Cat-skinning in Switzerland
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2008:
GENEVA–How many cats are skinned for fur in Switzerland?
Probably not nearly as many as the thousands or even tens of
thousands recently alleged to media by Tomi Tomek, founder of the
Swiss group SOS Chats, and Patricia Dolciani, president of the
French Society for the Protection of Animals in Thonon-les-Bains,
near the Swiss border–but enough to shock Europe as the trade comes
“As far as we are aware, only a couple of dozen cat furs are
produced annually in Switzerland,” Swiss Federal Veterinary Office
spokesperson Marcel Falk told Tony Paterson of the London Independent
in April 2008.
The agency “has asked the country’s tanners about production
levels and concludes that the output is minimal,” Paterson reported.
But Paterson confirmed that some cats are skinned in
Switzerland. At the Ark Farm in Huttwil, where a store caters to
craft artists, Paterson found a “pile of cat pelts lying on a
table…on sale with sheepskins, whole calf skins, and fox pelts
for five Swiss francs each,” worth about $5.00 U.S.
“A salesman insisted the cat skins had been brought in by an
old woman ‘who did not know what to do with them,'” Paterson
reported. “Picking out a grey striped, professionally tanned and
perfumed cat pelt from a pile, he stressed, ‘These skins come from
cats who were run over,'” unlikely because pelts from any animal who
has been hit by a car tend to be damaged beyond use.
Recalled Paterson, “Late last year, an elderly woman at a
Huttwil tanners shop was interviewed by French television and not
only admitted that cats were skinned for their pelts, but added it
was also quite normal to eat what was left over. The traditional
recipe on farms in the region, she said, involved cooking the cat
with sprigs of thyme. Television crews conducted investigations,”
Paterson wrote, “using hidden cameras that exposed the cat fur
trade. Tanners who denied involvement were caught in the act.”
Paterson investigated the Swiss cat fur trade six months
after Adam Sage of the London Times. “The cat fur trade is small,
not very lucrative, and I really can’t see why traffickers would get
involved–I sell ten blankets a year,” shopkeeper Sylvaine Ghielmini
of Yvonand told Sage.
The shocker for many Swiss is not the size of the cat fur
industry, but that it exists at all. Several Swiss animal welfare
foundations fund aggressive campaigns against Chinese and eastern
European commerce in cat and dog pelts, and against eating cats and
“Switzerland banned all cat fur imports in 2006,” noted
Paterson, “because of concern about the allegedly cruel methods that
were used by the exporting countries to slaughter the animals. But
at the end of 2008 a ban on the production of cat fur will come into
force throughout the European Union, while Switzerland, a non-E.U.
member, will be unaffected.”
Christian Democrat party president Christophe Darbellay and
Luc Barthassat, a member of the Swiss parliament, told Paterson
that they expect to pass legislation banning cat pelt sales by
The Swiss cat pelt trade was exposed a decade after a dog
meat farm near Datung, China announced that it had begun breeding
imported St. Bernards. Switzerland became a hub of opposition to
eating dogs–but Swiss activists were embarrassed in 2002 by a
tabloid allegation that some Swiss farmers in remote areas eat
The unverified story circulated on the Internet for nearly three years.