Did Dog and Cat Fur Trade In Europe Really End in 2008?

Woman wearing hooded coat, holding cat, portrait, close-up

China under scrutiny

In a 2016 article in The Guardian, “Is your leather from China? It might be made of dog or cat skin”, we are informed that the vast majority of fur and leather derived from cats and dogs comes from China. In 1997, the French animal protection association ’30 Millions d’amis’ exposed a trade in cats and dogs skinned alive in China[1]. The association was putting pressure on France, and subsequently Europe, to ban cat and dog fur. Various associations have since condemned China, most strikingly by posting online videos of Chinese dog slaughterhouses. These show dogs being violently massacred, and sparked outrage in the West. This scandal only grew in 2008, when customs officers in Paris seized over 4,000 blazers, jackets and coats from China which had cat and dog fur collars[2].


The Chinese False Labelling Technique

In Europe, Regulation (CE) n° 1007/2011 makes it compulsory to flag non-textile animal components on the labels of textile products, or products containing them. Yet there is real fur labeled as fake fur in circulation. In April 2017, The Independent reported that Humane Society International (HSI) had gone undercover with Sky News and made a shocking discovery about a pair of shoes. The shoes were labelled as having fake fur, but laboratory tests showed it to be cat fur.

Claire Bass, director of HSI in the United Kingdom, told The Independent that Asian products were getting into the supply chain: “In China, millions of cats are being killed for the meat trade, and its possible that the fur of these animals is going into the fur trade”.


Strange cat and dog disappearances

Various local French newspapers have reported strange disappearances. In 2008, hundreds of cats disappeared in Haute-Savoie, and Swiss tanners were given the blame. In 2012 a Haute-Garonne local newspaper, La Dépêche, reported on this “lucrative trafficking which is making cats and dogs disappear”. In 2015, France Bleu raised the question of cat fur trafficking in Sorgues, in the south of France. In 2017, the media in Grenoble raised the alarm about a rise in cat and dog thefts in the agglomeration and asked the same questions. So it’s clear that this sordid problem is not limited to China, and persists despite European prohibitions.

While hard to quantify, this trafficking is indeed happening. It’s worrying that the false labelling technique gives reason to think that this handful of discoveries is just the tip of the iceberg.


[1] Rafaële Rivais, ‘La vente de fourrure de chien et de chat interdite’, Le Monde, June 2007

[2] ‘Des vêtements confectionnés avec des poils de chiens et de chats’, Le Parisien, November 2008

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