Gloucestershire

MP 'sorry' for fur wearing swastika comparison

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Media captionWatch: David Drew said wearing fur was the same as wearing a swastika

A Labour MP has apologised for equating the wearing of animal fur to the wearing of a swastika.

David Drew, MP for Stroud, made the comparison during a parliamentary debate on the fur trade at Westminster Hall on Monday.

One Jewish businessman said the remarks were "grossly insensitive", because the fur trade had been traditionally dominated by Jewish families in the UK.

Mr Drew has since apologised for making the comparison.

During the debate Mr Drew spoke about animals being bred for fur "in the most cruel manner simply so that somebody can enjoy wearing it".

"I do not understand, not only why we cannot lean on the retail trade, but why people wear fur.

"To me, it is the same as wearing a swastika or something.

'Distasteful tactic'

"People should not think that it is something that is acceptable. It is not acceptable."

Jenny Silverston, chairman of the Cheltenham Hebrew Congregation, said she was "offended and disappointed, especially given the current allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party".

History of the fur trade

  • Furs are one of the oldest forms of clothing and have been traded throughout the world for hundreds of years.
  • From the 17th Century the trade took off in North America, to meet demand for furs in Europe.
  • In recent decades the trade has become controversial with anti-vivisectionists campaigning for it to be banned.
  • Animal rights campaigners say modern man-made alternatives mean real fur is now redundant.

She said: "The fur trade has strong associations with the Jewish community. If Mr Drew has strong feelings on the issue, he should have chosen his words more carefully.

"Either he did it without thinking it through, or one must come to a different conclusion."

Frank Zilberkweit, who owns London-based Polar Furs and whose father and uncle fled Germany to escape from the Nazis in the 1930s, said Mr Drew's comments were "an underhanded and distasteful tactic".

'Legitimate industry'

"Mr Drew will be fully aware as part of his brief as shadow minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, that the fur trade in the UK is dominated by businesses run by Jewish families.

"It was grossly insensitive and anti-Semitic to try to attack our legitimate industry by comparing it to the sale of swastikas.

"For my family and many others in the fur trade, the swastika is an emblem of extermination and heartache."

The International Fur Federation said Mr Drew's comments were "totally unacceptable".

Following the complaints Mr Drew said he was "sorry" for drawing the comparison.

"I am passionate about animal welfare but this comparison was inappropriate and I apologise," he said.

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