Brussels, 20 November 2006
Why is the Commission proposing an EU ban on cat and dog fur?
European citizens have expressed vehement opposition to the fur of companion pets being used in consumer goods in the EU. The Commission has received innumerable requests from the public to initiate measures against cat and dog fur since it first became evident that such fur was reaching the EU market.
Similar requests for such a ban have come from Member State authorities and political representatives. The European Parliament adopted a declaration on a ban in the trade of cat and dog fur in December 2003, and several MEPs have actively campaigned on this issue. Agriculture Ministers also asked the Commission to bring forward proposals to stop the trade of cat and dog fur in the EU, and in the Presidency Conclusions of the June 2006 Agriculture Council, Member States explicitly asked for an EU ban, which they felt would be more effective that national bans.
The protection of animal welfare is an important objective of the Commission, and the Animal Welfare Action Plan adopted in early 2006 (see IP/06/64) reiterated the Commission’s commitment to promoting animal welfare internationally as well as in the EU. There is a strong animal welfare angle to this issue, as the Commission has been presented with evidence of wide-scale mistreatment of cats and dogs being bred for their skins and fur in third countries.
However, the basis for the proposed ban on cat and dog fur is Internal Market considerations. A number of Member States, in response to public pressure, have introduced national legislation to prevent the production or marketing of cat and dog fur in their territory. These measures range from banning the rearing of cats and dogs for fur production purposes, to trade or import bans, to basic labelling requirements. The result is that there are many different national laws, all aimed at remedying the same problem but in varying ways. This implies that traders are faced with different legal requirements depending on which Member States they wish to trade in. As a consequence, the internal market for fur may be fragmented. The variations between national laws are likely to cause barriers to the free movement of other, legitimate fur products within the EU.
What Member States already have legislation in place against cat and dog fur?
Fifteen Member States - France, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Denmark, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Latvia, Austria, Cyprus, Spain, Poland and Slovenia - already have some sort of relevant legislation in place with regard to cat and dog fur.
The national laws range from a ban on rearing cats and dogs for fur production, to a ban on the import of such fur, to labelling requirements. Given the public concern and pressure to stop cat and dog fur being sold in Europe, further national initiatives in this field could be expected in the years ahead.
Do any third countries have similar bans in place?
Several third countries, including the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland have already banned the import or sale of cat and dog fur on their markets.
Is the ban in line with the EU’s international trade obligations?
Yes. Under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT), the adoption or enforcement of measures necessary to protect public morals is allowed, provided that such measures are not applied in a manner which would constitute unjustifiable discrimination. As the proposed ban on the production and trade on cat and dog fur would apply equally to EU traders and operators as to those of third countries, there is no breach of international trading rules.
How will the ban be enforced?
The primary responsibility for ensuring that cat and dog fur is not imported, exported or sold in the EU will lie with operators and retailers. Any products found to be made from or contain cat and dog fur will be blocked at the border and action will be taken in line with the respective Member State’s legislation on the treatment of prohibited goods. Penalties have to be introduced by Member States for operators found to be trading in cat and dog fur or using this fur in production. Member States will be responsible for testing fur products at the point of entry and/or on the market. This will require good detection methods that can differentiate between cat and dog fur and the fur of other animals, even when the cat and dog fur is treated or dyed. A number of effective detection methods are already being employed by several Member States, and it is foreseen that information on these detection methods will be shared so that the ban can be properly enforced throughout the EU. Member State authorities will also have to submit an annual report on their testing and findings to the Commission.
To what extent is cat and dog fur on the EU market?
It is difficult to quantify the amount of cat and dog fur that is entering or on the EU market, due to the fact that this fur is mainly used as a fraudulent substitute for more expensive fur, is often falsely or imprecisely labelled and may be used in barely noticeable quantities in certain products. It is not, therefore, a product that is openly declared and marketed for what it is. As a result, there is no official data on the trade of cat and dog fur. However, there is undisputable evidence that products containing cat and dog fur are being sold in the EU.
For example, a 2005 study commissioned by the Dutch Ministry for Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality on children’s toys, knick-knacks and pet toys found some of them to contain dog fur. NGOs have also provided the Commission with information on their findings of this fur being sold in Europe. Furthermore the Association Française et Internationale de Protection Animale (AFIPA) recently sent the Commission results of their investigations (copies of bills and a transcript of a conversation with a fur trader) which found evidence of trade in dog fur.
In many ways, the lack of specific data is all the more reason to legislate against cat and dog fur. The obligation for Member States to carry out checks and testing for this fur will provide a much clearer picture of the most susceptible products and where the fur is coming from. This will allow effective measures to be taken to block it from the EU.
Is there any evidence of cat and dogs being bred for their fur in the EU?
No. The Commission asked the Chief Veterinary Officers in all Member States to look into the situation and report back on any cases or suspected cases of cat and dog breeding for fur. No Member State found any evidence of such practices, and there is no tradition of this type of breeding or production in the EU.
Why does the proposal not require obligatory labelling of fur to demonstrate the absence of cat and dog fur?
When carrying out its impact assessment for this proposal, the Commission looked at the option of introducing mandatory labelling for all fur products to identify the species of fur. However, it was found that such a requirement would pose a disproportionate burden on traders, the vast majority of whom do not trade in cat and dog fur. It would prove especially burdensome and costly in the case of low cost products or products containing only tiny amounts of fur. Moreover, labelling schemes have proven ineffective against illicit fur trading and there is the high possibility that cat and dog fur traders would fraudulently label their goods as they have been doing under voluntary labelling schemes up to now.
What rules are in place with regard to fur production in the EU?
Strict rules are in place in the EU to ensure that animals bred for their fur are treated in a humane manner. Directive 98/58/EC on the welfare of animals kept for farming purposes, including fur animals, lays down rules on all aspects of keeping and breeding animals including housing conditions, freedom of movement, feeding and watering requirements, and staff qualifications. Directive 93/119/EC concerning the slaughter and killing of animals aims to minimise the pain and suffering of animals through the use of proper approved stunning and killing methods. Since the 1980s, EU environmental policies have also worked on the introduction of measures to promote the improvement of animal welfare. These cover, amongst other things, trapping standards, trade in wildlife and the import of seal pup skins.
The EU has signed and ratified the Council of Europe’s Convention for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, which sets out principles for the keeping, care and housing of animals, in particular in intensive systems. Member States have also ratified or are in the process of ratifying this Convention. On the basis of this Convention special Recommendations have been adopted on animals kept for fur production, which lay down general requirements for the farming mink, ferret, foxes and chinchilla, of amongst others.
For more information, see: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/index_en.htm