Many Americans were outraged when they learned the fur collar on their new made-in-China coat was really cat fur or dog fur. I guess the outrage at the sacrifice of what we know as a companion animal (aka pet) for clothing is understandable. If we kept mink or fox as pets it might elicit the same reaction. The fact that birds are common household pets in other parts of the world but not in North America or Europe seems to make it all right to cull them by the millions in a bird flu outbreak, but I’ve carried on about this sensitivity/insensitivity issue before and how it depends on whose pet is being sacrificed and I’m not going to do it again. Not this time. This time it’s people, many of them children:
A few years back, American consumers discovered to their horror that fur collars on made-in-China coats purchased in US stores were made from the fur of cats and dogs. The Humane Society of the United States conducted an eighteen-month undercover investigation and exposed the slaughter of more than 2 million domestic dogs and cats by garment makers in China and other Asian countries. Congress acted swiftly. It enacted the Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000, banning all imported garments made with dog or cat fur. The bill included fines of up to $10,000 for each illegal item and barred repeat violators from importing or exporting any fur products.(William Greider in The Nation), subscription only alas; January 29, 2007 print edition)
Yes, fast action and decisive action by the Congress on behalf of cats and dogs. I don’t mind. We have always had dogs and each has been like part of our family. Of course we also have a daughter and a son in our family. they are part of families around the world, too. But since they aren’t cats or dogs, Congress has no incentive to protect them, nor do most Americans have the same outrage for the mistreatment of foreign children as they do the mistreatment of foreign cats and dogs. What am I talking about? Sweatshop legislation. Greider, again:
The vile human abuses lurking behind famous brand names have been repeatedly exposed by Charles Kernaghan of the National Labor Committee, which has been investigating factories in Central America, China, Bangladesh, Mexico and others. Wal-Mart is among the repeat offenders. Like other US retailers, it claims to be enforcing decent labor conditions. The investigators find otherwise. Kernaghan points out that the same companies have won enforceable rules in trade agreements to protect their trademarks, labels and copyrights, yet regard protections for workers as “an impediment to free trade.” “Under this distorted sense of values,” says Kernaghan, “the label is protected but not the human being, the worker who makes the product.”
He might have added, and so are the cats and dogs. Senator Byron Dorgon (Democrat of North Dakota) has introduced a bill to ban import of clothes produced under internationally defined “sweatshop conditions.” As Greider observes, it also makes companies accountable for coercing workers to work under dangerous conditions, conditions that have taken the lives of thousands of garment workers in catastrophic fires. Whether Dorgan’s bill will succeed depends upon whether the people lobby is as strong and as heartfelt as the dog and cat lobby.
What do my fellow dog and cat lovers think? You can find out more here. You can even tell your representative and Senators to stop this outrage. Your cat or dog will love you even more for it.