Dog and Cat Fur Trade
The undercover investigation into the production and sale of cat and dog fur began nearly 8 years ago with Humane Society of the US sending an investigator into China to determine how extensive the trade was. It turned out to be a staggering 2 million cats and dogs raised under cruel conditions and then skinned alive, strangled or stabbed solely for their furs and skins. There is no cultural aspect of this - it is purely for money.
Undercover investigators documented warehouses in China filled to capacity with skins and pelts awaiting shipment to the US, Russia and the EU.
Asian merchants bragged that they could fraudulently label any item to confuse consumers, dye it to appear as though it was faux fur (or even mink) or not label it at all.
The US banned the import, export, sale and production of cat and dog fur in the US in 2002 - when evidence was shown that dog fur was being sold on parka jackets at the Burlington Coat Factory and on cat figurines on sale at Hallmark. Both retailers had no idea the items contained real fur.
With the loss of the US market, sales appear to have shifted to the EU to make up for lost revenues. Humane Society International (the international arm of Humane Society of the US) has found cat and dog fur readily on sale in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Belgium and a group Bont voor Dieren found it in the Netherlands.
Chemical analyses done on a toy mouse and a cat figurine from China which children might play with - found excessive levels of chromium which may affect children's DNA. The testing was done by a certified lab in the Netherlands where the items were sold on the market.
In Dec 2003, the European Parliament approved by a large majority a written declaration calling on the EU to ban the import, export, sale and production of cat and dog fur. Concurrently a majority of the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers have called for such a ban. Despite this and the strong public outcry to get rid of this stuff - the European Commission has failed to take action.
The EU Commission originally claimed it had no authority under EU law to ban this - a legal opinion issued by Matrix Chambers in the UK in May 2004 indicates that there is a legal basis under the EC treaty to ban the fur and furthermore it is unlikely to cause a trade issue. The Commission has never fully responded to MEP Struan Stevenson's submission of this legal opinion. They have just ignored the whole thing.
Despite meetings with high ranking Chinese diplomats both in the US at their mission and in China - the government denies that this trade actually goes on. They reject this despite ample still photographs, videos, reports and other clear evidence.
At holiday time in the EU, consumers are at greater risk of purchasing (unwittingly) these items since dog and cat fur can be found as lining in ski boots and gloves, trim on parkas, full coats, covering sleeping cat figurines, as hair bows (dyed to look like faux fur) and a host of other items - including some dog chew toys! There is no labeling law nor would one be sufficient - since Chinese merchants have great skill in making up names for the fur and/or copying well known labels.
In an undercover investigation in Belgium, Humane Society International taped a dealer bragging that while most of his furs came from China, some might actually come from dogs and cats that were stray or lost or even farmed in Belgium. When this aired in Feb 2004 it caused worldwide reactions.
IN CONCLUSION: there is absolutely no reason why the EU cannot ban this fur and do it immediately. Asian merchants told Humane Society undercover investigators that they would give up the business immediately if there was a ban rather than risk high end exports being banned as a punishment. They do this only because there is no law prohibiting it. At stake is animal cruelty, toxic items and consumer and retailer fraud.
The US has banned it, Australia has banned it and so have Denmark, France, Italy, Belgium and Greece - but until there is a full EU ban 2 million cats and dogs will suffer and the trade will continue.
The ban in the US now means that more dog and cat fur is likely to find its way into the EU and UK, therefore it is vital that a similar ban be introduced both here and in Europe.
Dog and cat fur is imported under the customs classification of "other fur". Most furs (such as mink, fox, seal, rabbit) have their own classification so it is possible to see how much is imported and exported but fur that falls under the "other fur" category doesn't have to be listed by species. "Other fur" could include wolf and stoat fur neither of which is used in great quantities so it is hard to imagine what else the fur under this category is if it is not dog or cat fur.
Betsy Dribben, European Director, Humane Society International writes:
To date France, Italy, Greece, Belgium and Denmark have all banned the fur. Respect for Animals have been leading a tireless effort to find it in the UK and to get the British government to ban it. We know it's there somewhere but we haven't been lucky enough to find it. The British government has publicly announced that it will ban it if and when it is found in the UK. Nevertheless, the real goal is to get the full EU to ban it so that it cannot circulate from country to country. We are particularly concerned about the increase in this fur reaching the EU now that we have 10 more EU countries in the union. Russia was one of the three main locations for the Chinese exports of these pelts and furs. We've shut down US sales but with Russia so close to some of the new EU countries, it would not be surprising to see that there's an increase of these items not just from Asia but their being recirculated from Russia.