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Switzerland is to ban the trade in cat fur following an outcry in France over the disappearance of hundreds of domestic cats allegedly poached for their soft coats.
Under Swiss law, it is permitted to kill stray cats and sell their fur for £3 a piece to tanneries.
Cat fur products in clothes and belts are believed to ease rheumatism.
However, the Swiss have come under intense pressure to end the practice after hundreds of domestic cats vanished over the French border.
The cat activist group SOS Chat accused poachers of stealing pets and selling them to tanners in violation of Swiss law which bans the import of cat fur but allows domestic production and sale.
According to local animal rights groups, dozens of cats were reported missing in one day in several border villages, and their collars left behind. In response, the Swiss police set up a special cat unit called Félin 74, but found no organised cat ring.
The Swiss parliament is due to debate the ban this month. "By this summer it will be resolved," said Luc Barthassat, a Swiss national councillor. "It was not possible to ignore such a (protest) movement even if there is clearly a sentimentalist part to it," he said.
A petition signed by 106,000 people including Michael Schumacher the former Formula One driver who is a Swiss resident, and long-time animal rights advocate Brigitte Bardot, was handed to the Swiss parliament yesterday.
It calls for Switzerland to come into line with European Union rules outlawing cat fur production in all member states this year. Swiss tanners deny buying French cats.
"This organized killing must stop," said Patricia Dolciani, local president of the animal protection league.
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