It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner) for securing such an important debate.
I start by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and my hon. Friend the Minister on their work so far in leading the way on tackling animal cruelty. However, we still have a long way to go. As an animal lover, vegetarian and lifelong animal rights activist, and as a compassionate human being, I urge the Minister to listen intently to the strong messages in this Chamber, coming from across the parties, in support of a ban.
I was pleased when fur farming was banned in England and Wales in 2000, and in Scotland in 2002. However, as we have discussed, fur products can still be legally imported from other countries and sold in the UK. In my opinion, the use of fur in 2018 is unnecessary and cruel. The fur trade is responsible for the suffering and death of more than 100 million animals each year—the figure was 135 million in 2015. The majority of the fur —about 85%—is produced by intensively farming animals in battery cage systems, as has been described.
Humane Society International has documented the conditions in which the majority of the animals are kept. I will touch on just a few points. As we have said, animals kept in battery cages on a fur farm are “at best” restrained for their whole lives in wire-floored cages hundreds of thousands of times smaller than their natural territory. They are denied their most basic behavioural needs. Many are killed by gassing or electrocution. Remember that those are the “best” conditions. Examples of the worst conditions of animal suffering in fur farms involve such things as cannibalism, poor psychological wellbeing, untreated wounds, deformities and injuries, and animals having been selectively bred to grow to unnaturally large sizes, with excessive folds of skin, which yield more fur. Then, finally, they are often brutally beaten and stamped to death, and some are even skinned alive.
Shockingly, 100 million animals every year live their entire lives in the barbaric conditions described. In the UK, leghold traps have been banned since 1958 because of their inhumaneness: animals caught in those traps suffer intense pain and injuries until the trapper returns to kill them. However, the three largest exporters of fur—Russia, Canada and the United States—have not banned the use of leghold traps, even though they are banned in the EU.
In 2016 the value of the fur imported into the UK was £55.6 million. The UK has some of the strongest animal welfare protections in the world. However, all we have done, as my hon. Friends have said, is outsource animal suffering to other countries. The only way to end the trade is to ban the sale of fur in the UK.
According to a 2018 YouGov poll, there is now major public backing for a ban; 69% of those participating supported a ban. I am pleased to say that 153 people in my constituency of Morley and Outwood have signed this petition and agree with me that we need a ban on the farming of wild animals in tiny wire cages, as it is demonstrably inhumane. There is no need for it in 21st-century Britain.
As I said, the Secretary of State has shown real leadership when it comes to banning ivory, introducing CCTV in slaughterhouses and cleaning up our oceans. I hope that he and his Ministers see the need to tackle this animal cruelty. In my opinion, by not banning fur, we are inadvertently condoning it by allowing it to be imported from other countries.