Fur traders deny animal cruelty in Year of the Rabbit

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 February, 2011, 12:00am

Fur traders hit back at appeals by animal rights campaigners for Hong Kong people not to buy rabbit fur in the Year of the Rabbit, saying claims the animals are skinned alive and tortured are untrue.

The Hong Kong Fur Federation, which has about 150 members exporting fur worldwide, says rabbit fur is popular and that allegations of brutal treatment made by pressure group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) are 'clearly wrong and misinformed'.

Peta waged a high-profile campaign across Asia in the run-up to the Year of the Rabbit which included models in bikinis and bunny ears holding up placards in Causeway Bay urging people to boycott rabbit fur.

It is widely available in Hong Kong, usually as a cheaper form of fur used as trim on coats and hats and even on toys for cats and dogs.

Peta says its undercover investigators saw rabbits crammed in filthy cages at fur farms on the mainland, pulled from their cages by their ears and stunned with electrical devices before being hung upside down and decapitated. 'The manner in which they [rabbits] are killed is anything but humane,' said Peta Asia-Pacific spokeswoman Ashley Fruno.

'We want people to know that if you care about animals or want to make it a good year for rabbits, please don't buy any fur.

'It is a matter of educating people and letting them know that the rabbit, before he became your cuff or collar, was terrified and tortured and killed in an absolutely brutal way.'

As part of the campaign, Peta targeted celebrities who wear fur. Activist Coco Yu wrote to actress Michele Reis telling her: 'By flaunting any fur, you are guilty of cruelty as if you had skinned the animals yourself.'

Fur federation spokesman Tim Everest hit back at the campaign, saying: 'Rabbit is a very popular and economic component fur type and features strongly in many ready-to-wear lines as well as in street fashion. Rabbit is very versatile and easy to work with, which makes it popular with fashionists around the world.

'It really is hard to find a designer who does not use fur - those that have turned their back on fur have turned their backs on a powerful income stream in really tough economic times,' Everest said.

'Peta's emotional campaigns are misleading and wrong.' He claimed that dressing up as rabbits was a tactic to divert attention from Peta's inconsistent arguments.

'Animals are not bludgeoned to death and animals are not skinned alive,' he said. 'That would be horrifically and unacceptably cruel but also an extremely difficult way to remove a pelt, both dangerous to the operator and damaging to the fur and leather quality of the skin itself.'

Everest said only 2 per cent of the worldwide rabbit fur production came from rabbits raised on fur farms and accused the campaigners of 'bashing China at every opportunity', arguing their resources would be better spent giving farmers guidance and education on animal welfare.

'China has been growing at impressive rates for the last two decades but certain sectors of the economy are being left behind,' Everest said. 'The agricultural sector is a case in point as farmers of all descriptions in China remain desperately poor.

'Their own human existence, by our standards, is pretty grim. Their basic need for survival takes precedence over many things and many of the farmers simply do not know any better. They need help and guidance, not a ban on the legitimate trade on which their lives depend.

'It would be more constructive to encourage the farmers to continue their quest to improve their lives and join an education process whereby farmers receive guidance and education on farming methods and animal welfare.'

Fur farms

The percentage of the worldwide rabbit fur production that comes from rabbits raised on fur farms: 2%