Well-being of animals
Many people and institutions from around the world contribute to the planning and development of animal well-being.

In 1993, the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council released a list of five freedoms:

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
  2. Freedom from Discomfort
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour
  5. Freedom from Fear and Distress

These five freedoms also pertain to fur animals and fur production. In addition to sufficient food and drink, fur farms must provide the animals with sufficient protection against the elements and room to rest. The animals must have an opportunity to express behaviour typical of their species and live without fear or distress. This also entails the appropriate handling and treatment of the animals.

Being in the company of other individuals of the same species provides fur animals with an opportunity to express social behaviour typical of their species. Proper care, vaccinations, medication, and regular inspection and monitoring of the animals’ physical condition ensure that they can live free from pain, injury or disease. 

Kuvagalleria: 

Den bästa sakkunniga när det kommer till djurens välfärd är den som sköter djuren varje dag

Stress

Stress is a natural part of life. Everyone experiences it, in some form, from time to time. While it is difficult to live under stress, it would be impossible to live without it. The fur animals’ organism must maintain a strictly regulated balance. In order to maintain such balance in varying conditions, animals need mechanisms to steer their activities and physiological functions. Environmental stimuli, i.e. stress factors, affect the animal through its central nervous system and cause a stress reaction, which serves as an adjustment mechanism. The purpose of a stress reaction is to command the body’s resources to act according to the new situation.

 

 

Feeding

Feeding and eating encompass two crucial factors: control and predictability. Being able to control what and when they eat is important for animals. On the other hand, the predictability of feeding is also important, because it creates a sense of safety and being cared for. Moreover, the predictability of feeding is an activating factor: when animals know that feeding time is coming soon, they start to move around enthusiastically and follow the feeding process intensely. In addition, regular feeding times create a regular rhythm and balance between activity and rest. 

Feeding is one of the most important routines that has an impact on the well-being of animals.

Behaviour

The behaviour of animals is their way of expressing themselves. We must be able to read their messages. And the only way to learn this is by observing the animals. This is why it is important that farmers know the animals on the farm and their behaviour. This is one way to guarantee the well-being of animals and forms a good foundation for development.

Increased well-being through experiments and research

In addition to research institutions, individual farmers also search for ways to improve the well-being of animals.

Jorma Kauppila , a third generation fur farmer from Lohtaja, is continuously developing his farming methods. Many innovations tested at the farm run by Jorma with his brother have spread to wider use in the industry in Finland.

– I strive to find ways to improve animal well-being and enrich their cage life. Continuous development creates prerequisites for the future of this industry.

The experience gained from research and experiments is shared between fur producers.

– These people are willing to make adjustments and improve the animals’ conditions, as soon as the changes are based on thorough research and good reasons.

Active mink and Finnraccoons in climbing cages

Jorma introduced two-storey mink cages for mink groups to conduct research in co-operation with the University of Kuopio in 2002.

The climbing cage doubles the space available for the animal and enriches its living environment. Playful animals can jump between levels, whereas the more timid ones can have more space for themselves.

– I don’t see any reason why farmers who build new cages would not go for two-storey ones. In addition to enhancing the conditions of the animals, this makes more efficient use of the shelters’ floor area and enables faster and easier cleaning up of faeces.

Climbing cages have also been successfully experimented with Finnraccoons.

 

Foxes, however, cannot live in multi-storey cages. Even though the fox is known to be a smart, sly creature, it is also quite an untidy animal. If foxes were kept in multi-storey cages, they would dirty each other and spread disease. Finnraccoons and mink, on the other hand, can easily be trained to only defecate and urinate on the bottom level.

Rest and recreation on a shelf

The climbing cage experiment also gave rise to another idea: resting shelves for mink. Shelves were originally installed in climbing cages to facilitate movement between levels. Today, shelves are quite widely used in Finnish fur farms.

The shelf makes the basic cage a more versatile living environment. It offers a place to rest, as well as excellent extra activity. The animals like to climb and play on the shelves.

– We have not conducted any scientific research into the significance of shelves. However, I can see with my own eyes that mink like the shelf and use it actively.

 

Piloted large cage for doubled moving area

At the moment, Jorma is gathering experience of housing fox groups in a large cage.

With this method, members of the same litter stay together for their entire lives, which means that they don’t go through the stress of weaning.

A door is opened between two cages, or the separating wall is removed altogether. This doubles the moving space and enables foxes to play and run around more. In addition to increased space, foxes also have a double amount of resting shelves in the group cages.

The pilot has provided good results, although it has been detected that the foxes only run when something scares them. Sometimes siblings can also quarrel a little, and the underdog may need to sprint to the other end of the cage.

 

Chewing sticks also respond to the scratching need

The law stipulates that farmed foxes must be provided with chewing sticks. Jorma has several large chewing sticks in the fox cages, and the animals use them actively for biting and scratching.

It appears that the fox can satisfy its natural need for scratching by pawing and tearing large, bark-covered birch logs.

– I want my foxes to have several logs to play with. I don’t want them to run out of toys, even though the most enthusiastic chewers can destroy a thick birch log in just a few hours.

 

Different animals require different forms of activity. The chewing stick is important for foxes, but mink are not that interested in logs. Jorma has offered his mink different soft and hard balls and sticks. When the ball is something new for the mink, they may find it interesting for the first five minutes, but after that it is left lying around unused.

– I’ll keep searching for the right activity. I’m trying to find new stimuli and toys to enrich the cage conditions for mink.

In addition to their regular feed, Jorma offers his Finnraccoons hay in large bales. This substitutes the Finnraccoon’s natural diet consisting of roots, hay and berries. In addition to providing important nutrients, the bales of hay also serve as an excellent stimulus for the animals. They like to tear and rip tufts of hay and straw and pull them through the net to eat.

 

A stimulus research was conducted to find out how farmed blue foxes appreciate different kinds of stimuli, such as shelves, chewing sticks, nest boxes, ground base, and extra space.

“Maksimityömäärän mittaaminen erilaisille hyödykkeille siniketulla.” Hannu T. Korhonen & Tarja Koistinen, Jaakko Mononen. 

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