Question 5: 'Are coats in Canada made from dog and cat fur?'
The answer begins, “Animal activists often make this claim to discredit the fur trade — but they have yet to find a single dog or cat fur garment in Canada.”
No they do not — not often, if at all — make such a claim, and since the FCC gives no example, we have to wonder what its evidence is for this contention.
What some animal-protection organizations do say, because is it absolutely true, is that there is no ban in Canada on fur products made from dogs or cats. It is perfectly legal to import, buy and sell cat and dog fur in Canada.
But Canada is a large country with thousands of stores that sell products that include fur, including novelty items where, in other countries, cat or dog fur has been found, and that sell winter coats that are trimmed with fur. 13
Whatever testing may have been done (the FCC does not say) could, in all practicality, never address more than a tiny fraction of 1 percent of products sold in Canada that in some way or to some degree contain fur.
The answer to Question 5 continues, “The Fur Council of Canada has adopted a formal policy confirming that Canadian fur manufacturers and retailers do NOT use domesticated dog and cat fur in the garments they produce and sell. Why would they? Canadian consumers are not interested in such products, and we have so many beautiful Canadian furs to choose from!”
We repeat (see above) that the FCC is not a government agency, and its policies have no force in law. Second, the concern is not so much about Canadian manufacturers as it is for imported products, and not just garments, but pet toys and novelty items. We suspect that the FCC knows this, and in effect is, in its reply, setting up a smokescreen.
We do not think that domestic dogs and cats suffer any more or less than wild animals, including those kept caged on fur farms. And we do not think that wild animals suffer less than do domestic dogs and cats. Our opposition is to all forms of animal abuse. But the reality is that the FCC is right in thinking that most Canadian (and American) consumers who are willing to buy or wear fur do not want to buy or wear domestic dog or cat fur, and that is why the animal-protection movement would like to see Canada and the United States follow the lead of other countries and make such furs illegal. The FCC does not assist in this campaign, but rather only manages to muddy the waters.
The FCC’s answer to Question 5 continues: “Garments sold in reputable fur stores always carry a label indicating the fur type. When in doubt, consult your fur retailer.”
Of course the majority of fur-bearing products marketed did not come from fur stores and did not involve a fur retailer. Try asking the “associate” at your local Wal-Mart what species the trim on your kid’s winter mittens came from.
The answer to Question 5 then states: “Sometimes activists claim that ‘raccoon dogs’ are dogs, because they are classified by biologists in the larger canidae family.”
We don’t know why quotation marks are put around the name raccoon dog; that is its correct English name (HBM 2009). The English name of the species is confusing, and most Canadians and Americans are not familiar with it because it is not native to North America nor, with highly regulated exceptions (zoos, for example), is the species allowed into Canada or the United States. But it is a species of the family, canidae, the same family as the dog, coyote, wolf, jackal, dingo and other canids.
The FCC then states, “But Ncytereutes procynoides is really a completely distinct species that resembles a North American raccoon much more than it does a coyote, wolf or other members of the dog family.”
No, it does not. The biologists place the species in the dog family because of its close resemblance and genetic relationship to other members of the family and its dissimilarity to other families. It has bushy fur, stands low to the ground and has a mask-like face marking, and thus resembles a raccoon superficially perhaps, in the sense that a zebra mussel resembles a zebra because of black and white stripes, or an elephant shrew resembles an elephant because it has a long nose, or a pygmy hippopotamus resembles a pygmy because it is small, or a tiger lily resembles a tiger because ... well, you get the idea.
Since the FCC has no qualms about using the furred skins of other members of the dog family, such as foxes, wolves and coyotes, we do not know why there’s this sudden reticence with regard the raccoon dog, but in fact the raccoon dog is a member of the dog family and native to a region where the raccoon does not naturally occur.
The FCC then, once more, completely misrepresents the facts by saying: “This Asiatic raccoon is native to Asia and is also farmed in Scandinavia where they are known as Finn raccoons.”
It is not an Asiatic raccoon. There is no such species. It serves no valid purpose for the FCC to perpetuate confusion.
The raccoon dog belongs to the family canidae, which consists of some 35 species and is native to every continent except Antarctica. 14 (HBM 2009). The family dates back to the Eocene, some 50 million years ago, and is the largest family in the order, carnivora. They are highly variable in shape and size thus appearance. Most canids have long legs (extremely long and stilt-like in the maned wolf, native to South America) but can be short in some species, such as kit foxes, bush dogs and raccoon dogs, as well as in some breeds of the domestic dog, such as the Welsh corgi, Pekingese, Skye terrier, basset hound or the dachshund.
Raccoons, on the other hand, are in the family procyonidae, and are found only in the Western Hemisphere (North, Central and South America) and consist of only 12 species, although the exact number is sometimes a matter of debate among specialists. Only three of those 12 species are in the genus procyon — the raccoons, and they are the northern raccoon, found in much of North and Central America; the crab-eating raccoon, found in southern Central and much of South America; and the critically endangered Cozumel raccoon, found only on Cozumel Island.
The three raccoon species are not at all dog-like, have no paws compatible to canid paws, and have shorter front, longer hind legs that give them a hunched outline. In terms of markings, they have bands around their tails unlike any dog breed or canid species.
The response to Question 5 continues: “It is true that in some countries dogs (and other animals we think of as pets) are used for human consumption. For us Westerners this is unthinkable.”
Oh? The FCC abruptly contradicts itself by continuing: “But who are we to impose the values of our rich and well-fed societies on developing nations with different customs?”
Any “Westerner” who objected to countries stoning to death a woman accused of adultery might be asked the same question, and “our rich and well-fed societies” have been known to militarily attack “developing nations” when their “different customs” are perceived to be a real or imagined threat. The fact is that it is not only the country of origin of such furs that North American animal-protection organizations focus their attentions, but their own markets. There are, of course, very competent animal-protection organizations in “developing nations with different customs,” and such organizations frequently assist each other internationally. It is animal abuse that is the specific concern of compassionate people in all countries, cultures, religions and societies, be it directed against raccoons, dogs, cats, raccoon dogs or any other feeling, intelligent species capable of fear and suffering.
The reply to Question 5 continues: “(And, of course, we also kill millions of unwanted dogs and cats each year; are we morally superior because we are rich enough to throw them away unused?)”
It would seem the FCC is capable of thinking what it calls the unthinkable. The animal-protection movement is in no way responsible for the sad fact that there are more dogs and cats than there are loving homes to accommodate them. On the contrary, those organizations and individuals engaged in the issue work hard to promote the spaying and neutering of companion animals and the adoption of rescued strays. But the problem stems from the view, obviously shared by the FCC, that animals are commodities, only to be valued by virtue of their economic value, and the quite illogical enhanced value of “purebred” dogs — dogs purposely bred to certain standards that suit various human whims and needs, and have the documentation, or papers, to prove it — remembering that every mixed-breed “cur” has a lineage that extends back to purebreds. 15
But no compassionate person wants to see innocent animals hurt or killed and there is constant effort among shelters and humane societies, such as the Calgary Humane Society, to increase the other factor needed to reduce the carnage — responsible pet ownership. There are many ways of doing this, including benefits to those who license and microchip their companion animals, educational campaigns, support for spay and neuter, and encouragement for adopting animals needing homes.
In fact, there are pounds that do not “throw away” animals “euthanized” 16 but sell either live animals that are slated for “euthanasia” to research facilities, or market the bodies of “euthanized” animals to teaching facilities for anatomical or other studies. The reason such “utilization” is discouraged by progressive animal protectionists is because they understand that economic incentive for abuse encourages abuse. The desire and effort of animal protectionists is to reduce animal abuse, not profit from it or see it lead to profits.