L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

19 June 2007 Blog Home : June 2007 : Permalink

The Pussy Loving MEPs

The BBC has an article and blog piece by Mark Mardell on plans by MEPs to ban the trade in cat and dog fur. This, we are told, would bring us in to line with the USA and Australia who have banned this trade (and in the US IIRC also the trade in horse meat). There are a number of grounds for banning this trade (the fact that the animals in question tend to be kept in unpleasant conditions being the main one) but the real revulsion, as Mr Mardell notes, is that cats and dogs are cute:

But hang on. Why is it vile? Is this sense or sentiment? Obviously, making a coat out of giant panda or tiger is wrong. They are rare. Cats and dogs are not. Is farming them for their skin or fur worse than using any other animal? Of course, many people hate all animal fur clothes, but they are not illegal. Is it just because we see them as pets that we find it gross? It seems to me animals have the best chance of being protected if they are cute, or look a bit like us. Saving the slug is not on anyone’s agenda, although a slug-skin jacket probably wouldn’t sell very well either.

I think it is clear that the market for "fido"skin coats or "tiddles" hats is small to non-existent. There is one minor problemette. The articel explains that we consumers don't always know that our fur-lined parka made in China is using cat fur because the manufacturers don't label the product properly:

MEPs say shoppers buy goods made with the fur unknowingly, because exporters attach false labels.

It is used in coats, linings for boots and gloves, stuffed toys, and even homeopathic aids for arthritis. [...]

So clearly banning the use of cat and dog fur is going to stamp out this practice? As Daniel Drezner points out, the Chinese have been less that keen to follow the rules when it comes to the purity of ingredients in products from pharmaceuticals to pet food and are resistant to the idea of reduction of poisonous lead in toys so it seems slightly improbable that they will decide to stop growing dogs and cats while a market for "fur" exists that they can fill at the lowest price using cats and dogs (I should note that I would have thought rabbits would be cheaper but what do I know?).

In otherwords a legal ban just makes the politicians look busy without really making much difference except to make the The real solution would seem to be to educate the public and the shop-keepers that fur products from China frequently contain cat and dog fur. An advertising campaign on bus shelters with lots of PR in newspapers and on TV would seem to be the best way but no doubt one could do something trendy with YouTube and blogs if you want to be cool too.

Unfortunately politicians world wide seem to prefer passing laws banning things to effective action and our MEPs, with less power than most politicians, obviously can't resist getting in the act when they see an opportunity to do something other than claim large expenses. Still this is understandable, if they don't debate and pass pointless laws like this then we might wonder why we have them in the first place...