WelFur is the fur farm inspection and certification program covering mink, fox, and Finnraccoon (Asiatic raccoon) in Europe. Assessments are performed by third party assessors and farms that fail to meet the strict standards are not included in the certification program.
WelFur Farm Certification in Europe
WelFur is a science-based animal welfare assessment program designed to certify mink, fox, and Finnraccoon (Asiatic raccoon) farms in Europe. Inspections are performed by third party assessors and low-performing farms are omitted from the program. The protocols are centered on the four principles of animal welfare: good housing, good feeding, good health and appropriate behavior. By providing an objective documentation of animal welfare, WelFur aims to certify fur farms across Europe.
WelFur – Background and Science
There is a general understanding of what represents good animal welfare within the scientific community. This consensus is reflected in the four welfare principles established in the European Commission’s Welfare Quality® project, referenced above. Using these principles, independent scientists from seven European universities have developed the WelFur program to be applicable to mink, fox, and Finnraccoon.
The scientists started their work with an in-depth review of all existing animal welfare research and derived from that the most relevant welfare indicators and measurements for each species.
Based on this extensive scientific research, WelFur is a world-class animal welfare assessment program.
The aim of WelFur is to ensure that best practices are applied to animal welfare in the fur supply chain. The certification program is designed to provide an objective and reliable animal welfare assessment. It also aims to ensure transparency for customers and enable an overall animal welfare improvement.
WelFur is further designed to evaluate and assess the animal welfare standards on fur farms and can serve as a tool for farmers to improve practices and farm management.
Certification Principles and Criteria
WelFur certification assesses and grades farms on four principles and 12 specific animal welfare criteria. There are 25 measurements to assess the welfare of foxes and 22 measurements for mink.
Ensuring animal welfare on fur farms
1. Good Feeding
- Absence of prolonged hunger
- Absence of prolonged thirst
2. Good Housing
- Comfortable housing
- Thermal comfort
- Ease of movement
3. Appropriate Behavior
- Demonstration of social behaviors
- Demonstration of other behaviors/habits
- Good human-animal relationship
- Positive emotional state
4. Good Health
- Absence of disease
- Absence of injuries
- Absence of pain inducted by management
Data on the required criteria is collected during farm visits conducted by qualified and independent third party assessors.
In order to obtain a WelFur certificate, each fur farm must undergo three visits to evaluate the entire production cycle. The visits cover the winter season with breeding animals only, whelping and nursing (when dams and kits are looked at) and growth season until pelting. A compulsory WelFur visit once a year is then required to maintain the certificate.
The data collected for WelFur certification on the farm is combined to calculate criterion scores and is standardized across countries. To ensure equal treatment of farms regarding factors such as climate conditions and different farming practices, regional variations have been accounted for in the assessment procedures.
Criterion scores are then combined to calculate principal scores and the farm is classified to a WelFur category according to the score attained:
Farms will be awarded certification if they are graded as ‘best current practice’, ‘good current practice’ or ‘acceptable current practice’. Farms with ‘unacceptable current practice’ will not be certified and, instead, will receive advice and will be pushed for improvements. From 2019, the first certified skins will be sold at fur auctions. From 2020, Saga Furs, Kopenhagen Fur and NAFA will only collect skins from Europe that are WelFur certified.
WelFur in relation to certification principles
WelFur is committed to ensuring that there are certification programs relevant to the important first stage of the fur supply chain.
WelFur is the basis of objective, on-farm animal welfare certification of approximately 3,500 European fur farms. It is closely aligned with the subsequent dressing and dyeing process. Dressing and dyeing will itself be subject to independent verification and inspection. This will ensure a thorough certification that tracks fur skins through the supply chain.
WelFur meets recognized principles of certification.
WelFur has been created by independent scientists from seven European universities and is aligned with ISEAL’s Credibility Principles: truthfulness, transparency, sustainability, relevance, accessibility, efficiency, engagement, impartiality, improvement, and rigor.
WelFur is science-based and verified by independent experts.
Since the initial phase of WelFur, a set of external reviewers/experts were asked to assess the program.
These experts included scientists also working with the EU Commission’s Welfare Quality® project, as well as fur science experts.
All WelFur visits are conducted by independent third party assessors with years of experience in the field of animal welfare assessment. Currently, the fur farms are assessed, independently of the industry, by Baltic Control.
The verification system must be credible and impartial.
In order to receive a certificate, a farm has to be visited by WelFur assessors during each of the three production periods. After that, to maintain the certificate, the farm needs one maintenance visit per year. More visits can be arranged if the farmer is not certified. In order to prepare the necessary documentation, the visits will need to be announced to the farmer in advance. However, the assessment is detailed enough to ensure that any mismanagement of the farms will be noticed during these visits.
WelFur enables a process of continuous improvement.
WelFur is a dynamic program and will be updated with any new scientific advancements.
The strength of WelFur as an animal welfare assessment system is its comprehensive, methodological approach to animal welfare based on specific indicators. At present, animal welfare assessment of European fur farms is typically performed by national authorities who mainly look for compliance with legislation. However, levels of control and basic legislation differ considerably from one European country to another. WelFur assessments of fur farms will be performed every year, at different times of the year, taking the biological life cycle of fur animals into consideration.
WelFur recognizes that there are different certification programs relevant to different regional geographies.
In Europe, the WelFur program will eventually cover all of the fur producing farms. The implementation of WelFur started with a test assessment in 2015-2016 across 10 different European countries. The full implementation was launched in 2017. It is expected that, between 2017-2019, approximately 3,500 European farms will be certified.
The aim is to sell WelFur certified skins from December 2019. From 2020, fur auction houses will only collect mink, fox and Finnraccoon skins that have been WelFur certified in Europe.
WelFur is species-specific and comprehensive.
WelFur is available for all European farmed fur from mink and fox. The development of certification for Finnraccoon is also underway. The scoring system and the rigor of the process provide an accurate picture of whether a farm meets a required industry standard. There are 25 measurements to assess the welfare of foxes and 22 measurements for mink. The measurements are either resource-based, management-based or animal-based. Animal-based measures are generally the best method to assess animal welfare but this is not always the case.
WelFur serves as a management tool for individual farmers. If the individual farmer sees a need to improve a practice, he/she can get help through the national organization in their country designated to apply WelFur.
The certification protocols must be available to the general public.
The certification will be transparent for policymakers, customers and the general public. All WelFur protocols are publicly available on the Fur Europe website. The aggregated results will be published.
The assessment results of farms must be transparent.
Fur Europe will publish the aggregated results of the WelFur assessment on the Fur Europe website. It is important for national authorities to possess those results should WelFur become the basis for their state legislation. Brands will also have access to the results of the assessments.