Shocking photos showing overweight foxes being bred in small, barren cages at farms in Finland have been released by animal rights group to highlight what it describes as the "unethical" fur trade.

Images of the so-called "monster foxes" have been condemned as a "shocking new low" after they were released by Finnish animal protection group Oikeutta eläimille (Animal Justice) following an investigation into five fur farms in the country.

The foxes, which have rolls of fat on their body that almost cover their eyes, are overfed at the farms to increase the amount of fur on their bodies.

The foxes bred in captivity can be more than five times their natural weight, according to the animal rights group.

Oikeutta eläimille said fur from foxes such as those in the pics are sold under the Saga Furs brand and available in many luxury clothing stores such as Louise Vuitton, Gucci and Michael Kors.

The UK has banned fur farming since 2000, but still imports from other countries. According to the Humane Society International, the UK has imported nearly £300m (€325.9m) of fur from countries across the world over the past five years.

Commenting on the images of the monster foxes, Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International, said: "Just when you thought the fur industry couldn't get any more unethical, it hits a shocking new low with foxes bred so large that these poor beautiful creatures can hardly move, or in some cases even see.

"It is proof, if further proof were needed, that the fur industry is about profit and cares nothing for animal welfare. Consumers will be rightly shocked and disturbed by these hideous images, which underline yet again the need to turn our backs on fur for good."

monster foxes
The foxes can grow up to five times their natural weight Oikeutta eläimille

Kristo Muurimaa from Oikeutta eläimille adds: "The conditions these animals are in is the result of greed for profits. Bigger skin means more money for the fur farmer. The animals pay the price with suffering."

The Humane Society International is now urging the UK to fully ban the sale and importing of fox fur from overseas and has launched an online petition asking the government to "make Britain fur-free".

The petition adds: "The government ordered the last UK fur farm to close its doors back in 2003, but we're now importing fur cruelty from overseas.

"The unnecessary suffering of animals for fur fashion is deplorable, whether the animal involved is a cat, a dog or a seal, whose fur is already banned from UK trade by EU regulations, or a coyote, a fox or a raccoon dog, whose fur is currently still allowed."

monster foxes
A petition has now been launched to ban the fur trade in the UK Oikeutta eläimille