Cruel Pedigree

Cruel Pedigree

One of the last pieces of legislation passed by President Clinton was to ban the importation of dog and cat fur into the United States of America. No sooner had this legislation been passed than novelty items in the shape of cats and kittens began appearing in gift shops or at markets in South Africa.

The NSPCA purchased one item and sent it to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute for forensic testing. The histopathological examination came back stating that the "fur-covered figurine (cat)” was made from "fur consisting of mammalian skin and hair.” It added that "these fur-clad figures are sold at flea markets, and are suspected of being covered with genuine mammalian fur which would have consequences for the importation of such toys.”

In layman's terms, the diagnosis confirmed basically that whilst it was not possible to determine what kind of animal fur it was because of the tanning method that had been used, there was no doubt that they were made from real fur.

Investigation by a journalist at the time revealed that these items were coming into South Africa from the Far East, China specifically either illegally under the guise of other goods or being brought into our country as "soft toys.”

As Europe moves to ban cat and dog fur imports, we ask what the implications are for South Africa. The BBC estimated that two million cats and dogs are slaughtered annually in China for their fur.

Deceptive practices are the reason that people buy items made from cat or dog fur. Mislabelling or lack of labels are the most common reasons. This is why the NSPCA urges everyone not to buy fur. It is not use saying "It's just a bit of trim” or "It's all right, it's rabbit”. Fur is cruel. That is the fact of the matter. Fur trim, by the way, is often perceived to be fake not genuine but may well be cat or dog fur as they are cheaper to use. Fox fur, for example, has become so cheap that it has replaced the artificial article. Dyeing fur bright colours also disguises the fact that the fur is real – and manufacturers in China have been known to stitch in labels onto cat or dog fur products to disguise the true identity of these items and make them more marketable.

The European Parliament will bring the new law into effect by December 2008. In the interim (data courtesy BBC) the pet fur trade will continue. Cat and dog fur has been proven to be used in hats, gloves, stuffed animals and toys. This includes the furry toys on sale at pet shops and similar outlets for cats to play with.

It really is a case of better safe than sorry, according to the NSPCA. Don't buy fur and if you see items made of fur on sale, have a polite word or few with the trader and advise that you will support his stall or store provided that items made from real fur are not on sale.

What worries us in South Africa is that after the US ban on real fur toys, our country was flooded with exactly those items. Efforts to have them accurately labelled proved fruitless. Please note that there could be dire consequences if an asthmatic or allergic child was given a real fur toy or one placed in his or her cot.

Sadly both isn South Africa and in Europe, products made of real fur do not have to be labelled by species.

Let's hope that when the European market dries up for these real fur products, they don't end up here. If they do, each and every one of us can make a difference by simply not buying them. Please don't be fooled. Identification of what type of fur is used can be made extremely difficult once the fur has been dyed or trimmed and items may not be made from a single piece of fur but from a number of animals: - making identification very difficult.

For obvious reasons we have not gone into detail of how the animals are caught and killed for their fur. Let it be said that neither operation is humane. It is horrific and visuals of dogs or cats being caught, transported and killed are truly heartbreaking. There is no excuse.

Don't buy fur. Any fur item or trim carries a cruel pedigree

  • Cost in animal lives and labelling
  • Up to 10 adult dogs needed to make fur coat
  • Up to 24 cats needed for cat fur coat
  • Cat and dog fur also used in hats, gloves, shoes, blankets, stuffed animals and toys
  • Dog fur labelled as: Gae-wolf, sobaki, Asian jackal, goupee, loup d`Asie, Corsac fox, dogues du Chine, fake or exotic fur
  • Cat fur labelled as: house cat, wild cat, katzenfelle, rabbit, goyangi, mountain cat

Updated: 15 November 2012

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