Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
Ottawa won't ban fur imports because of seal ban
OTTAWA – Blame the seal hunt if you find out you're wearing Fluffy or Rover. The federal government won't ban imports of cat and dog fur because doing so might undermine Canada's support for the seal hunt, says a newly released document.
An internal memo shows government officials urged Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz not to follow the United States and Europe in barring cat and dog fur from entering the country.
Officials worried a ban would weaken Canada's argument against other countries closing their borders to its seal products. "A ban could have implications for the farmed fur industry in Canada and for Canada's position against the banning of Canadian seal products by other countries," the memo says.
The Canadian Press obtained the March 26 document under the Access to Information Act.
Animal-rights groups accuse China and other Asian countries of inhumane handling and killing cats and dogs for their fur. The groups claim the fur ends up in clothing, accessories and other products that are shipped abroad. They say these products are often mislabelled to hide their contents.
The memo says the Agriculture Department has repeatedly asked Vancouver-based Fur-Bearer Defenders for evidence cat and dog fur is entering Canada, but that so far the group hasn't backed up its claims. Fur-Bearer Defenders couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. But photos on the group's website show fur coats allegedly made from dogs and cats.
The U.S. and the European Union have banned imports of dog and cat fur. But those places aren't home to the world's largest seal hunt. A ban would put Canada in the tricky spot of backing a practice critics call inhumane while blocking another because it's seen as taboo in the West.
Few issues stir as much passion in Canada and abroad as the annual East Coast hunt. Animal-rights groups have for years campaigned against it, at times enlisting the support of celebrities like rock legend Paul McCartney in their cause.
Many Canadian politicians support the hunt. They say it gives remote regions an economic boost. Even Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean waded into the debate. Footage of the Queen's representative gutting a freshly slaughtered seal, picking out its raw heart, and eating it was broadcast around the world this spring.
The gory gesture galvanized critics and supporters alike and thrust Canada's seal hunt back into the spotlight.
Despite Canada's protests, the European Union voted this summer to ban imports of seal products. The Conservative government has vowed to appeal the decision at the World Trade Organization.
Barring imports of cat and dog fur could weaken Canada's case against the seal ban, officials warned in the memo to Ritz. "An import ban on cat and dog fur, if it were to be considered, could ... undermine Canada's position against the implementation of foreign import bans on Canadian seal products," the document says. Animal-rights groups weren't buying it.
"Canadians don't want to wear pet fur any more than Europeans or Americans," said Sheryl Fink of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in a statement. "Allowing the trade in cat and dog fur to continue simply because certain Canadian politicians find it expedient to support the commercial seal slaughter is completely unethical. "Two wrongs don't make a right."
It's not against the law to import animal pelts and hides, except if they're from endangered species. And Canada's customs regulations don't distinguish between furs.
A Liberal MP wants to change that. Anita Neville, who represents a Winnipeg riding, introduced a private member's bill in the House of Commons last week that would ban products made with cat and dog fur. "This is a deplorable practice and must be stopped," she said in a statement on her website.
But apparently there are also trade considerations. "Canada's imposition of a trade ban based on perceived animal welfare abuses by other countries could be considered a technical barrier to trade," the memo to Ritz says.
"Such measures could be inconsistent with WTO obligations if, among other things, they are not linked to legitimate objectives such as animal health." The Agriculture Department wasn't immediately available for comment.
Ban Canadian Imports of Dog and Cat Fur
Target: Prime Minister
Stephen Harper and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz
In an internal memo issued
this week, government officials in Canada urged Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz
not to ban cat and dog fur imports, arguing that such a ban would weaken
Canada's position against the banning of seal products by other countries.
January 29, 2012 The Canadian Seal Hunt is Dead! Long Live the Seals!