Euro Commission refuses Euro Parliament order to ban dog & cat fur
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2004:
BRUSSELS–Claiming lack of jurisdiction, the European
Commission has refused to draft a ban on dog and cat fur imports into
the European Union that was overwhelmingly approved in principle by
the European Parliament in mid-December 2003.
To take effect, the ban would have to be presented by the EC
to the Council of Ministers, and would then have to receive the
Introduced by Struan Stevenson, a Conservative member from
Edinburgh, Scotland, with four cosponsors, the dog and cat fur
import ban was endorsed by 346 members of the European Parliament in
all, with only 314 needed for a majority. Stevenson also claims to
have the support of Council of Ministers members representing France,
Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Greece, Denmark,
Sweden, and Britain.
Denmark on October 1, 2003 independently enacted a law
banning traffic in dog and cat fur. Violators may be jailed for up
to four months.
The EU dog and cat fur ban was demanded by the European
Parliament in only the sixth order that the Parliament has ever given
to the EC to draft legislation, a procedure bypassing the usual
The European Parliament previously used this procedure to
recognize Nazi genocide, to oppose terrorism in Spain, to oppose
air and sea piracy, to improve regulation of livestock transport,
and to address the procedure for electing EC members.
Despite the strength of support for the ban on dog and cat
fur imports, however, the ban “appeared to hit an obstacle,”
Douglas Fraser of the Glasgow Herald reported on December 21, “when
EC officials refused to accept that they have powers to pass such a
law. The consumer affairs directorate in Brussels said it was a
matter for the trade directorate, and a spokesperson for Pascal
Lamy, the trade commissioner, commented, ‘We don’t have community
competence on this. Competence for it is in the hands of member
Dog and cat fur garments “have appeared in European stores as
gloves, homeopathic arthritis aids, hair bows for children, trim
on sweaters, and linings for boots and gloves, as well as on toy
cat figurines,” charged Nirj Deva, member of the European
Parliament for the South East of England. Deva is also the
Conservative party spokesperson for overseas development.
“European consumers are not aware of what they are
purchasing, since Asian merchants use fraudulent labels, dye the
fur to look like faux fur, or do not use labels at all,” Deva
Stevenson campaigned with examples including a blanket made
from the pelts of four golden retrievers, bought in Copenhagen; a
full-length coat made from as many as 42 German shepherd puppies,
bought in Berlin; and intact cat pelts, bought in Barcelona.
The sources of the pelts include the dog and cat meat markets
in South Korea and southern and coastal China, and the remaining
budkas, or “dog-skinning factories,” which for centuries performed
animal control duties in the former Iron Curtain nations of Europe.
Only since the fall of Communism have the budkas gradually been
replaced by western-style animal control departments.
Proponents of the proposed EU ban on dog and cat fur imports
contend that budkas are also still secretly operating in Belgium and
Spain, where industrial collection and marketing of dog and cat fur
from impounded animals was openly practiced as recently as the 1970s.
“The American organization which published the claim about
Belgium has absolutely no proof at all, and certainly not of the
assertion that cats are picked up from the streets to be put into cat
fur farms,” said Ann de Greef, director of the Belgian group Global
Action in the Interest of Animals, after GAIA investigated the
matter in mid-2003.
De Greef acknowledged, however, that imported dog and cat
fur products are sold in Belgium and in the Netherlands.
“From DNA testing done by the Academic Medical Centre in
Amsterdam on behalf of the [Dutch] association Bont voor Dieren, it
appears that dog fur is sold in Dutch shops. Ninety-five products
were tested, including clothing, cat toys, and hair accessories,”
De Greef told Herma Caelen, Secretary General of the European
Vegetarian Union. “Five items appeared to be made of dog fur,” De
De Greef cited fur-trimmed jackets sold by the fashion chain
Didi in the winter of 2002-2003. “According to Didi, they bought
the jackets from a supplier in the Far East who twice assured them it
was rabbit fur. Didi has decided to use only fake fur in its
collection,” De Greef added.
De Greef said that the Academic Medical Centre “believes that
there are probably many more items that contain dog fur” than were
identified, “because it is no longer possible to isolate DNA in much
of the fur. After the death of an animal, DNA breaks up,” she
explained, “and further, the fur is subjected to processing which
further destroys much of the DNA.”
More sophisticated testing could still make a positive
identification, but would be more expensive and difficult to do.
“Since the U.S. enacted a similar ban in 2000, European
markets have seen a rise in items deceptively called gae-wolf,
sobaki, Asian jackal, wildcat, goyangi, and katsenfelle,” said
Betsy Dribben, European director for Humane Society International,
a subsidiary of the Humane Society of the U.S.
Similar items have been found in Australia, HIS disclosed in
But the implied diversion of dog and cat fur products from
the U.S. to Europe and Australia is not actually happening, U.S. fur
trade investigators believe.
Instead, the trade is expanding.
Mislabeled and non-labeled dog and cat fur products appear to
be coming into the U.S. through a loophole in the 1952 Fur Products
Labeling Act. Section 301.39 of the act originally exempted fur
garments priced at less than $20 from the requirement that fur
garments must be accurately identified as to species of origin. This
exempted most items made from dogs, cats, and rabbits.
In 1980 the exemption was extended to garments priced at less
than $150–but in 1998 language was added stipulating that, “The
exemption provided for herein shall not be applicable: (1) to any
dog or cat fur product; (2) if any false, deceptive or misleading
representations as to the fur contained in the fur product are made.”
Since 1998, any dog or cat fur product imported into the
U.S. is supposed to be so identified.
In November 2000 former U.S. President Bill Clinton signed
into law the total ban on imports of dog and cat fur products to
which Dribben referred, but as HSUS acknowledged at the time, “The
final version of the dog and cat fur legislation negotiated between
the House and Senate did not include the requirement sought by HSUS
for labeling of all fur products regardless of their price. Under
current law, products with fur valued at less than $150 do not have
to be labeled. Dog and cat fur products, which sell at the low end
of the market, are commonly mislabeled or sold without labels to
disguise their species content so that American consumers and
retailers will not realize what they are buying.”
Because fur items made from other species need not be labeled
if priced at under $150, there is no close inspection of inexpensive
imported fur goods to intercept dog and cat fur.
However, the language of the ban passed in 2000 mandates
that “The regulations of the Secretary of the Treasury shall provide
for a process by which testing laboratories, whether domestic or
foreign, can qualify for certification by the United States Customs
Service by demonstrating the reliability of the procedures used for
determining the type of fur contained in articles intended for sale
or consumption in interstate commerce.”
This would allow U.S. animal protection organizations to
establish their own certified testing laboratory to examine fur
goods, determine species of origin, and recommend cases to federal
The 2000 law also provides for a “a reward of not less than
$500 [to be paid] to any person who furnishes information that
establishes or leads to a civil penalty assessment, debarment, or
forfeiture of property for any violation of this section or any
regulation issued under this section.”