Tuesday, March 13, 2007


He needs his fur more than we do.

This story is deeply upsetting:

WASHINGTON - A national animal rights group wants to put a group of fur retailers and manufacturers in the dog house.

The Humane Society of the United States asked the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday to fine high-end retailers and designers of clothing that contains mislabeled fur from dogs, wolves and raccoon dogs. The group also would like inventories seized and perhaps charges filed.

“Consumers have a right to know what they are purchasing,” said Michael Markarian, the executive vice president of the Humane Society. “If they are truly getting a type of dog fur, they should be outraged.”

The documents filed with the FTC name designers Andrew Marc and Michael Kors, among others. Many major department stores, including Barneys New York, Macy’s, Dillard’s, J.C. Penney, and Neiman Marcus also were cited.

The petition stems from a Humane Society investigation that turned up products that were made with fur from dogs, wolves or raccoon dogs, a species found mainly in China, that were sold as either fake fur or other types of fur in violation of the Federal Fur Products Labeling Act.

Raccoon dogs look like oversize, fluffy raccoons and aren’t kept as pets. Importing their fur is not illegal, but activists argue they are still a type of dog.

Mislabeling fur is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine or a year in prison. Fur valued at less than $150 doesn’t have to be labeled.

Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman for Macy’s parent, Federated Department Stores Inc., said his company opposes selling dog fur but takes its vendors on faith that they comply with company policy.

Even if you're someone who eats meat--or, like me, someone who doesn't eat meat but does wear some leather in the form of belts and shoes--you must surely be disturbed by the practice of trapping and skinning dogs and (yes) cats for their fur, and then "mislabeling" said fur as fake or as a type of fur less upsetting to some Westerners, for example raccoon. Yes, cows and pigs and minks are mammals too, and yes, plenty of people in America and Europe eat beef and pork all the time, and they wear their skins, and the fur of minks, too. Hell, we even turn pigskin into footballs over here.

The difference, though, is that beef is labeled as beef. Anyone offended by the notion of eating a cow will know immediately, from reading the label if not actually looking at what's in the package, that the contents are decidedly not tofu, and off he'll go to another aisle. But what if the beef in that package labeled "Fresh Beef!" was actually the flesh of a dog or cat? You don't have to be a vegan to understand why such mendacity is wrong--people in the West don't eat dogs and cats, we befriend them. I'd be willing to bet most beef-eating Americans at baseball games this summer would not want to learn that the term hot dog had been interpreted literally, and that what they were about to devour was actually a footlong serving of ground Fido.

I don't see that the issue with the animals' fur is any different, ethically. It's not about vegetarianism, about whether or not you support using animals' bodies to make commercial products. It's about truth in labeling.

It is at least about that.

The Humane Society of the United States urges everyone to pressure Congress to pass The Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act of 2007, and so do I. Go here to send your e-mail now.

Also at Shakes and Pushing Rope.

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