Since 2000, statutory law has required that minks and foxes be housed according to their behavioural needs, under the heading "Freedom of Movement
The following wording originates in the 1976 European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes, repeated verbatim in EC 98/58, S.I. 127/2000 and S.I. 14/2008:
"Where an animal is continuously or regularly tethered or confined, it must be given the space appropriate to its physiological and ethological٭ needs in accordance with established experience and scientific knowledge."
The Department of Agriculture & Food is obliged to interpret and apply statutory welfare legislation, typically through standing committees.
To date, there is no record of any committee discussions on how mink/fox should be housed. Instead, the Council of Europe's 1999 minimum cage sizes are used, which were found to be inadequate two years later.
The European report on the welfare of fur-farmed animals (2001) found the current caging system "impairs mink welfare," and "the typical fox cage does not provide for important needs of foxes."
In 2005 the welfare report was brought to the attention Brendan Smith who later became the Minister of Agriculture. Brendan Smith dismissed the report on the (false) grounds that "ongoing research is required."
Despite claims that fur factory farms are monitored, the minister's office does not collect welfare inspection reports from local offices, and consequently has no information available on current mink/fox welfare problems.
The licensing system for minks does not include any welfare measures, and explicitly requires that minks be kept in escape-proof cages.
Anyone may breed foxes permanently in barren cages without a license.
* Ethology is the scientific study of animal behaviour.