MILLIONS OF cats and dogs are routinely slaughtered and their fur used to make sweaters, coats, rugs and cuddly toys that are sold to an unsuspecting public, Euro MPs revealed last week.
Struan Stevenson, the Scottish Conservative MEP, challenged the European Union to follow the example of the United States and Italy, which have introduced a ban on the import or sale of such goods.
"Europes public, its legislators and ministers all want an end to the import, export and sale of these items. Despite such strength of opinion, this cruel trade in cat and dog fur is still not illegal in Europe. I am determined to press for an immediate ban," he said.
Flanked by Liberal Democrat and Green colleagues, he displayed two rugs. One had been made with the skins of four golden retrievers and another with the fur of 20 cats.
A small figurine of a kitten in a straw basket, which the MEP had bought in Shetland but can be found in airport shops and other outlets, was labelled "made in China: animal by-products". DNA tests revealed that it had been made from dog hair.
China is the main source of the two million cats and dogs that are killed annually for their fur. But the country is not alone. Evidence provided by the American animal welfare group, Humane Society International, which secretly filmed several furriers earlier this year, confirms that the practice is well-established in Belgium.
Mr Stevenson said: "One merchant even stated that cats were farmed in Belgium. Another claimed that stray cats and dogs were being rounded up in Brussels and Ghent and killed for their pelts. A third furrier claimed that dog and cat skins were routinely purchased through an English-speaking broker in China."
The furs are made into coats and stuffed animals and are used as trim for gloves, boots and clothing. Tests on a lambswool womans jumper bought in Amsterdam revealed that pompoms on the garment were made from dog fur.
Chris Davies, the Liberal Democrat MEP, who supports a ban, suggested that the EU should insist on proper labelling "so that people can make their own decisions".
Items made from cat and dog fur either have no labels indicating their origin or use false terms, such as "gae-wolf", "sobaki", "special skin" or "mountain cat".
European Commission insisted yesterday that there was no evidence
of cats and dogs being farmed for their fur inside the Union.
It also argued that it had no powers under animal welfare
rules to introduce a ban.
Critics retorted that action could be justified under consumer protection legislation.
The British Government supports clamping down on the use of cat and dog fur. A spokesman said: "We are very concerned that domestic cat and dog fur may be being produced within the EU."
Britain has banned fur farming and is encouraging its EU partners to take similar action.
David Bowles head of the RSPCAs international and campaigns department said: "The RSPCA is horrified to learn that dog and cat fur may be being produced in the EU. There are no guidelines on how to humanely farm and slaughter these animals and the capacity for suffering is significant.
"The UK government has already banned the farming of any animal for its fur on moral grounds but there is a danger that cat and dog fur could now be imported from other EU countries and put on sale to consumers. The European Commission has concluded that each member state must decide for itself on how to tackle this issue and we would now call on the UK government to go beyond its preferred approach of labelling goods and opt instead for an outright ban on the import of cat and dog fur products.
"Fur in our culture is an inessential luxury product. Most cat and dog fur is incorrectly labelled due to its controversial nature and we would urge the public to think carefully about buying any fur item. If there was no demand there would be no farming."
The Kennel Club's Phil Buckley said, " We have been aware of this issue for a while now and allowed 'Voice4Dogs' - a campaigning group directly involved with this issue - to peacefully protest at Crufts 2003 outside the NEC Main Entrance. I was shown some of the fur products that Voice4Dogs have managed to obtain and quite frankly, these products were both upsetting and appalling. We are aware that the anti-fur campaign has been gathering momentum since Crufts and they continue to receive assistance from Struan
Stevenson MEP and other politicians, who are all also understandably concerned about the plight of these animals and would like to do all that they can to help. Further information can be found at www.voice4dogs.org and the KC would request that Our Dogs readers do all they can to help."