Fur farming in Ireland should not be banned, according to a new report published by the Department of Agriculture.
The Fur Farming Review Group, established by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in 2011, has recommended that fur farming be continued under licence, despite objections from numerous animal welfare bodies.
However, the Review Group recommended fur farmers should improve their security arrangements to prevent mink escaping, particularly through trespassers gaining entry and releasing the mink to the wild.
There are currently five licensed mink farms in Ireland, located in counties Donegal, Kerry, Laois and Sligo.
The five farms account for 200,000-225,000 mink, 62 full-time jobs and staff salaries of €1.3m per year.
Exports of Irish mink pelts are worth close to €5m per year. Mink cause huge damage to the populations of ground-nesting birds and fisheries. In an effort to tackle the problem, the Government introduced a bounty of €3/hd on mink earlier this year.
Some 2,000 mink have been killed for the bounty so far this year, according to Des Crofton of the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC), with the number expected to reach 2,500 by December 31.
Anita Donaghy of Birdwatch Ireland said it was difficult to put a price on the damage inflicted by mink released into the wild.
However she added that more than €30,000 had been spent on erecting a mink-proof fence to protect ground-nesting birds such as lapwings, curlews, redshanks and snipe at just one site in the Shannon Callows, Co Galway.
The report also recommends that fur farms would be required to have an emergency plan in place to deal with an escape of mink to the wild.
This plan would include alerting the gardai, the Department of Agriculture and NPWS rangers.