In July 2018, we discovered that keychains, cat toys, and clothes containing imported cat fur were being distributed and sold in markets in South Korea. We requested a DNA test for 14 samples obtained from a market in Seoul. 3 samples out of the 14 were confirmed to be cat fur.
In October 2018, we conducted a field investigation in Suning County, Hebei Province, China, the hub of China’s fur industry. In the county, there are hundreds of fur farms and pelt processing facilities, and the largest fur wholesale and retail center in the world. Most of the cat and dog fur coming into South Korea is imported from China as there are no fur farms in Korea.
At a recent press conference held to report our findings, Congresswoman Jeong Mi Lee from the Justice Party proposed revisions to legislation that would ban the processing of raw pelts, the manufacturing of fur products, and the import and export of fur and fur products.
To the press conference, we brought unprocessed raw pelts from the Alaskan Malamute, Golden Retriever, and German Shepherd breeds obtained in Suning County. In many instances, the skin had been removed without care, with ears, tails, and even bones still attached. The rapidity with which the fur appears to have been removed might also suggest that the animals were not still during the process, i.e. they were skinned alive.
According to ActAsia, 75% of the fur in the world is produced in China (PDF). The number of cats killed every year for fur is estimated to be between 4 and 5 million, especially in Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province. This is equivalent to twice the population of companion cats currently in South Korea. The number of dogs killed every year for fur is estimated to be between 14 and 21 million, which is equivalent to 2 to 3 times the current population of companion dogs in South Korea.
There are no nationwide animal protection laws in China. This means that no penalties exist for abusing animals on fur farms. Many farmers beat the animals to death with sticks, or simply skin them alive. Fur manufacturers also take stray cats and dogs from the streets. This cat and dog fur is often mislabeled as fur from other animals such as mink, fox, or raccoon.
For laws banning the import and export of cat and dog fur to be effective, adequate inspection methods of fur products to distinguish the original material even if it is processed and dyed must be enacted and enforced, with the government taking responsibility to apply them at Customs. In addition, the lack of adequate labeling regulations in Korea makes it easy for consumers to be duped into buying real fur from cats and dogs when they think they’re buying faux fur; it takes away their right to make an ethical choice regarding the products they purchase.
The importing of dog and cat fur was banned In Australia in 1956. The US banned the import and export, and the production and sale of cat and dog fur in the US in 2002. The European Union has had regulations banning the import and export of dog and cat fur, and products containing dog and cat fur, since 2008. Famous fashion brands like Gucci, Michael Kors, and Jean-Paul Gaultier have ditched fur from their product lines. High street brands such as Calvin Klein (in 1994!), Gap, and Zara have also gone fur-free.
The rest of the world is beginning to wake up to the suffering and atrocities that are happening daily on fur farms around the world, and deciding that it is not worth it merely for a bit of trim on a jacket or a nice pair of boots. And while the banning of cat and dog fur in Korea doesn’t stop this, it is another step on the road to stopping this awful trade.