The trade in dog and cat fur. : Article

Fidy Says

Where do the animals come from?

Most dog and cat fur comes from countries in the Far East and filmed evidence of the way in which the animals are kept and slaughtered reveals horrific cruelty.

Some dogs and cats are bred on farms many do not come from a formal breeding operations. Stray animals can be rounded up and sold for their skins but a large number come from families who keep a few cats or dogs in appalling conditions to slaughter during the winter.

Ironically, long haired cats are kept as pets in China yet an estimated 500,000 of the short haired variety are raised only for their pelts. German Shepherd dogs are the most commonly killed dogs in China as their fur resembles the fur of wild animals such as coyote or raccoon.

A recent investigation by the Humane Society of The United States found a fur trader in Belgium claiming to get pelts from a Belgian cat farm.

How are they killed?

The slaughter process is horrific. Recent film shows a dog tied up tightly by its neck with wire to a gate before being stabbed in the groin and left to bleed to death. On more than one occasion investigators reported that the animals were skinned whilst still alive. They also saw cats killed by being hung by the neck from a piece of rope that tightened as the cats struggled causing them to eventually suffocate. On other occasions they witnessed cats being hung from a wire while water was poured down their throats until they eventually drowned. A slit is then made in the stomach and the fur pulled up and over the cat's head. Cats may still be alive when they are skinned, what is important to the skinner is that the cat's skin is preserved in one piece to optimise its value.

How is the fur used?

Dog and cat fur is used in a variety of products including fur coats and jackets, fur trimmed garments, hats, gloves, decorative accessories, blankets, stuffed animals, pet toys and toys.

In some countries coats and jackets made from dog and cat fur are openly on sale as such but in countries where the use of these animals is less popular it is often not labelled clearly.

Dog fur exported from the Far East may be labelled or referred to as "fox", "Asiatic raccoon dog", "Gae-wolf", "Sobaki", "Loup d'asie" and "Dogues de Chine". Cat fur is also known as "Wild cat", "Katzenfelle", "Goyangi" and "Mountain cat". Some items are simply labelled as "real" or "genuine" fur.

Identification can be made difficult once the fur is dyed and/or trimmed as it is virtually indistinguishable from other furs such as mink, rabbit or fox. Often the fur on gloves or hoods, etc. is not made from a single piece of fur and could contain fur from a number of animals making it very difficult to identify. The importer of the fur garments or items usually chooses how the product is to be labelled and presumably will do so to reflect acceptability to the customer.

How widespread is the trade?

A recent investigation in the United States by the Humane Society of the United States found that decorative toy dogs and cats, labelled as being made from rabbit fur, were in fact made from dog and cat fur. Another major high street retailer was found to be selling jackets trimmed with domestic dog fur.

HSUS with the help of Respect for Animals extended its search to Europe and dog and cat fur items were found to be being manufactured and exported from as well as on sale in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

It is undoubtedly on sale in most countries throughout Europe, including the UK, in one form or another and currently there is nothing to stop it.

Is it legal everywhere?

In 2000, the United States of America banned the import, export and sale of products made from dog and cat fur. The ban was based on findings by Congress which included:

  • The conditions under which animals were kept and slaughtered were described as inhumane and the trade as "gruesome".
  • An estimated 2,000,000 dogs and cats are slaughtered and sold annually as part of the international fur trade.
  • The trade in dog and cat fur products was frequently based on deceptive or fraudulent labelling to disguise the true nature of the fur.
  • Dog and cat fur, when dyed, is not easily distinguishable from furs such as fox, rabbit, coyote, wolf and mink.
  • Dog and cat fur is generally less expensive than other types of furs, which provides an incentive to engage in unfair and fraudulent practices.

The ban includes very stringent penalties for anyone found trading in it with a maximum penalty of $1500 per item. If a company or individual is caught for a second time they can be banned from trading in all fur and as cat and dog fur is cheaper than other fur no trader will risk it. There is also a financial reward for anyone providing information leading to a conviction.

Italy, a country not commonly thought of as having progressive animal welfare laws, has also recently banned the trade.

Denmark is about to outlaw the trade and it is expected to be made illegal in Sweden in the Summer of 2004. The Australian government is also considering its position.

What is the situation in the UK?

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.

The Government doesn't know how much cat and dog fur is coming into the UK, no-one does except the fur traders themselves, but it is inconceivable that none is coming into the UK.

The British Fur Trade Association has issued a statement that none of its members will trade in dog and cat fur. However, a recent "Newsnight" investigation found a member of the BFTA who was willing to import it and label it to suit the buyers requirements (i.e. by a trade name rather than as "cat fur").

What is the Government doing?

In a report to parliament on 28 January 2004, Mike O'Brien Minister of State for International Trade who is responsible for this issue confirmed the Government's previous commitment to ban the trade when there is proof positive of the trade in the UK. Respect for Animals has strongly urged the Minister to introduce legislation as a preventative measure to avoid embarrassment when it is found in the UK.

The Government is also liaising closely with governments in other countries where the trade is cause for concern and will support any action taken at EU level and will push for greater EU involvement on this issue. It is also continuing its work to identify a realiable method for identifying fur by species.

What can you do?

Please write to Mike O'Brien Minister of State for International Trade at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London, SW1A 2AH asking him to go further and introduce a ban as soon as possible and reminding him that this voluntary labelling order will do nothing to stop the killing as a statutory labelling order failed to stop the trade in the USA.

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