Cat and Dog Fur Sept03

East Anglia shoppers may be unwittingly encouraging a cruel trade in cat and dog fur when they buy hats, gloves, shoes and cuddly toys. Over 2 million cats and dogs are slaughtered each year in China alone, in order to satisfy demand in Europe and it has been estimated that 66 tonnes of cat and dog fur was imported into Britain in 2001.


These animals are raised, and in some cases farmed, under deplorable conditions and then killed either by stabbing or hanging. Occasionally, they are even skinned alive. After being turned into full-length coats, fur trimmings, or linings in ski boots and gloves, these goods are purposefully mislabelled as rabbit, fox or simply as fake fur. This trade in cat and dog fur is not only an act of barbaric animal cruelty, it is a blatant display of consumer fraud since most of us are unaware of what we may be purchasing.


At a Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting in November last year, eight ministers from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark strongly supported Sweden's request for an EU-wide ban on sales, as well as imports and exports of cat and dog fur and skins. However, EU Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner, David Byrne, argued that this is not an EU-wide problem and that it should be up to individual countries to address the issue.


I disagree with the Commissioner as this is clearly a matter for EU control. The EU's single market with open borders allows these goods to make their way easily from one member state to another. While Italy has already banned such sales, individual state action is not enough. Only a complete EU-wide ban will put an end to this barbaric trade.


Instead of outlawing the trade, the British government has so far simply welcomed a voluntary labelling scheme which is being set up by the fur trade itself as of this month. This scheme is not compulsory and will do nothing to stop the trade in dog and cat fur.


In the European Parliament this week, we have submitted a declaration requesting the European Commission to immediately draft a regulation under internal market powers to ban the import, export, sale and production of cat and dog furs and skins across Europe. If the declaration is signed by more than half of the 626 MEPs, an outright EU-wide ban on the cat and dog fur trade will then become the policy of the European Parliament.


I urge consumers and animal lovers across Suffolk and Essex to put pressure on their local Westminster MPs to raise this matter with the Government and to write to Commissioner Byrne (European Commission, Rue de la Loi 200, B-1049 Brussels, Belgium) demanding that he take immediate action to ban the import, export and sale of these products.


I will continue to push this issue in the European Parliament until this cruel trade is stamped out.