The first public appearance by new economic affairs minister Maria van der Hoeven has had quite an impact. Van der Hoeven, who wielded power in the education ministry until last week, appeared on the steps with Queen Beatrix resplendent in a black suit with a magnificent fox fur collar.
It might not have been the most sensible thing to wear given that the new Dutch parliament includes two MPs from the animal rights party PvdD, but it did guarantee the minister got noticed.
Who cares that the PvdD have started a nasty little email campaign? As the defender of Dutch industry, Van der Hoeven was surely sending out a deliberate message to the fur trade. Fur farming is big business here.
Believe it or not, the Netherlands is the third-biggest producer of mink in the world (behind Denmark and China). The country has some 200 mink farms producing some four million dead mink a year – and generating over €150m towards GDP.
Some 10 farms also raise foxes – 20,000 a year – to make nice fur coats and collars. An unknown number raise chinchillas. However, the breeding of foxes and chinchillas is due to end in the Netherlands in April next year – 10 years after the bill forbidding the practice was passed.
With a fur-loving minister in charge, the mink industry must be breathing a nice warm sigh of relief.
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