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EU Bans Cat and Dog Fur
Animal rights activists claim cruelty in slaughter methods
Robert Neff (neff)     Print Article 
  Published 2006-11-22 18:38 (KST)   
In September 2006, Finnish customs inspectors discovered a shipment of toy cats. They were extremely cute and might have become a prized possession of some little child, except the fur that covered them was from real cats. Not only were these toys found to be made up of cat, but so too were a number of "fur" coats.

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The European Union (EU) commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Markos Kyprianou, explained, "In Europe cats and dogs are considered man's partners," so "It is difficult to accept that our children would play with toys made out of cat fur."

On Nov. 20, the EU proposed a ban on the sale and import of all cat and dog fur into the 25 nations that form the EU. Charges of cruelty were substantiated by videos and pictures that depicted cats and dogs cruelly slaughtered in order to keep their pelts as free of damage as possible.

The fortunate animals are quickly beaten to death and then skinned, but most are not so lucky. Videos and pictures of dogs and cats hung from the neck and cut so that they die slowly are found on various animal protection sites. Worse still are the allegations that cats are thrown alive into boiling water to make the skinning process easier.

Cats in China awaiting their fates
©2006 Sirius Global Animal Organization

According to the Sirius web page, "When a dog is killed, its hair immediately begins to shed. This would not produce skins of the quality that the Chinese require so they are skinned alive. Pictures exist of such a slaughtering, although since this word is also used to describe the humane killing of animals in Western abattoirs, it hardly seems an appropriate description of this act. Skinning an animal alive so the coat does not shed for the fur trade does not constitute slaughter!"

Cat being prepared in China
©2006 Sirius Global Animal Organization

The United States has a similar ban to that proposed by the EU, but it has inadvertently left a loophole: items costing less than $150 dollars do not require labels and thus cannot be easily monitored. Items such as gloves, small toys, clothes trimmed with fur, earmuffs, and even key chains are often found to have cat and dog fur.

Caged dogs await what fate?
©2006 Sirius Global Animal Organization

However, labeling is not the answer to the problem. The discovery of the cat toys in Finland was only due to the clear labeling of the items as cat fur, but many times the items are intentionally mislabeled or labeled in a confusing manner. In an email correspondence, an official of Sirius explained:
"Some of the names more commonly used for dog fur are Gaewolf, Sobaki, Asian jackal, Gou-pee, Goupee, Kou pi, Gubi, China wolf, Mongolian wolf, Asian wolf, Pommern wolf, loup d' Asia (wolf of Asia), Raccoon, Corsac fox, and Dogues du Chine. Cat fur is sometimes called Housecat, Wild cat, Katzenfelle, Goyangi, or Mountain cat, but is usually labeled as either rabbit or goat. 'Faux' (fake) fur is frequently not fake at all. It is cheaper to use dog or cat fur than a manufactured imitation."
The Daily Mail did an investigative article on cat and dog fur in 2003 that seems to verify this assertion.

Dogs beaten by Chinese officers in an earlier cull
©2006 Sirius Global Animal Organization
According to the article, a "potential buyer" who balked at the use of "cat" on the label, because it might evoke negative feelings in the West, was reassured by a Chinese government official who accompanied him: "This is China," he said. "We don't worry about things like that. We'll use whatever label you want."

Despite the ban in the United States and the proposed ban in Europe, many Chinese companies that export fur will not be affected. One sales manager told the China Post that his company only exports rabbit and dog fur to South Korea, but he refused to say just how much his company exports.

In the past few months, China's canine control programs have received growing outrage and protests by the international community and even its own citizens.

Chinese Police Filming Protesters
©2006 Sirius Global Animal Organization

On Nov. 12, several hundred protesters with placards calling for tolerance and compassion were met by a larger number of police -- many in plain clothing who filmed the protesters -- at the Beijing zoo. The protest was relatively peaceful and did gain the attention of the world's media, but apparently did little to change the Chinese government's policy towards dogs.

With the recent "One Dog Policy" implemented in Beijing, described by one dog owner as "disappointing, cold, and emotionless," and the subsequent large number of dogs confiscated, many people wonder what has become of all these animals. One husband tried to comfort his grieving wife by assuring her that the dogs were being well treated, and suggested that they might have been given to other families, but the woman refused to believe him.

Chinese protesters
©2006 Sirius Global Animal Organization

The Beijing government has announced that the dogs are being taken to canine shelters. One large shelter is equipped with "a hospital and a dog cafeteria, while professional pet attendants and training experts ensure the dogs are treated well."

Huang Zhimin, head of the canine administration department of the Beijing Public Security Bureau claimed, "Nutritious food is specially prepared every day and they are given healthy portions."

For many animal lovers it is hard to believe that the dogs are humanely being dealt with.

Dog and Chinese officer
©2006 Sirius Global Animal Organization
One site reported, "We have received reports that pet dogs are being bludgeoned to death in their owners' homes and on the streets, as well as being strangled, electrocuted and even buried alive." It went on to ask readers to send polite letters of protest to their local Chinese embassies.

Contradicting this is an official with the International Humane Society, who said in an email correspondence that "none of the animal welfare groups can verify reports of the confiscated dogs being killed...We are skeptical, however, given China's history in dealing with dogs and other animals. Plus, there are no laws there that would protect these animals. China is keeping a tight reign on their media this time around, perhaps because of the backlash in August."

If the dogs are indeed being slaughtered, humanely or not, many wonder how the dogs' carcasses are being disposed of. Dogs are a valuable source of income in China, and would present an unscrupulous official with an excellent chance of padding his own pockets. As one dog farmer told a reporter in 2001, raising dogs for their pelts and as flesh is "twice as profitable as raising pigs." Some organizations claim the profit margin is much higher: "4 times more profitable than pigs and 3 times more profitable than chicken."

In Peixian, a city famed for its dog meat, more than 300,000 dogs were butchered for their hides and flesh in 2001. About half of the flesh was exported to other parts of China, and to North and South Korea. There are even allegations by some animal protection groups that canned dog meat has been secretly exported into the Asian communities in the United States.

The result of China's earlier canine control program
©2006 Sirius Global Animal Organization
Anthony Marr, the founder of HOPE, an animals' right organization, hasn't found proof that dog meat has been shipped to the United States, but he has discovered certain oriental medicines that contain ground up dog penises which are used as aphrodisiacs. These medicines can be found throughout the world and are attributed with amazing abilities, but their ingredients and health benefits have often been questioned.

In January 2003, the New Zealand Ministry of Health, concerned about the safety of several oriental medicines, tested them. One of the medicines tested was Wei Ge Wang. According to Elly Maynard, President of the Sirius Global Animal Organization:

"Wei Ge Wang was found to contain powdered dogs penis amongst other things, but the main finding was Viagra in large quantities. The Viagra was not listed on the box, but the powdered dog's penis was. So what does this tell us?"

"It tells us strongly that even the Chinese herbalists do not believe that the dogs' meat is an aphrodisiac; otherwise why use the large doses of Viagra? It also tells us that by listing the dogs' penises on the packaging shows us they are using the mythological belief of Asians that this remedy will cure their impotency. Perhaps it will but only because a man-made, synthetic drug has been added, NOT because of the use of any part of the dogs."

Disposed dogs
©2006 Sirius Global Animal Organization
Will the European ban on cat and dog fur stop the trade, and perhaps but more pressure on the Chinese government in regards to the humane treatment of animals? "I think it (the proposal) will help; it's a very important signal to the Chinese government and there's no way they can't notice it," Zhang Dan, a Beijing-based journalist who is vice chairman for the China Small Animal Protection Association, told the China Post.

But perhaps Liu Ning, a fur trader, is closer to the truth than anyone else. "If the European Union and Americans don't like cat and dog fur and don't use them, then China's businessmen won't produce them. But if they use them, there is a market and they will make them."

It is the same logic the United States has been using in its campaign on drugs and prostitution -- get rid of the consumer and you get rid of the supplier. One can only wonder at how successful it will be.

- E.U. Bans Cat and Dog Fur by Robert Neff (Read by Claire George) 

©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Robert Neff

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