Estonia's largest fur farm has continued to operate without a license for three years, despite protests from environmentalists who say the living conditions of more than 150,000 animals are highly questionable.
The biggest fur farm complex in the Baltics, Balti Karusnahk, is located 30 kilometers from Tallinn, in Karjaküla. The largely Finnish-owned farm keeps American minks, foxes and raccoon dogs.
Last fall, local animal rights activists secretly filmed animals on the farm, and the footage is shocking. The video - showing badly injured, paralyzed and dead animals - was aired on ETV yesterday.
Initially denying that the video was filmed on their farm, director Anatoli Mustonen and production manager Marina Sinijärv later admitted to it, but asserted that the videos were biased, portraying only a few unfortunate exceptions.
While investigating the story, journalists discovered that the Environmental Board has for the third year in a row withheld an operating license from Balti Karusnahk for failing to implement a 2008 regulation that sets stricter rules for keeping minks.
An animal rights activist, Kristina Mering, said it is easier and cheaper for the fur farm to continue operating without a license and paying fines.
Nor does the company fear legal action from the regulatory agencies.
“They can't close us tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a year - it is not possible. We will win and receive our 10 years income through the court. They won't do it. They are not stupid. The state is not stupid enough, as legal action would cost around 15-20 million euros,” Mustonen said.
At least one more Estonian fur farm is operating without a license - Järvamaa County's Rooküla Esimene.
The Estonian Society for the Protection of Animals said through a statement today that the organization is planning to take action through police, the Veterinary and Food Board and the Environmental Board.