MP backs plan for continued cat and dog fur ban after Brexit

4th April 2019
Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has backed a continued ban on the import of dog and cat fur after Brexit and asked for assurances that exemptions wouldn’t be introduced to open a ‘back door’ for such goods into the UK.
Under EU law, it is unlawful to sell, import or export dog and cat fur, or any products containing dog and cat fur. The MP said a Labour Government would ban fur imports entirely and called on the Government to do the same. 
During a Delegated Legislation Committee debate in Parliament on whether to transfer existing EU regulations into UK law after Brexit, the MP said he fully supported a continued ban, and asked why, if the Government could ban the import of fur it could not also restrict the trade in goods such as chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef.
The European Commission website says the fur ban was adopted “in order to address the concerns of European citizens, who consider cats and dogs as pet animals, and therefore do not want to buy products containing fur from cats or dogs”.

Mr Esterson, who is also a Shadow Business and International Trade Minister, said Labour did not oppose the Government’s plans to transfer the current regulations in full into UK law through a statutory instrument. Statutory Instruments are a form of legislation which allow laws to be altered without Parliament having to pass a new Act. 

He said: “This measure is straightforward and clearly something that we need to adopt in UK law and will all want to support.

“It is entirely right that steps are being taken to ensure that the ban remains in place once the UK has withdrawn our membership of the EU and where we are no longer covered by the existing legislation.”

The current EU regulations allow member states to import cat and dog fur for education and taxidermy purposes and the MP asked for clarification as to whether the UK had any plans to pass such an exemption, saying: ‘I ask the Minister whether the Government have any plans to bring forward regulations to that effect, and if so, how they propose to determine the intended purpose of such imports and how they would ensure that any such future concession is not subject to abuse’.

The Conservative Minister of State for Trade Policy at the Department for International Trade, George Hollingberry, responded: “The honourable Gentleman asked about the Secretary of State’s right to bring forward a statutory instrument to allow importation for education and taxidermy—indeed, that is part of the current EU legislation. I confirm that the Secretary of State has no plans to bring such exceptions forward.”

Mr Esterson continued: “The ban was introduced due to public indignation and moral outcry about the trade in fur products and is considered a potential test case for future efforts to end the trade in furs, pelts, skins and other products that have been subject to animal cruelty concerns about the way in which they are harvested. There is great public interest in this – so much so that 400,000 people signed the “Fur Free Britain” petition.

“It would be helpful to know the Government’s policy intention in that respect and whether the regulations may be followed in due course by other measures to bring about an end to the fur trade or the importing of goods that are considered to be in contravention of our domestic standards on environmental animal welfare or sanitary and phytosanitary grounds. Recent public opinion polls suggest that fewer than one in 10 people in the UK find it acceptable to buy or sell dog, cat or seal fur products.

“There is, of course, a risk that cat and dog fur products may still enter the UK market, having been mislabelled or otherwise, and I ask the Minister to clarify what efforts the Government are making to police that. He will remember that great concern was raised in the European Union’s impact assessment about the challenge of products from outside the EU in the trade in cat and dog fur. What efforts have been made and what analysis have the Government carried out to determine how much of a problem this trade from outside the EU has been, and what plans do the Government have to address that after we have left the EU?”

The Minister responded: “Policing of the importation of cat and dog fur is done through DNA analysis. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs conducts inspections at the border under the powers in the 2008 regulations. That will continue to have effect. HMRC will continue to have the same role that it had previously. It can seize goods and start criminal proceedings, and so on.”

Challenging the Minister on why the Government is not seeking to ban other imports into the EU such as hormone-fed beef or chlorine-washed chicken in line with existing EU bans once the UK has left the EU, Mr Esterson said: “There is a clear and demonstrable public opposition to such imports on morality and animal welfare grounds, let alone outstanding questions about the impact on human health.” 

He went on: “We welcome the Government’s efforts to introduce these measures [to ban the import of dog and cat fur]. There are serious concerns about the Government’s future policy intentions. When the Minister responds, perhaps he will address those concerns and state whether he will rule out imports of agricultural products now or in the future, including those that I mentioned, that are not produced to the same standards as our own and that offend our national moral sentiments.”

The Minister failed to respond regarding imports of chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef.