The Humane Society of the United States did an investigation in the late 1990s in China and other Asian countries and discovered that millions of dogs and cats were being killed for their fur, and the pelts were being exported across the globe, including to the United States and Europe, for use as trim and even for full-length fur coats. The investigation was a wake-up call to people in the United States and Europe that no animals were off limits or too sacred for either the global fur industry or for China itself.
© The HSUS/Karremann
A dog raised for fur in China.
For the last nine years, The HSUS has stayed on the case. Just within the last six months, we released the results of an investigation in the United States that exposed major American retailers and designers who were not properly labeling the fur trim on their coats. Tests revealed that some of the fur came from domesticated dogs. In the wake of the investigation, several major retailers announced they’d stop selling fur of any type, and several members of Congress, led by Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.), introduced legislation to stop the sale of raccoon dogs and to require labeling of fur garments of any value.
And this week, we have a major and long-awaited victory to announce from Europe. This morning, the European Parliament (the equivalent of our U.S. Congress) voted unanimously to ban the import and export of cat and dog fur in Europe by December 31, 2008. This could save the lives of more than 2 million cats and dogs raised in Asia under horrible conditions and then mercilessly strangled or stabbed for their furs and skins.
For The HSUS and Humane Society International, our global affiliate, it signaled a major moment in a nine-year campaign to get this fur off the market and stop consumers from being duped into buying it.
When we started this journey based on a few “tips” that cats and dogs might actually be slaughtered for their fur, we had no idea where it would lead. Our undercover investigators (led by HSUS’ former chief investigator Rick Swain) posed as fur dealers in Asia for 18 months and penetrated this industry like no one has ever done before. They were astounded to find warehouses filled to the ceiling with pelts of cats and dogs. They also witnessed macabre killings, including the nauseating slaughter of a German shepherd chained to a gate and stabbed to death on a street corner, as he wagged his tail and could not believe that death was imminent. Asian merchants bragged to our undercover investigators about how they used fraudulent labels or dyed the fur to dupe consumers. Cunning and cruelty clearly fueled this lucrative business, and Swain’s video brought the images and the gruesome story to millions of people throughout the world.
The Congress moved with dispatch to ban dog and cat fur. Cruelty like this had no apologists in either the House or Senate. The European Union bureaucracy demurred however, and claimed it was just an American concern, despite abundant evidence showing otherwise.
Our work in Europe, while frustrating and slow, never languished because of the unflagging resolve of Struan Stevenson, a Member of the European Parliament and a British conservative who, having seen our undercover footage of the cruelty of this fur, vowed to wipe it out. For the last nine years, it has been his primary objective in the EU Parliament, and for that commitment we are eternally grateful and can never thank him sufficiently.
© The HSUS/Grzybowski
Animal advocate Heather Mills.
Along the way, we had remarkable interventions from music legends Sir Paul McCartney and Rick Wakeman, and absolutely intelligent, focused and determined leadership from Heather Mills. Working with Betsy Dribben, HSI’s former lead lobbyist and the conductor of this orchestra, Mills made it a major cause, and was able to deliver 250,000 petition signatures from the public to the EU Parliament calling for action. Hollywood producer and animal advocate extraordinaire Dennis Erdman enlisted stars to join the cause, assuring that the controversy never receded from public consciousness.
Moved by Stevenson, massive public pressure, and legislative work by Humane Society International, the Chinese government last winter finally admitted there was a trade and promised to do something about it.
This week the EU—now 27 nations strong and an enormous market—voted to ban the import and potential export of these furs and skins. Now China needs to make good on its promise to Stevenson to stop this business. Still, we should savor the moment. This week has been a very good one in Europe for the animals.