European Law Monitor

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Cat and dog fur: Commission proposes total EU ban

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to ban the import, export and sale of cat and dog fur in the EU. There is evidence that cat and dog fur is being placed on the European market, usually undeclared as such or disguised as synthetic and other types of fur. The vast majority of the cat and dog fur is believed to be imported from third countries, notably China where the rearing of these animals for this purpose is practiced. Many Member States have introduced their own specific legislation against cat and dog fur in response to the strong opposition of EU consumers to the trade of fur from these animals. However, as these national bans are divergent, they may cause disruption to the internal market. The proposed Regulation adopted today addresses EU citizens concerns and creates a harmonised approach, prohibiting all production, marketing and imports and exports of cat and dog fur in the EU. It also establishes a system of information exchange on the detection of cat and dog fur.

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said: “The message that we have received from EU consumers has been loud and clear. They do not find it acceptable to farm cats and dogs for their fur, nor do they want products containing such fur sold on the European market. The EU ban we are proposing today will mean that consumers can rest assured that they are not inadvertently buying products containing cat or dog fur. In view of the broad political support for this measure I am confident that the European Parliament and the Council will ensure its adoption at the earliest opportunity.”

Public and political concerns

Findings of cat and dog fur on the EU market have provoked a strong response from EU consumers, who have asked for measures to be taken to prevent such fur and fur products from being sold in the EU (through letters to the Commission and MEPs as well as through petitions). The Commission has been informed that such fur has been found not just on clothing but also on a number of personal accessories as well as children's soft-toys. There has also been great political demand to introduce an EU ban in this area. Both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have officially asked the Commission to draft proposals on an EU ban on cat and dog fur, which would be more effective than national bans and help to restore consumer and retailer confidence. As there is no practice of cat and dog fur production in the EU, third country (especially Asian) imports are considered to be the origin of such fur. Therefore, a complete ban on the imports of cat and dog fur accompanied by a ban on intra-Community trade in such fur will assure consumers that it will no longer be sold in anywhere in the EU.

Harmonised approach

A number of Member States have responded to public concerns by introducing national legislation on cat and dog fur, and legislative initiatives are underway in response to public campaigns against companion pets being used for fur production. However, there are differences in the Member States’ approaches, ranging from bans on the rearing and slaughter of cats and dogs to labelling requirements to restrictions on production and/or imports. These divergences may pose difficulties for consumers, retailers and traders who wish to carry out cross-border transactions in other types of fur. A uniform EU ban on marketing and trading in cat and dog fur will set out a clear-cut legal situation and a level playing field throughout the Community and remove unnecessary barriers within the internal market.

Tests and controls

Enforcing this ban on cat and dog fur will require good detection methods that can differentiate between cat and dog fur and other fur, even when the cat and dog fur is treated or dyed. Several Member States are already employing effective detection methods to check for cat and dog fur on their markets (e.g. Mass Spectrometry, DNA testing etc). The proposed Regulation states that Member States should regularly exchange information on detection methods for cat and dog fur, and share details of tests which are most efficient, so that fur imports and products on the market can be checked.

Next steps

The draft regulation will now be considered by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers for adoption by the codecision procedure.