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European fur imports, production falling out of fashion

By Juliette Portala

(Reuters) -The value of imports for fur clothing, accessories and other items in the European Union has dropped more than 60% over the past decade, animal welfare organisation Four Paws said on Friday, as it called for a ban on fur farms.

"The fur industry is in freefall, which is why the question of the relevance of an industry based on animal cruelty arises even more acutely today," Thomas Pietsch, head of Wild Animals in Entertainment and Textiles at Four Paws, said.

In a push to appeal to younger shoppers, increasingly sensitive to ethical and environmental issues, fashion labels have committed to banning animal fur, including Prada, Kering, Moncler, Valentino and Versace.

From 2011 to 2021, the trade value of imports in the EU slumped to $138.3 million from around $363.6 million, based on the United Nations Comtrade database.

But for Mark Oaten, chief executive officer of the International Fur Federation, the figures were not as "simple" as Four Paws presented them.

He said the economic slowdown in China had impacted the presence of Chinese consumers in Europe, a situation that was later worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

"In addition, these figures ignore fur trim which is a huge part of the current fashion trend," Oaten stated.

French luxury giant LVMH, which still sells fur, said in April it was partnering with Imperial College London and Central Saint Martins to develop lab-grown fur fibres.

According to Four Paws, fur also poses health risks, as evidenced by COVID-19 outbreaks in mink farms that led to the mass culling of infected animals in 2020 in Denmark and the Netherlands.

"The end is nigh for fur farms," Pietsch said. "This barbaric and outdated trade has no place in our society or modern economy. There are now no arguments for it, the European Commission must finally act."

(Reporting by Juliette Portala, editing by Mike Harrison and Alex Richardson)