Though condemned by numerous animal rights groups, dog
and cat fur is still widely sought and traded throughout the world.
Intensive fur farms, in which dogs and cats are bred, raised and
slaughtered in horrific conditions, still operate in a number of
countries; and efforts to ban the trade have so far proven largely
But scientists are now saying products made from the
furs may not be safe for humans - and the technical angle may do more to
stop the fur trading than law enforcement agencies have been able to
accomplish so far.
About 12 dogs or 24 cats are killed to make one coat,
even more if puppies or kittens are used. Dog and cat fur is used for
coats, jackets, hats, gloves, shoes, blankets, stuffed animals, even
children's toys. Activists say protests about the cruelty of the trade
haven't helped to abate the activity. In May the BBC reported seeing
evidence - including a videotaped interview with a Belgian cat fur
farmer - which proved cats were being intensively farmed for their skins
in the European Union.
Respect For Animals: The Trade in Dog and Cat Fur
And opponents of the trade estimate more than two
million cats and dogs are slaughtered every year to support the main
market for the products - in China. Despite the apparent worldwide
apathy about the suffering of farmed cats and dogs, a new, damning piece
of scientific evidence about the toxicity of products made from their
fur may be what finally ends the cruelty, authorities said. Tests
conducted recently by an independent laboratory found that products made
from dog and cat fur contain extremely high levels of chromium, levels
which exceed allowable safety limits.
Toxic and carcinogenic chemicals are introduced onto the
products during the tanning process. Nicola Beynon of Humane Society
International said her organization has tested products made from dog
and cat fur on sale in Australia. "We have found that they've tested at
extremely high levels of chromium," Beynon said, "In fact, a jacket made
of German Shepherd fur tested positive for chromium levels 130 times the
allowable level." Also tested was a small cat-shaped toy for children,
made of feline fur. It tested 30 times higher than the safe level.
Mariann Lloyd-Smith, with the National Toxics Network, said her biggest
fear would be for small children.
"I think as any parent knows, all toddlers test things
by putting [them] into their mouth and sucking, and certainly chromium
can be absorbed into the body, either through ingestion or through
breathing in the dust," Lloyd-Smith said. "And in this case I would be
very concerned about toddlers sucking on the fur of these toys with
those sort of levels."
Dog and cat fur trading has been banned in the United
States since 2000 and Denmark and Italy have since followed suit. There
is no such ban in Australia, although the government said the issue is
"high priority." According to Beynon, in countries where the animal
cruelty aspect does not sway the demand, other reasons must be
introduced to enact a permanent ban against trading of dog and cat furs.
"If animal cruelty isn't a good enough reason to ban, if consumer fraud
isn't a good enough reason to ban, then surely public safety is a very
good reason, particularly when you're talking about products that are
children's toys," Beynon said.
Animal Concerns Community
Dog and cat fur trade threatens health: lab tests BBC
Cats 'farmed for skins in EU'
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