A Yorkshire Conservative MP accepted a donation to visit Denmark on a fur trade fact-finding trip worth more than £1,200, a move labelled “shameful” by anti-fur activists.
Philip Davies said he visited a mink farm to see how the animal is kept, treated and killed, while other activities on the three-day visit to Copenhagen with his assistant included attending a fur auction and a fur design studio.
Industry representative body the British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) confirmed it donated and organised the trip after the Shipley MP expressed an interest in learning more about the fur trade to its officials at last year’s Conservative Party conference.
This included information on welfare standards and how the industry works, Mr Davies said as he added he did not believe anyone tried to “cover up or shield anything” from him in Denmark.
But the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) labelled Mr Davies’ decision to go on a trip “paid for by blood money” as “shameful”, claiming he would have been shown the most sanitised fur farms.
The details of the donation are included in a register of interests for MPs and the trip appears to be the first of its kind included on the register for the current Parliament elected in 2010.
Mr Davies said he was “quite old-fashioned” and believed people should make decisions on issues based on “facts and evidence, not prejudice”.
He said: “People have different views. I am vehemently opposed to animal cruelty. For some people that’s against animals being killed. I am not against animals being killed but people being cruel to animals.”
The MP went on: “I think that the industry has moved on a lot in recent years. If somebody started to criticise from an uninformed position, I would feel able to add some balance to the debate.
“At no point has the BFTA asked me - and neither since my visit - to do any lobbying on their behalf and if they did ask me to I would tell them to mind their own business.”
Mr Davies went on the trip during the first three days of the Easter recess, according to the register.
He said: “I was open-minded, it was not a subject I really had strong views on one way or the other.”
The Tory added: “I got what I consider an open view on it. I didn’t get the impression anyone was trying to cover up or shield anything from me.”
On accepting a trip from a donor which represents the fur sector, Mr Davies said: “Whatever it maybe it’s legitimate to ask and to understand more about the industry whether it’s journalism, politics or fur.
“I got to see everything I wanted to see.”
The BFTA’s donation for April 11 to 13 was valued at £1,202.30 and included travel, accommodation and food costs for two people, the register of MPs’ interests states.
The purpose of the visit is listed as “to gain a better understanding of the fur trade”.
Mike Moser, chief executive of the BFTA, said the association had had a stand at the Tory party conference for many years as part of its efforts to help “political engagement”, and Mr Davies expressed an interest last year.
He said: “Naturally, we were delighted to have an opportunity to inform him of the many positive facts behind the UK, European and International fur trades and at the same time, to dispel the many myths and anti-fur propaganda that seem to be prevalent in much of the media.
“In order to present the entire supply chain as comprehensively as possible we arranged for Mr Davies and his assistant to visit Copenhagen, which is home to the world’s largest fur auction, Kopenhagen Fur.
“Denmark is also Europe’s leading producer of fur and so it also gave him an opportunity to visit a fur farm and speak with a fur farmer.”
Mr Moser said the itinerary also included a visit to Kopenhagen Studio - a “design and innovation” centre.
He added: “We strongly believe that policy development should be based on independent and verifiable facts.
“These trips are a highly valuable way to present the fur industry in a relatively short period of time and we would certainly consider arranging further fact-finding trips if appropriate opportunities were to present themselves.”
A Peta spokesman said undercover video footage recently recorded on Danish farms had shown minks with legs, tails and ears bitten off along with other health problems, and suggested Mr Davies should watch the footage for a “genuine education”.
He said: “The fact the UK Parliament banned fur farming here more than a decade ago because the British public is passionately opposed to the cruel killing of animals for their fur is all that Mr Davies, as an MP, should need to know about this violent industry.
“Although he may have quite liked the idea of a junket to Copenhagen, it’s shameful that he accepted a trip paid for by blood money from an industry that exists for the sole ‘purpose’ of gassing, trapping, electrocuting, killing and skinning sensitive animals for their fur.
“The British Fur Trade Association has a vested interest in ensuring that its ‘show farms’ are the most sanitised ones in this inhumane industry, but countless investigations have revealed the true hell that animals on fur farms endure before they are mercilessly killed for a product that no-one needs.”