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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
Cats 'farmed for skins in EU'

BBC News has seen evidence which suggests that cats are being farmed for their skins in the European Union.

Let me say that cats and dogs are not farmed for their fur in the 15 EU member states
EU commissioner David Byrne

It is thought that tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of cat and dog skins are traded in Europe each year.

Campaigners say that now is the time for national governments or the European Commission to act.

Europe, it seems, is a magnet for cat and dog fur.

Cat blankets, so the aficionados say, are good for rheumatism.

US ban

Dog pelts are often labelled misleadingly and sold as the fur of some exotic, even mythical beast.

Cat and dog fur trade
Campaigners claim 2 million cats and dogs slaughtered every year
Main exporter: China
12 to 15 adult dogs needed to make a dog 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 sometimes labelled as: Gae-wolf, sobaki, Asian jackal, goupee, loup d'Asie, Corsac fox, dogues du Chine, or simply fake or exotic fur
Cat fur sometimes labelled as: house cat, wild cat, katzenfelle, rabbit, goyangi, mountain cat

Since the US has banned the trade of cat and dog skins, the European market has expanded.

A video seen by BBC correspondent Tim Franks shows one Belgian furrier displaying a blanket he says was made from cats farmed in Belgium.

What is more, he says that stray cats and dogs are rounded up and skinned.

That would seem to contradict the assertion from the officials who help run the EU at the European Commission that there is no cat or dog farming inside the union.

"Let me say that cats and dogs are not farmed for their fur in the 15 member states of the European Union," EU Health and Consumer Protection commissioner David Byrne wrote to a British member of the European Parliament last year.

Officials in Brussels repeated on Thursday that they had no evidence of cat or dog farming in the EU.

They said it was up to national governments to ban the trade in cat and dog fur.

Alsatian coat

So far, though, only Italy has brought in such a ban.

British MEP Struan Stevenson told the BBC that two million cats and dogs are being killed in China alone each year, in order to satisfy demand in Europe.

He also said that he has seen videos of animals being skinned alive.

As evidence of the trade he has collected:

  • A blanket made out of four golden retrievers, bought in Copenhagen
  • Individual cat skins complete with eye-holes, paws and tails, bought in Barcelona
  • A full-length coat made out of up to 42 Alsatian puppies, bought in Berlin
Campaigners accuses the European Commission of lacking the political will to address the issue, arguing that the trade is not only morally repugnant, but also a case of consumer fraud.

The British Department of Trade and Industry says it is examining the case for more scientific testing and more accurate labelling.

But it says that scientific testing very difficult to do on account of the expense and the shortage of laboratories capable of doing it.

The BBC's Chris Morris
"Selling these products isn't actually illegal in the European Union"

Coats tested for cat and dog fur
29 Feb 00  |  UK News
Naked fur protesters freed
24 Oct 02  |  Asia-Pacific

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