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June 19, 2007

European Parliament Bans Cat and Dog Fur Imports

Humane Society International/Europe

Describing the Asian trade in cat and dog fur "as a business fueled by cunning and cruelty," Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, today praised the European Parliament's unanimous vote to ban cat and dog fur from being imported or exported into Europe by December 31, 2008.  This marks the end of an eight year campaign by Humane Society International to stop this trade. HSI is the global arm of The HSUS, which has 10 million members.

"When our undercover investigation began eight years ago, we had no idea how vast a business we would find.  It was staggering to see warehouses filled to the ceiling with pelts from cats and dogs and to realize that some two million cats and dogs were raised inhumanely and then slaughtered for their fur. That fur was used in coats, lining, toys and rugs. Those involved in this business had no hesitation in telling us that they did it, simply because they could - few knew about it and no one was stopping it. We changed all that," said Pacelle.

The HSI undercover investigative team posed as fur merchants for 18 months in Asia and videotaped dealers bragging about how they could get cat and dog fur into the U.S. or Europe by using fraudulent labeling or dying the fur. Coupled with graphic scenes such as a German shepherd being tied with wire to a fence in Harbin, China and then stabbed to death and skinned while still blinking, the U.S. Congress moved swiftly to ban the fur in 2000. Australia soon had its own ban. But Europe denied it had a problem until the HSI brought evidence of the trade to its doorstep.

Rick Swain, then chief investigator for HSI, went to work documenting the scope of the trade in Europe. Cat and dog fur was found in Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Austria and Belgium. 

An EU Parliament campaign led by UK conservative MEP Struan Stevenson pressed for an EU ban. Not until Italy, Denmark, Belgium, France and Greece had individually banned the fur, however, and the public in massive numbers demanded action did the EU Commission (the EU bureaucracy) decide to take action. EU Commissioner Markos Kyprianou pledged to ban this fur in December 2005.

"This has been a tough piece of legislation to get through but it is really about the difference it will make to the thousands of needlessly slaughtered cats and dogs killed just for their fur," said Swain. "By closing down this lucrative European market and following in the steps of the U.S. and Australia we can genuinely make these unscrupulous fur traders think twice and sound a death knell on this inhumane industry."

Pacelle paid tribute to Stevenson "for an unwavering commitment to take the lead in this effort from the very start." Heather Mills McCartney is also singled out by Pacelle "for her tremendous commitment and leadership on the issue." She led a major petition campaign which raised over 250,000 signatures in support of a ban. He also acknowledged other public figures who helped in the campaign including music legends, Sir Paul McCartney and Rick Wakeman, and Dennis Erdman, a Hollywood director ("Sex in the City") rallied stars to write the Commission urging immediate action.

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