to
fur farming (Turkistarhaton). In 2010, when Animalia started
their Fur Farm Free Finland [in] 2025 campaign, they published a list of
100 names of Finnish public personalities who were supporters of their
The aggressive approach, the one that is mostly shown in the media,
focuses on raising awareness. The approach can be said to be practised
by another animal protection federation, Oikeutta Eläimille, as well as
by other parties. They object to the fur industry by, for example,
bringing into publicity video material and photographs from Finnish and
foreign fur farms, a practice not supported or carried out by
federations such as Animalia. Campaign material in the form of small
posters or stickers by Oikeutta eläimille are often encountered in
public places in Finland’s largest cities. It has been a trend in recent
years of these activists to publish extensive video material collected
from dozens of fur farms every now and then, the latest release dating
from spring 2011.
The Finnish Fur Breeders’ campaign included this
picture with the text: ”Besides furs, they also want to forbid you
from having many other things”8.
(Picture source: STKL-FPF15).
The 2009 Campaign of the Fur Farmers
The fur farmers started a campaign of their own in 2009, criticising
the activists and defending their occupation. With
their campaign they “wish to openly bring up the fact that it [the fur
industry] is only one form of animal production among others [including,
for example, poultry farming]”8. They
emphasized that the same ethical questions apply to the other production
forms as well, and that the fur industry was simply easier to attack
because it is a small-scale industry compared to most other animal
production forms. They think it is irrelevant what is done after the death
of the animals; the main focus should be on how the animals are treated
while they are alive (STKL, Turkisalan 1).
The campaign pointed out that the communication of the animal rights
activists always involves misrepresentation. They mentioned cases where
Norwegian activists have exaggerated the number of fur farms from which
they have collected video material, or when they have distorted
material. The fur farmers also said that it is ridiculous to claim that
people working in animal production were not devoted to or interested in
the animals’ wellbeing (Turkisalan 1).
The campaign defended the industry by stating that the law nowadays
prevents any fur farm from being harmful to the environment. They also
pointed out that the industry is a very important employer; the
unemployment rate of the communities that have fur industry is generally
lower than other communities’ in the same region (Turkisalan 2).
The campaign criticised the European countries that have illegalised
fur farming, saying that the reason behind the illegalising was that fur
farming was contrary to public morals, not the animals’ wellbeing. This,
according to the fur farmers’ campaign, is “a dangerous way of thinking
that leads to the despotism of a minority”8. They think that if fur farming was
illegalised in Finland, it would only move to other countries where the
legislation and animal wellbeing would be very different
Oikeutta eläimille responded to the fur farmers’ campaign by
spreading posters with the claim: “Fur farmers are violent not only
towards the animals, but also towards people who defend the defenceless.
Fur farmers are all set to shoot these people, an action which they have
already taken”8 (Uusi Suomi,
Raju). The claim refers to an event in the late 1990s when a fur
farmer started shooting at activists who had trespassed on his farm; the
activists left the area before potentially being harmed.
Spring 2010: Material from Fur Farms Released
One of the photographs published in 2010 showed a fox with an
(Picture source: Oikeutta eläimille).
Animal rights activists attacked the Finnish fur industry in both
2010 and 2011 by publishing extensive video and photograph material shot
in Finnish fur farms. The material from 2010 included photographs and
videos from twenty-nine different Finnish fur farms. The material was
displayed in the Finnish television show YLE A-studio9; it strongly suggested that sick and hurt
animals were not properly taken care of and that the animal protection
law was not being followed in many aspects. The animals had open wounds
and acted erratically. After the video material was published, Evira,
the Finnish Food Safety Authority, stated that there was reason to
believe that all the fur farms in question had had violations and all
the farms were to be inspected immediately (Helsingin,
The published material raised the question of how sick animals are
treated. During the controversy, Laura Hänninen, Doctor of Veterinary
Medicine from Helsinki University, was interviewed. Ms Hänninen
commented on the state of the animals shown in the material, stating
that some of the animals are in such a bad state that they ought to have
been put down, and by no means should the sick animals have been kept in
the same cages with healthy animals (Helsingin, Sairaat).
The Finnish Fur Breeders’ Association’s executive manager, Tuula
Dahlman, responded to the controversy on behalf of the association by
saying that the activists’ material was solely based on individual cases;
the animals shown in the material were under surveillance and were
undergoing drug treatment. Ms Dahlman said there is a sort of infirmary in
every fur farm, an easy target for the activists, which is why the
material showed sick animals (Sairaat).
Also extremely discussed during the 2010 controversy was the
fact that Oikeutta eläimille claimed that one of the twenty-nine fur
farms belonged to the Board Chairman of the Finnish Fur Breeders’
Association. Material from the farm in question included injured minks
fighting each other, with one of the minks missing an ear. The
association provided the location and general information
on the farm to back their claim (Helsingin, Oikeutta).
The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry later said that
all twenty-nine fur farms had been inspected between 22 February and 5
March 2010. Five were found to have had violations. This included partly
broken cages and animals which were insufficiently taken care of. Animals
in a state to be put down, however, were not found. These five fur farms
were given a date by which the violations were to be resolved (Ministry),
but the farms were not punished in any other way. In addition, the Finnish
Fur Breeders’ Association’s own veterinarian inspected twenty-eight of the
farms and found violations in six of them. Three of those six were
certified; they lost their certificates due to the violations. However,
they were able to reapply for their certificates after a six month waiting
period (Helsingin, Kolme).
Besides the obvious condemnation by fur farmers, the activists faced
another type of criticism during the controversy as well. Esa Kääntee, a
veterinarian, disapproved of the way the material was published.
According to Mr Kääntee, the activists broke the law when they did not
report the fur farms immediately to the authorities (Helsingin,
Eläinlääkäri). According to Mr Kääntee, due to the way the material
was published, the fur farmers had enough time to clean up before the
inspections. He was the veterinarian to inspect the farm of
Finnish Fur Breeders’ Association Board Chairman Ulf Enroth – finding it
to be completely impeccable.
The 2010 material release resulted in raised awareness to the
industry. The matter was extensively discussed in the media and led to
demonstrations against the fur industry in the Finnish cities Helsinki
The 2011 Material Release
Material published by Oikeutta eläimille in 2011. Top: mink with
an ear wound; center: mink with an open wound; bottom: a dead fox
left in its cage.
(Picture source: Oikeutta eläimille).
Almost precisely one year later, Oikeutta eläimille struck again.
This time the material shot was published on the television channel MTV3
by 45 minuuttia10, and the material was
more extensive than ever published before. The activists had visited an
impressive number of eighty-three different Finnish fur farms –
comprising about eight percent of Finland’s overall fur farms. The
material was shot between May and November of 2010, and included partly
the same fur farms as the year before (Turkistarhauksen).
The material showed animals in extremely bad shape: missing limbs,
bad eye infections and gingivitis, open wounds, hind leg paralysis,
deformities, animals engaged in erratic behaviour, and even carcasses
filled with worms and animals eating each other. The material suggested
that sick animals are not taken care of or put down when the situation
requires it. The activists had visited some of the fur farms twice. Some
extremely sick animals (missing limbs) were in the same physical state
when the farm was visited for the second time (Turkistarhauksen).
45 minuuttia also interviewed Annikki Latvala-Kiesilä, a supervising
veterinarian, by asking her opinion on the material. Ms Latvala-Kiesilä
stated that several animals in the material ought to have been put down.
While the material released showed animals suffering due to violations
against the law, some of the animals in the videos and photographs were,
nonetheless, being taken care of according to legal requirements. As
Sanna Hellström, veterinarian of Korkeasaari zoo, stated in the program:
”What terrifies the viewers in the material might actually be completely
lawful”8. She also expressed her
amazement at the fact that the required conditions for the animals in
fur farms and in zoos are so different, referring to the much larger
living space for minks and foxes in zoos (Turkistarhauksen).
45 minuuttia also interviewed fur farmers. Tuula Dahlman, executive
manager of the Finnish Fur Breeders’ Association, stated that the
current law ensures the animals’ wellbeing. According to her, the
certification system is a reliable way of telling if the fur farm treats
the animals and handles everything well. She said that people who had
visited fur farms were very happy with what they saw. What might be
improved, according to Ms Dahlman, is added supervising of fur farms by
the authorities. The reporter Hanna Takala commented on Ms Dahlman’s
statement by questioning the ability of the authorities to supervise
thousands of animals on a regular visiting basis to the fur farms. She
added that material was also filmed from several certified farms, which
indicates that the certification system does not ensure the animals’
wellbeing at all (Turkistarhauksen).
Lasse Joensuu, a fur farmer, stated that the supervising system had
improved to such a large extent that the animals’ wellbeing is a fact.
Mr Joensuu said that the material was purely based on individual cases.
Ms Takala responded to this by stating that, almost without exception,
the material showed animals suffering from at least eye infections on
every farm. Ms Takala noted that if every single animal is checked each
day as the fur farmers claim, there would not be animals as sick as the
material indicated (Turkistarhauksen).
Ms Takala drew attention to the fact that similar material was
published the previous year, but “after the general discussion on the
horrifying state of the industry, the fur farming went on like nothing
had happened”8. According to Ms Takala,
despite all the negativity associated to it, the Finnish fur industry is
doing better all the time. The total sales of the accounting period
before the airing of the programme were almost a half billion euros
In 45 minuuttia, Matti Aho from the Ministry of Agriculture and
Forestry said, after seeing parts of the material, that “In animal
production the animals always suffer. The question [with the fur
industry] is how much suffering is allowed”8. According to Mr Aho, the fur industry differs
from zoos so greatly that the state of the animals of the two cannot be
compared to each other (Turkistarhauksen).
What was also revealed in the ramifications of the material being
published was that a Board Member of the Finnish Fur Breeders’
Association, Esa Rantakangas, and the Board Chairman of Turkistuottajat
Oyj11, Jorma Kauppila, were neglecting
the animals’ wellbeing in their farms (Turkistarhauksen).
Immediately after the airing of the programme, Esa Rantakangas blamed
individual farmers for not properly taking care of the animals, calling
these fur farmers “rotten apples”8.
Jorma Kauppila made similar statements, adding that some fur farmers
needed to “catch up”8. One week after
the airing of 45 minuuttia, the programme showed the fur farmers in
question material filmed exclusively from their farms. The two admitted
to their mistakes, stating that there had indeed been malpractice also
in their farms (Takala and Rahkola).
After the material was published, The Finnish Fur Breeders’
Association inspected thirty of the total of eighty-three fur farms,
finding serious problems in only one of them, but some defects in over
half of them. In addition, Evira instructed local administrations to
take care of the inspections of their area (YLE, Yli puolella).
The eighty-three fur farms were given general orders and remarks. Just
as in 2010, the controversy aroused enormous discussion in the media and
demonstrations. The demonstration in Helsinki, for example, gathered
hundreds of people together to protest against fur farming.
The 2011 Open Day on Fur Farms
Demonstration against fur farming in Helsinki
on 23 February
(Picture source: Vesa Moilanen).
Due to the negative publicity the fur industry had been experiencing,
fur farms from all over Finland decided to be open to the public on 15
October 2011. A total of eight different farms in seven municipalities
were included in the arrangement. Visitors had to sign up in advance and
they were allowed to take photographs. According to Max Arhippainen from
the Finnish Fur Breeders’ Association, these photographs would reflect
the truthful situation better than the material published by activists
The open day attracted great curiosity. Some fur farmers had to turn
down a second busload of curious people, since only a few dozen visitors
can be allowed on a fur farm at one time to ensure that the animals do
not get agitated (Helsingin, Häkin). The fur farmers
planned on redoing the successful open day the next year. They think
that being open about their industry is the way to change public
attitude towards fur production (Turkistarhat avaavat).
Animal rights activists published material from the open day as well.
This material shows animals having similar problems as in the material
filmed in secret: eye infections, gingivitis, foot flaws, and erratic
behaviour. The findings were astonishing, according to Oikeutta
eläimille, since the fur farmers had had time to clean up their farms
well before the open day (Turkistarhojen avointen).
Even though most of the fur farms on the open day were recognised by
the visitors to be taking care of the animals according to legal
requirements, not all visitors were satisfied with this. A student
expressed her concern over the small size of the cages (Helsingin,
Häkin) and the executive manager of Animalia, Kati Pulli, stated
that while everything on the farm she visited looked completely legal,
it was not enough for the association, since Animalia thinks that the
current law does not ensure animals’ wellbeing; Finnish fur farming should
be abolished altogether (Useat).
The Fur Industry and Politics
Finnish politicians and to some extent political parties can be
divided into supporters and opponents of the fur industry in Finland.
The Greens of Finland and the Left Alliance have declared their wish to
end the fur industry in Finland (Animalia, Turkistarhaus). After
the 2011 controversy, the Green League demanded that banning the fur
industry in Finland be included in the 2011-2015 government platform
(Vihreät). The Social Democratic Parliamentary group has also
expressed that there need to be changes for the better. It can be said
that the rest of the main political parties, five of them overall, are
supporters of the industry. Parties that have publicly expressed their
support for the industry include the Centre Party, the True Finns, and
the Swedish People’s Party of Finland (Animalia, Turkistarhaus).
Generally the Parliament’s attitude towards the fur industry has been
positive. During the term 2007-2011, the government decided to protect
the fur industry by, for example, including the fur industry in a
programme through which the industry would gain financial help
(Turkistarhaus). According to Animalia, this sort of practice
differs extensively from the ones of other European countries
(Turkistarhaus). In 2011, the government made plans to research
possibilities to financially aid fur farmers voluntarily willing to
change their occupation (YLE, Koskinen). According to the
Minister of Agriculture, Jari Koskinen, this system is highly unlikely
to be fulfilled due to the bad economy. The Minister deemed fur
production to be a good countryside livelihood (Koskinen).
In 2011 the question of fur production was in the public eye in
connection with the parliamentary elections12. Animal rights activists were adamant to find
out where the candidates stood on the issue of the fur industry.
Animalia published a list of candidates who had come out against the fur
industry (Animalia, Eduskuntavaalien) in order to encourage all
voters who opposed the industry to pick their candidate from the list.
The list included hundreds of candidate names, which is an indicator of
the rising awareness of the fur industry in Finnish politics.
A former Prime Minister of Finland, Mari Kiviniemi (Centre Party), is
very well known in Finland for her support for the fur industry. She has
often been seen wearing a fur in public events, and she makes positive
statements about fur farming in Finland. During her 2007 election
campaign, Ms Kiviniemi received financial support from the Finnish fur
farmers’ auction house Turkistuottajat Oyj. After receiving attention
due to her positive views on fur production, Ms Kiviniemi laughed at the
issue and called herself playfully “Mink Mari”8 (Uusi Suomi, Kiviniemen).