SOME Australian ugg boot makers are using pelts from animals skinned alive in China for the footwear and labelling it as wool and other materials, according to an animal rights group.
Investigators from The Humane Society International have today revealed the results of tests on a range of clothing including a brand of the iconic Aussie ugg boot and claim many samples contain the fur of raccoon dogs.
Raccoon dog fur is mainly farmed in China where the animals are kept in unbelievably cruel conditions before being beaten and then skinned alive.
The raccoon dog is indigenous to east Asia and is closely related to carnivorous and omnivorous mammals which includes wolves, foxes, jackals, coyotes, and domestic dogs.
WARNING: BELOW LINK CONTAINS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC CONTENT
This graphic video taken by Swiss Animal Protection you can see the terrified animals being skinned alive and then thrown on a heap, in one instance an animal is still able to weakly raise its head after having its skin and fur cut off.
The shocking revelations from HSI come just four months after graphic footage of the cruel treatment of Australian livestock in Indonesian abattoirs led to a live temporary live export ban. Activists are now calling for the fur trade to be shut down.
The government has already clamped down on dog and cat fur, banning importation in 2004 after shocking footage was produced by an earlier HSI investigation into domestic dog fur farms, however fur of the raccoon dog continues to be imported into Australia.
One pair of popular ugg boots tested by HSI and revealed to contain dog raccoon fur were labelled “Australian sheep skin."
The company in question has been approached for comment.
HSI Director Verna Simpson said the ugg boots her organisation tested were just one of dozens of products being imported into Australia using racoon dog fur and in other cases canine dog fur which is banned in Australia.
“HSI has been informed that once these fur items have made it past the border, Customs has little power to take further direct action.
"Further, upon requesting action from the ACCC, HSI has been notified that the matter was not of significant and widespread public detriment to warrant further action being taken,” Ms Simpson told news.com.au
Animal hair identification expert Han Brunner confirmed the boots contained raccoon dog fur and said it was time for the Government to crack down on the barbaric trade.
“There is no doubt they have mislabelled these items and customs refuses to do anything. They have been labelled Australian merino fur and that was on the inside of the boot on the outside there was hairs from the raccoon dog,” he told news.com.au
“I think surely that should make an impact on customs especially after the cattle slaughtering in Indonesia - dog raccoons are skinned alive and the carcass is thrown on a heap when they are still alive.
Lena McDonald who runs Ugg Australia, said the use of the raccoon dog fur by other brands was tarnishing the entire ugg boot industry as many people had trouble differentiating between different brands.
Ms McDonald said her company used its own local tannery to ensure the quality and standards of its boots, but added there were anywhere between 30 – 40 products using the word “ugg” but that many were not made in Australia and used overseas materials including fur.
“As far as I can see many of these boots are not made in Australia at all yet they have the word Australia and ugg on them," she said.
“Labelling laws in Australia are a little bit grey and we have seen companies cutting off tags saying ‘made in China’ and the Australian made tag put on it."
A spokeswoman for Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said the government would not ban imports of raccoon dog fur.
"With regard to fur from animals other than cats and dogs, additional import prohibitions exist under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
CITES provides controls for the international trade of products derived from endangered animals or plants. Any trade in such items without the necessary, limited permissions is prohibited," the spokeswoman told news.com.au
"Extending the ban to fur products from the Asiatic raccoon, or “raccoon dog”, is not Government policy at this time."
A Customs spokeswoman said the government took the importation of illegal fur seriously but was awaiting further information before stating its position on the importation of raccoon dog fur.
Where Customs and Border Protection has concerns about the import of fur products, additional documentation may be sought from the importer to verify the nature of the product. In circumstances where doubt exists as to the authenticity of a product or documents, the importer may be required to provide a sample for testing by an appropriate expert.
Penalties of up to $110,000 or three times the value of the goods (whichever is the greater) can be incurred for breaches of the regulation.