Mink farming: a growing industry in Sweden
Mink farms are growing in Sweden, despite vocal campaigns to ban fur farming. As demand for mink fur spikes in foreign markets like China, more and more farmers here in Sweden are attracted to the trade.
For animal-rights activists, fur farming is highly contentious. But here in Sweden, more and more farmers are applying for permits to raise minks.
Johan Dalén is the Managing Director of the Swedish Fur Breeders' Association. He says both existing farmers and new entrepreneurs are attracted to the mink industry in Sweden.
"It is growing rapidly. Only this year around 100 serious farmers have called me up and judging by those who have received permits in the past few months I would say that the industry will grow by 20 to 25 percent in 2013," Dalén tells the P4 Blekinge station.
Dalén says the fur industry has become very profitable and that it could easily be twice or even three times as big as it is today.
And there is a growing global market for fur. In China, for instance, demand for high-quality furs among the newly wealthy has helped push pelt prices up. The Swedish production is almost exclusively focused on exports.
But mink farming is controversial.
Sweden's largest animal rights campaign group, Djurens Rätt, is pushing for Sweden to follow the lead of other European countries who have banned fur farming altogether - although neighbouring Denmark remains the largest mink producer in the world.
Djurens Rätt's vice president, Camilla Berg, has claimed that Swedish mink farms are breaking animal protection laws. But according to Johan Dalén, the reason why Swedish mink farmers receive up to 30 percent more for their pelts than farmers in other countries is because they take good care of their animals.
In the Swedish parliament, bills have been submitted demanding improved conditions for minks. In some cases, the demands are so tough that, in practice, they could lead to the industry shutting down.
That's according to the Green Party's spokesperson on animal-protection issues, Helena Leander. She hopes the new rules will be introduced if the opposition wins the general election next year.
"Yes we are in a good position since we already have a law proposal formulated by the red/green opposition. So it would be quite easy to review that and present it again so we can end the minks' suffering, Leander tells Swedish Radio.