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Sokos drops fur products, Centre party MPs threaten boycott

The Finnish co-op group's department store, Sokos, has announced it will stop stocking fur products. The move brought plaudits from animal rights advocates, but criticism and threats of a boycott from Centre Party MPs. A store representative originally said the decision was made to improve animal welfare, but later, after the political backlash, S Group management corrected the message, saying the company had no official stance on fur production and was dropping furs due to a lack of demand.

Jyväskylän Sokos.
Image: Arvo Vuorela / Yle

Centre Party MPs were up in arms on Friday after a well-known department store chain announced it would stop stocking fur products in 2017. The Sokos department store, which is owned by the co-operative S Group, originally said that it made the decision on animal welfare grounds.

"It's important to us that our range has animal products and raw materials that meet the highest standards of animal rights and we take care of animals' welfare," said Juha Thilman, sales manager at Sokos, on Thursday.

On Friday, however, the S Group corrected its message, saying "the decision about our selection was made solely on the basis of customer demand and the independent retail considerations". In other words, Sokos will discontinue the sale of furs because of a lack of potential buyers.

"The S Group has no policy on domestic fur production," Finland's largest retail co-op's field director Arttu Laine remarked in the Friday statement.

Laine said that furs might just come back to the Sokos offerings, if demand picks up. He doubts this will happen, however, as customer demand for fur products has been dropping for years.

Sokos says the new policy will affect the store's range starting next year.

Boycott threat

The move was slammed by Centre Party MPs angry at the impact on fur farmers. Miko Kärnä, a Centre MP from Lapland, and Antti Kurvinen, his party colleague from South Ostrobothnia, sent out a statement condemning the decision. They said it was hypocritical to ban fur products while still offering plastic bags and fake fur products, which they say are also environmentally damaging.

"The decision could be logical on some level, if at the same time plastic bags and environmentally damaging fake furs were also dropped," said the statement. "Instead it's been decided to denigrate domestic fur production, which is an example of the world's most ethical."

The MPs say the Sokos decision endangers domestic fur production. They argue that if Finnish production moves overseas, then animal welfare standards will decline. They accused Sokos of populism and urged people to boycott the store over the issue.

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