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Euro Commission in bid to ban pet fur imports

AN EU-WIDE ban on domestic dog and cat fur being used in clothes and accessories is to be proposed by the European Commission following an outcry by animal welfare campaigners writes Nick Mays.

Footage filmed earlier this year and widely promoted by Sir Paul McCartney and his estranged wife Lady Heather Mills-McCartney showing GSDs being skinned alive in China for their fur, along with the discovery of Labrador fur being passed off as fox, has prompted the EU to take action to outlaw the trade.

Earlier this week the EU Consumer Protection Commissioner proposed measures to clamp down on the trade after trimmings for clothes from dogs and domestic cats were discovered on sale in EU countries. Although samples have not been found in Britain, the campaigners say it would be highly unlikely if it were not on sale in the UK because it has been found in other EU countries.

Most dog and cat fur comes from countries in the Far East, especially China, and investigations have revealed animals kept in horrific conditions and brutally slaughtered. Every year, about 2 million cats and dogs, many captured as strays, are thought to be killed for their fur - an estimated 5,000 each day.

Some of the dogs and cats are bred on farms. An estimated 500,000 cats are raised only for their pelts. German Shepherds are the most commonly killed dogs in China as their fur resembles that of wild animals such as coyote or raccoon.

Investigations by international animal protection groups such as the Humane Society International have revealed horrific slaughter methods: 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; cats killed by being hung by the neck from a piece of rope that tightened as the cats struggled causing them to eventually suffocate; cats being hung from a wire while water was poured down their throats until they eventually drowned. Cats may still be alive when they are skinned as preserving a skin in one piece optimises its value.

Dog and cat fur is used in a variety of products including coats, hats, trim on other garments such as gloves, stuffed animals and pet toys. In some items made using dog and cat fur are openly on sale, but in countries where the use of these animals is less popular it is often not clearly labelled, or mis-labelled. Dog and cat fur items have been found on sale in the Netherlands, France, and Germany. The UK Government has admitted that it has no idea how many garments made out of dog and cat fur are on sale here.

The governments in France, Italy, Greece, Belgium and Denmark have all banned the trade in dog and cat fur. In 2000, the US banned its import, export and sale. It is believed that since the US ban was introduced, the trade been diverted to Europe, increasing the need for an EU trade ban.

Last year, 364 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) signed up to a MEP Written Declaration supporting such a ban.

In announcing the proposed ban, Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said: "The message that we have received from EU consumers has been loud and clear. They do not find it acceptable to farm cats and dogs for their fur, nor do they want products containing such fur sold on the European market. The EU ban we are proposing today will mean that consumers can rest assured that they are not inadvertently buying products containing cat or dog fur. In view of the broad political support for this measure I am confident that the European Parliament and the Council will ensure its adoption at the earliest opportunity."

Edinburgh-based animal rights charity Advocates for Animals welcomed the announcement that the European Commission intends to ban the import of cat and dog fur into the EU.

Advocates’ Political Director, Libby Anderson, said: "We congratulate the Commission on this proposal. While we oppose all use fur because of the cruelty involved in the trade, the use of cats and dogs is something that people find particularly repugnant. The difficulty of relying on individual member states to introduce their own legislation is that there can be different regulatory approaches. A uniform EU ban on marketing and trading in dog and cat fur will make the legal situation clear – and of course an EU Regulation will apply directly in all Member States, so there can be no divergence from the obligation to ban these products of cruelty."