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Illegal fur still making it into U.S. market

By Lisa Rimmert

It’s November in North Carolina. Now is the time of year when the weather turns cold and people start shopping for heavier clothing. As a northerner, I find it comforting to get all bundled up in a winter coat, hat and gloves. As an animal person, I find it heartbreaking to know that many people this winter will choose to purchase garments made with fur.

Beavers, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, and even dogs and cats, are all used to make fur clothing. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that more than 50 million animals are killed for their fur each year. There is no question that these animals suffer. The methods of raising and catching animals for fur are gruesome and cruel.

It is up to us to stop the inhumane treatment and slaughter of animals used for fur. The simplest way is to refrain from wearing fur. If you have a fur coat in your closet, donate it to The Humane Society of the United States’ program Coats for Cubs. The coats are given to wildlife rehabilitators to warm and comfort orphaned and injured wildlife. Another way to help is to purchase clothing from fur-free companies whenever possible. A list can be found at www.hsus.org by searching for “fur-free designers and retailers.”

Unfortunately, cruelty to animals is not the only harmful effect of the fur industry. Too often there is also deception to consumers. A loophole in the Fur Products Labeling Act (1951) allows garments with fur worth $150 or less to go unlabeled. As it stands now, an item of clothing with fur from 30 rabbits, 12 opossums, five raccoons, or one bobcat or bear does not have to be given a label. Consumers can be unaware that they are purchasing real fur.

Also, although the Dog and Cat Protection Act (2000) bans the export, import, manufacture or sale of dog and cat fur products in the U.S., fur garments made from domestic dogs are still being imported from China and sold in this country. A Humane Society of the United States investigation showed that many designers and retailers sell fur-trimmed jackets with incorrect labels. Dog and wolf fur is sometimes labeled as raccoon, coyote and even “faux.”

If passed, the Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act (H.R. 891) would ensure that domestic dog and cat fur is kept from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold or advertised in the U.S. and would require that all fur products be labeled.

This bill was introduced to the House and has been sent to the Trade Subcommittee for examination. Unfortunately, most bills never make it out of committee. To encourage the passing of this bill to end consumer deception regarding fur, contact Rep. Sandy Levin, chairman of the Trade Subcommittee. His contact information is available at www.house.gov/levin.

To learn more about the use of animals for fur, start with www.hsus.org/furfree and www.infurmation.com. Let’s do our best to make this a happy holiday season — for us and for the animals.

Lisa Rimmert can be reached at lisarimmert@gmail.com.

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