Will former fur farmers get justice? With the swift adoption of the ban on fur farms in 2017, the Czech Republic has taken a very unusual path. In other European countries, the ban was preceded by a sufficiently long transition period or the payment of adequate compensation to the farmers. The Czech solution looks more like a „hurrah“ action triggered by public opinion, an action completely unprepared and with unthought-out consequences.
What preceded it? Unfortunately, the public and the leaders of our country failed to explain that banning farms will not save animals. Nor will fur production be abolished and consumers will not buy only faux fur products. Only one thing has been achieved. Farms are gradually being moved far to the east of us, where no attention is paid to the welfare of the animals. Ultimately, this measure has harmed the animals even more. There is no end to fur farming on a global scale. There is still a demand for real fur. Moreover, we have cleared the way for foreign entrepreneurs, importing skins into our country from abroad.
The farm ban was not preceded by a rational point of view, but by naivety, heated emotions and an elaborate media portrayal of farmers as animal abusers. Many celebrities have also been drawn into the „fight“against breeders, who are theatrically locked in cages in town squares without being properly briefed on the background of the whole affair.
At the same time, the hunting of fur-bearing animals has had a long tradition in our country. It was a thriving industry and our state continued to count on fur production. In 2013, breeders were ordered to invest tens of millions of crowns in their farms to bring their businesses into line with increasingly stringent requirements. However, after an elaborate media campaign, sparked by conservation groups, there was a swift ban on the farms, with consequences for the former breeders that are far worse than expropriation.
Under current regulations, former breeders are only entitled to reimbursement of long-term liabilities (mainly loans) related to breeding that they are unable to repay as a result of the breeding ban. The value of all the breeders’ assets related to breeding is also deducted from the debts. However, none of the former Czech breeders have such debts. Therefore, none of them is entitled to any compensation under the current legislation.
Former breeders who have been banned by the state from doing business and forced to close down their farms can only claim actual damages. They rightly demand adequate compensation from the State for the lost investment and the value of the unusable (devalued) assets. Part of the compensation includes compensation for the costs of liquidating the farms, which, depending on the size of the farm, runs into tens of millions of crowns.
Another part of the compensation is compensation for the disposal of breeding animals, i.e. breeding material created by years of breeding. The amount of each component of the compensation was determined based on expert opinions and a detailed professional itemized budget for the actual liquidation of the farm.
This compensation, which is acceptable to the former breeders, is a compromise on their part. They have waived compensation for loss of profit and also compensation for non-pecuniary damage. In the event of failure, the former breeders will be forced to seek redress before the Czech Constitutional Court, where they will demand full compensation for the damage caused to them by the State.
There is still room to remedy the stalemate, unprecedented in Europe, in which people who have been running their businesses properly in accordance with the law (and who have invested multi-million dollar sums in their businesses under state compulsion) have been banned from doing business. And this was primarily on the basis of public opinion and not professional discussion.
We believe that in the forthcoming negotiations in the Parliament of the Czech Republic, a rational view of the matter and a sense of justice will prevail over heightened emotions and de facto emotional blackmail supported by an elaborate media campaign. Or will we continue to fear in the future that, after a media campaign, the state will ban someone from running a legal, prosperous and recognised business? Are we really in danger of a similarly substandard ban or restriction on other livestock farming under the guise of animal protection? Our state will then face unnecessary lawsuits…