The new animal welfare assessment WelFur keeps Saga Furs as the leader in responsible ethical farming

The new animal welfare assessment WelFur, integrated inside the already comprehensive Saga Certification protocol, keeps Saga Furs at the forefront as the pioneer in responsible ethical farming.

The science-based assessment instrument WelFur measures and ensures the welfare of farmed fur-bearing animals. Saga Certification employs elevated breeding standards above those prescribed in EU regulations. WelFur’s integration inside Saga Certification provides fur breeders further business advantages that meet growing demand for responsible products. The combination of the two will improve transparency for consumers and strengthen public opinion for fur breeding.

The addition of WelFur as an element of Saga Certification reinforces our status among fashion brands and sends the clear message that the Saga® label is the responsible choice.

The new animal welfare assessment WelFur launched as a critical step in serving our suppliers and consumers

WelFur is a science-based assessment programme aimed at improving animal welfare through data analysis and educating fur breeders. WelFur’s general outline stems from the EU’s Welfare Quality® protocol project that began in 2004 and focused on animals raised for human consumption. It was the largest piece of integrated research into animal welfare ever done by the EU. Several years later, Fur Europe began to lay the groundwork for carrying out a similar research project that could be applied to mink, fox and Finnraccoon.

The first step was to find means of adapting the 12 criteria divided among the four main principles – Good Feeding, Good Housing, Good Health, Appropriate Behaviour – developed in the earlier study. To identify an initial preliminary strategy and later apply it to the WelFur project, Fur Europe recruited researchers from seven European institutions. An important element of the researchers’ responsibility was to find means of evaluating the actual well being of the animals in an efficient, feasible manner.

WelFur provides an effective way to ask the animal, ‘How are you?’

“In a manner of speaking, WelFur provides an effective way to ask the animal, ‘How are you?’ It was important to ensure assessment can be done at the farm so you’re sure to get a good evaluation of the four main principles. WelFur has educated local experts so they can give farmers advice on how to improve the animal welfare on the farm and their WelFur score”, explains Britt Henriksen, post-doctorate researcher, Aarhus University, Department of Animal Science.
welfur at fur farm is about animal welfare
WelFur assessment uses science as a foundation, but examination of the individual animals themselves based on this science is mainly used to determine whether farms meet the criteria. Three annual farm audits divided among the main nurturing periods of the rearing season ensure an all-round picture of the animals’ welfare. Third-party independent assessments will enable effective monitoring of WelFur’s success.

The first skins from farms that have met WelFur requirements will be introduced to European auctions in the 2018-19 auction season.

The first skins from farms that have met WelFur requirements will be introduced to European auctions in the 2018-19 auction season. Saga Furs plans to sell the first WelFur-marked skins in March 2019, at its first major seasonal auction. Auction houses have committed to collecting only WelFur skins after the start of 2020.

Efforts made in all our endeavours have demanded resources, investment and persuasion. Saga Furs needed to convey its conviction of the Saga Certification’s importance to fur breeders from all supplying countries. We succeeded, and we strive to do the same with WelFur to the benefit of all our stakeholders.

WelFur incorporated in Saga Certification gives breeders the ethical advantage for improving animal welfare

“WelFur gives farmers means to measure and concentrate on the four principles so it enables them to make improvements. In a sense it’s not simply animal welfare, as the animals are already taken care of. It’s animal welfare improvement. Farmers see the animals every day, while outsiders do not and see things differently. It’s very good for farmers to realize how people outside the industry see things”, explains Tarja Koistinen, senior research scientist, Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

“WelFur is not simply animal welfare, as the animals are already taken care of; it’s animal welfare improvement.”

All four of the principles (Feeding, Housing, Health, Behaviour) are obviously very important, but Appropriate Behaviour is something farmers may not have been observing. “It’s about quality of life; when a farmer pays more attention to behaviour, it can improve animal welfare, rather than simply keeping the animal physically thriving. I really believe Appropriate Behaviour will be more important in the future,” Koistinen continues.

welfur inside saga certification at fur farm

Also, Jaako Mononen, principal scientist at Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) and developer of the fox protocol, agrees that ‘appropriate behaviour’ is important: “Foxes need something to enrich their lives, a bone or block of wood to gnaw on. Stereotypic behaviour, repetitive movements, tells a farmer he should introduce stimulus. Human-animal relationships should also be considered. Giving the fox a reward, a titbit after handling, can be a good means of improving confidence in humans.”

“For ‘Good Feeding’ the criteria are hunger and thirst. To assess ‘Good Housing’ you look at resting comfort, that is nesting possibilities, and ease of movement. ‘Good Health’ includes observation of injury, sores, the condition of eyes and ears, if the animal moves normally, and how many might die annually. WelFur can assess health issues, while local veterinarians can diagnose and treat conditions”, adds Steen Henrik Møller, WelFur project leader (mink), senior researcher, Aarhus University, Department of Animal Science.

* The 7 universities/institutions involved in WelFur protocols:

•       University of Eastern Finland (Department of Biosciences)

•       MTT Agrifood Research, Finland (Animal Production Research)

•       Aarhus University, Denmark (Department of Animal Health and Bioscience)

•       Norwegian University of Life Sciences (Department of Animal and Agricultural Sciences)

•       Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Department of Animal Environment and Health)

•       University of Utrecht, The Netherlands (Department of Animals in Science & Society)

•       French National Institute of Agronomic Research