Friday, 9th July 2010
European Cat and Dog Fur Ban: A Civilian Power Success Story
European Cat and Dog Fur Ban: A Civilian Power Success Story
Analysis of the European Union Ban on Trade in Cat and Dog Fur
Group 3: Bart Bes, Dominic Brucciani, Richard Harvey and Eva Spoor
Amsterdam, 8 July 2010
Vrije Universiteit, European Union Politics in Global Perspective
Professors Ben Crum, Laura Horn, Lorraine Nencel
Word Count: 5.517
All reasonable attempts were made to distribute the work for this project evenly, with the main report split broadly along four lines. Bart Bes was responsible for looking at the ‘Influence of the European and National Parliaments’, Dominic Brucciani studying the ‘EU Agenda’, Eva Spoor responsible for ‘Member State Interests’ and Richard Harvey exploring ‘Organised Interests’. The research and writing in each of these four areas was executed by the individual but in consultation with the other group members and collated for the final report, which was then reviewed by all and enhanced with an introduction, methodology and conclusion. Additionally, the four interviews were all arranged and conducted by Bes, with Brucciani, Spoor and Harvey co-conducting and transcribing at least one interview each. Finally, whilst Spoor and Harvey wrote and delivered the presentation, Brucciani created the interview scheme and coding system whilst Bes formulated and revised the research questions and sub-questions.
Table of Contents
1. Methodology 4
1.1. Preparation 4
1.2. Interviews 5
1.3. Other Sources. 5
2. Organised Interests. 6
2.1 Animal Welfare Groups 6
2.2 The Power of Celebrity 6
2.3 Organised Opposition 7
2.4 Institutional Interests 7
3. The Role of National and European Parliaments 8
3.1. The European Parliament 8
3.1.1. Involvement of the European Parliament 8
3.1.2. Conflict with the Commission 8
3.1.3. The Initial Law Proposal 9
3.1.4. The Change of Derogation 9
3.2. National Parliaments 10
3.3. Conclusion 10
4. Member States. 11
4.1 Proactive Member States 11
4.2 Opposing Member State 11
4.3 Consequences for Member States 12
5. EU Agenda: The Role of the Commission 13
Interview Struan Stevenson 20
Interview Eva Britt-Svensson 35
Interview Laurence Bonafos 44
Interview Jo Swabe 53
Sample Letter Interview Request 55
On New Year’s Eve 2008, the trade of cat and dog fur in the European Union officially became an illegal practice. A process that had begun nearly ten years previously and had involved political, economic and social actors from all over the globe, was finally completed. The revelation of the use of cat and dog fur in products such as clothing and children’s toys had horrified European consumers to a level matched only by their response to the undercover videos shot in the Chinese farms showing their systematic torture. This project aims to discover exactly how this issue moved from media exposition to such a prominent and historic chapter in the history of European legislation. To do this, it is necessary to consider the role of various parties in order to fully understand the creation of this regulation. First under consideration is the influence and actions of organised interests, who brought the matter to the attention of the citizens of Europe and rallied them to raise objection with one unified loud voice. Then the roles and reservations of the parliamentary bodies and the Member States shall be assessed, who were seen to be almost universal in support. Finally, the internal machinations of the European Union itself are considered, with particular interest in the position of the Commission who initially represented the principle impediment to a ban.
In this section the employed methods of this analysis are elaborated. Each section in this chapter resembles a step in the research process. The most important tools were the conduction of interviews and the usage of online sources and provided documents of the interviewees.
After the appointment of this topic to this research group, a research question and sub questions were formulated.
How have different actors and global developments influenced the EU decision-making concerning the ban on trade in dog and cat fur directive?
What was the role of organized interests in the decision and what lobbying strategies did they employ?
What has been the influence of national and European parliamentary institutions on the decision?
Which member states had a role in the decision and what were their motivations to participate in the decision making process?
Which political actors were influential in framing the decision and how is this reflected in the way it appeared on the EU agenda?
Each member gathered info on his/her sub question on which the potential interviewees were selected. Subsequently, interview schemes were made according to the role of the interviewee in the decision making process and the info they could possibly provide. After that a document analysis was conducted in order to get a broad understanding of this topic, especially the political aspects. This analysis is also used to make this report.
After the selection of the potential interviewees, a letter was mailed to invite these persons for an interview (one example letter is attached in the appendix). After a week of these mailings, the persons were personally called. The following persons accepted our interview request:
-Eva-Britt Svensson (MEP and Rapporteur for this legislation)
-Struan Stevenson (MEP, rapporteur and main agenda setter)
-Laurence Bonafos (Evaluation officer and legislative veterinary officer of the Animal Welfare Unit of the DG SANCO)
-Jo Swabe (Employee HSI and former employee of Bont voor Dieren)
Each interview was face-to-face and semi structured. The interview schemes served as a guide, however, the questions were open and provided room to pose follow up questions which were not covered in the original schemes. A substantial part of the questions were the same among the different interviewees. With this technique it was possible to verify information from one interviewee with the other. The interviews were recorded and subsequently transcribed with the help of a computer program called Express Scribe. To have an overview of type of questioning see the appendix for the transcripts.
1.3. Other Sources.
Alongside the interviews online sources are consulted. The most important ones are the sites hsus.org/hsi, EUobserver, EUactiv, struanstevenson.com, eur-lex.europa.eu, ec.europa.eu, consillium.europa.eu, europarl.europa.eu and oipa.org.. Other utilized sources are provided documents from the interviewees which can be seen in the bibliography.
2. Organised Interests.
What was the role of organized interests in the decision and what lobbying strategies did they employ?
2.1 Animal Welfare Groups
The actions of organised interests were instrumental to the decision to ban the trade of cat and dog fur in the European Union, which came into effect on 31 December 2008 (BBC 2007). In fact, it was the work of the animal welfare group Humane Society International that initiated the whole process of banning products made from cat and dog fur across the world. An undercover video filmed by an HSI employee in 1998 brought the practice of cat and dog farming in China to prominence amongst animal rights activists throughout the world (Swabe 2010). The continued work of HSI in China uncovered the torture and deaths of over 2 million cats and dogs a year for products such as clothes, toys and blankets for sale in the US, European, Australian and Russian markets. The scale of this business and the horrific content of their videos showing cats and dogs being skinned alive, created a strong unified response amongst animal interest groups from all continents, including to name but a few, Animals Asia Foundation (Asia), Bont vor Dieren (The Netherlands) and Respect for Animals (UK). The key tactic employed by the welfare groups, alongside ensuring the exploitation of growing global internet file sharing networks such as Youtube, was the use of celebrity figureheads to make television and media appearances to highlight the issue and reach the widespread public. One such figure was movie director Dennis Erdman, who in turn enlisted the help of numerous Hollywood personalities to raise awareness of the process (Stevenson 2010). The public outcry in the USA and Australia led to comprehensive bans being swiftly adopted in 2000 and 2002 respectively.
2.2 The Power of Celebrity
The bans in the US and Australia left Europe as the main destination for the cat and dog fur products and the work to highlight this switch continued, with Bont vor Dieren conducting a test in 2002 on products found on sale in the Netherlands that showed 5 out of 93 items containing cat or dog fur, including a child’s toy (BBC 2006). Animal welfare interest groups also decided to take advantage of the power of celebrity in Europe, enlisting the help of the UK-based former Beatles pop star Sir Paul McCartney and his then-wife Heather Mills-McCartney to increase exposure. Established long-term animal welfare activists the McCartney’s were extremely adept at utilising the media to reach the European population, taking care to mention it during prominent interviews on mainstream shows such as Larry King Live and BBC Real Story (Mills 2005). The story was seen to strike a chord with the public more so than other animal welfare topics due to the fact the animals being tortured were so billed as ‘companion animals’, in reference to the fact that these are animals that humans may well keep as pets. The result of this campaign was that more than 200,000 letters of complaint were sent to the commission and over 1,000,000 signatures added to a selection of petitions, including 250,000 on Heather Mills-McCartney’s alone, urging an immediate EU wide ban (Mills 2006). The protest was also aided by the fact that China was particularly topical at the time, in the years leading up to the Beijing Olympics, resulting at one stage in Paul McCartney actually calling for a boycott of the games if the practice didn’t stop. For their part however, as another organised interest, the Chinese government were actually highly supportive of any legislative proposals to ban the import of cat and dog fur products, albeit without committing to actually prevent the farming itself as China has very little law to prevent animal cruelty. Nonetheless, after meeting with European Parliament representatives in 2006, Deputy Chairman of the State Forestry Administration Zhao Xuemin called the practice barbaric and promised there would be no complaints from the Chinese Government regarding the EU ban (Stevenson 2008).
2.3 Organised Opposition
There were some organised interests that were in opposition to a ban on trade in cat and dog fur. These included some Chinese fur trading businesses such as the China Leather Industry Association who claimed that cats and dogs were not systematically farmed for their pelts, but were rather stripped of their fur when these animals when naturally deceased on farms . Moreover and somewhat surprisingly PETA, one of the world’s most prominent animal welfare groups also protested the ban on the basis it legitimised the rest of the fur trade and ultimately wouldn’t work (PETA 2007). MEP Stevenson rejected these claims however, stating loopholes would be closed and the Bill would be beneficial to all as a good starting base and a means to revoke the licences of offending traders .
2.4 Institutional Interests
With regards to the roles played by the European Institutions, as the most accessible target for lobby groups the European Parliament was first to recognise the requirement for a ban in face of public pressure and respond. Although the Parliament was almost unanimously behind action, some specific MEPs acted as the drivers for change due to their personal interest in the issue. These included Swedish MEP and rapporteur Eva Britt-Svensson, MEP Arlene McCarthy who personally received Heather Mills-McCartney’s petition in Brussels in a press conference (Mills 2006) and most prominently, Scottish Conservative Struan Stevenson who initiated the first Parliamentary Resolution in 2003 and worked tirelessly in an attempt to compel the Commission to initiate legislation (Stevenson 2008). However, despite additional support from the Council of Agricultural Ministers the then-Commissioner for Consumer Affairs David Byrne said that there was no legal basis for a ban, based on existing Treaty text referring only to farm animal welfare rather than that of ‘pet animals’ and suggestions it would be incompatible with existing WTO and GATT rules (Bonafos 2010). This barrier led to the introduction of another organised interest, when HSI hired private law firm Matrix Chambers of London to challenge the Commission’s assertions (Stevenson 2008). Although they did succeed in providing a solution, agency also played its part when a change in the Commission led to the appointment of Markos Kyprianou as Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner. This change of personnel brought the decision under the control of an individual who sought to acknowledge the strength of public demand on this issue, resulting in the first draft of regulation of a ban of cat and dog fur in 2006 (European Commission 2006).
3. The Role of National and European Parliaments
What has been the influence of national and European parliamentary institutions on the decision?
3.1. The European Parliament
3.1.1. Involvement of the European Parliament
The involvement of the European Parliament in this process is mainly triggered by the activities of the Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson, who was member of the EPP-ED at that time (Photo 1). When he became elected in 1999 the Human Society International (HSI) and the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) send him a video of their undercover actions in China (Stevenson 2010). This video showed the horrific treatment of cats and dogs in Chinese slaughter facilities.
As a response Mr. Stevenson launched a campaign in the same year in cooperation with the HSI/HSUS to attract attention to these barbaric activities, from the European citizens and the European institutions. In 2003 the campaign received a boost from the Dutch animal welfare group ‘Bont voor Dieren’, which pointed to the potential danger of high levels of toxic chromium on cat and dog fur toys imported from China (HSI 2003: website). Stevenson’s campaign finally also incorporated the widespread evidence of cat and dog fur being sold in the member states, and even worse that this trade involved fraudulent labeling practices (Stevenson 2010; European Commission 2006:2; Spongenberg 2006).
Mr. Stevenson especially appointed his effort to the various MEPs, while he wanted them to sign a petition calling the European Commission to act (Stevenson 2010). Stevenson proved to be successful in convincing various MEPs of the severity of this issue. In cooperation with Bob van den Bos (ALDE), Nelly Maes (Greens/EFA), Mihail Papayannakis (GUE/NGL) and Philip Whitehead (PES), he established a petition which ultimately had been signed by 346 MEPs (European Parliament 2003). Declarations have to at least be signed by 314 MEPs to compel the Commission to take action (European Parliament 2009:73). Consequently, the amount of signatories was more than sufficient. This was (…) “only the sixth time in the history of Parliament that an absolute majority of Members had signed a Written Declaration” (Stevenson 2004:2). The well supported Written Declaration demonstrates the great willingness of the EP for such a ban.
3.1.2. Conflict with the Commission
As will be explained in chapter 4, the Prodi Commission at that time (1999-2004) did not respond to the Written Declaration. Stevenson went on with his campaigning activities with the HSI/HSUS and other MEPs. Mr. Stevenson gained a lot of attention from the press and received petitions and written declarations from the European citizens (…) “amounting to five or six hundred thousand names” (Stevenson 2010). Stevenson not only campaigned in the European Union, but also in China (Stevenson 2008: website).
Stevenson and the HSI/HSUS motivated European citizens to send letters or petitions to the commissioners David Byrne and Pascal Lamy to pressure them to introduce a ban (Stevenson 2010). In addition in this stage several celebrities started to support the campaigning activities of Mr. Stevenson and the HSI/HSUS. Heather Mills and Paul McCartney personally phoned commissioners. An appealing anecdote of the interview with Stevenson was that he said to Mrs. McCartney: “But your husband doesn’t know the Commissioner”, in which she responded: “Yeah, but I think the Commissioner will know my husband” (Stevenson 2010).
3.1.3. The Initial Law Proposal
When the new Commissioner for Health and Consumer Markos Kyprianou came in office (2004-2008) the reluctant attitude of the Commission changed due to the political pressure. Kyprianou finally initiated a law proposal in 2006 (Kyprianou 2007).
Swedish MEP Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL) was appointed as main rapporteur for this piece of legislation. Her role as rapporteur comprised the responsibility for the Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee (European Parliament 2006:website). Svensson's function was to mediate the initial law proposal between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Svensson stated that this was a hard assignment while the communication between her and the Council was very limited. Svensson only received information on the situation in the Council via the presidency (Svensson 2010). Svensson stated: “It is difficult for me to say how the situation is in the Council, because we don’t, as a rapporteur, you don’t know (…) how the member states discuss this issue” (Svensson 2010).
Mr. Struan Stevenson was appointed as rapporteur of the opinion of the committee on Agricultural and Rural Development (European Parliament 2007:16). The committee’s main objection is that the included derogation in the initial law proposal should be changed (European Parliament 2007:17). When voting in this committee for the opinion this was supported by unanimity. Again this unanimous vote points to the consensus amongst the various MEPs.
3.1.4. The Change of Derogation
The initial derogation included the placing of cat and dog fur on the market if they were (…) “not bred or killed for fur production” and if (…) “this fur is imported to or exported from the Community for personal use” (European Commission 2006:15). Eva-Britt Svensson (photo 2) also opposed this derogation. She explained the term “personal use” as the use of cat or dog fur for medical purposes. In an interview with Svensson, she emphasized that these practices were very outdated (Svensson 2010). In addition Stevenson explained that cat or dog fur was used for “rheuma bandages”, based on the bogus idea that this could cure the rheuma (Stevenson 2010).
Svensson was especially not satisfied with the other exemption: this exemption (…) “would provide a gaping loophole, which would be ruthlessly exploited by traders of all future consignments of cat and dog fur, thus rendering the entire regulation useless” (OIPA 2007: website). Due to the political pressure and the many negotiations between the Council presidencies and the European Parliament, they ultimately agreed on a derogation which included the use of cat and dog fur for educational or taxidermy purposes (Official Journal of the European Union 2007: 3). Svensson elaborated that she pressured members of the Council and the Commission by referring to the public outcry: “Please note that citizens in your country, in your country, in your country have sent a lot of emails, petitions (…) “your citizens are watching you” (Svensson 2010). In addition Commissioner Kyprianou emphasized that successful trialogues (…) “have led to the current compromise” (Kyprianou 2007:2).
Both Svensson and Stevenson (2010) confirmed that the cooperation between the different MEPs from the Parliamentary Committees went very smoothly. They cooperated with Caroline Lucas (rapporteur for committee on International Trade, Greens/EFA) and Dan Jørgenson (rapporteur for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, S&D) (European Parliament 2006: website). Although the MEPs belonged to totally different political groups, it seemed that they shared the same concern to establish an EU wide ban.
The overwhelming consensus among the various MEPs and the many negotiations between the Council and the EP ultimately secured a first reading agreement, of which the EP voted with unanimity (OIPA 2007: website).
3.2. National Parliaments
In the search for information about the influence of national parliaments on this decision it appeared that national parliaments did not played a big role in the passing of this legislation. Chapter 4 mentions that member states already had national legislation on this issue in response to the public outcry. The only information found about the influence of national parliaments stems from the UK.
The UK was very hesitant to implement a national ban. They argued that only a EU wide ban could work effective (Stevenson 2010). Moreover an anonymous source (2002) indicates that the UK wanted the have evidence of cat and dog fur being traded within the borders of the UK. A couple of MP’s then launched the “Early Day Motion” to the House of Commons. These MP’s were Ian Cawsey (Labour), Nike Palmer (Labour), Mike Hancock (Lib/Dem), Norman Baker (Lib/Dem), David Amess (Tory) and Tim Loughton (Labour). In addition an investigation of the NGO “Care for the Wild International” proved that cat and dog fur was being sold in the UK (Care for the Wild International: 2006). These developments possibly pressured the UK government to support the ban in the final vote of the Council.
The role of the European Parliament in the passing of this legislation was important during the whole decision making process. Stevenson’s campaigning activities resulted in the involvement of the EP. In corporation with other MEPs, Stevenson launched a Written Declaration which had a very solid basis in the EP. When the Commission ignored this Written Declaration, Stevenson kept campaigning. The new Commissioner Kyprianou finally initiated a law proposal. Subsequently a couple of MEPs closely worked together to change the initial derogation. The EP’s willingness is demonstrated by the consensus of MEPs in different points in the process. In the passing of this legislation the EP was an important driving force. On the contrary, it seems that national parliaments did not have much influence on the decision while the utilized sources do mention crucial involvement of national parliaments in this issue.
4. Member States.
Which member states had a role in the decision and what were their motivations to participate in the decision making process?
4.1 Proactive Member States
We have identified key individuals, such as the Scottish MEP Struan Stevensson, in the decision making process. However, several delegations of member states have advocated for this ban as well. In November 2002, the Swedish Delegation raised the issue in the Council meeting of Agriculture and Fisheries and was supported by a majority of delegations (Council of the European Union 2003). Commissioner Byrne responded that a ban under Community law could only be implemented through a trade agreement and that member states can take national measures if they wish so (Council of the European Union 2002). The following year the Danish delegation came with a proposal to the Council, referring to the Swedish raising the matter and to “other Member States various organisations and members of the public and of Parliament as well as of the European Parliament” (Council of the European Union 2003, 7 November). At the national level Denmark already had a ban, however, a Community level ban would be more appropriate and effective according to the Danish delegation (Ibidem).
The Swedish delegation (backed by DK, DE, EL, FR, IT, LU, NL, AT, SI, FI, UK) used the argument of harmonisation again in a Council meeting in 2005 and got a positive response from Commissioner Kyprianou. He said that at the Community level there was already a search for a legal base to adopt measures to harmonise provisions prohibiting cat and dog fur imports (Council of the European Union 2005). In February 2006, during a debate on a ‘Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals’ , Commissioner Kyprianou announced that he would submit a proposal banning the imports of cat and dog fur before the Austrian Presidency would end (Council of the European Union 2006). By that time, fifteen member states already had a ban (Spongenberg 2006 ). However, another discussion in January 2007 proved necessary and when the Council noted unanimous support of delegations, it gave a mandate to the Council’s preparatory bodies to continue examining the proposal, aiming to reach conclusion during the German Presidency (Council of the European Union 2007).
4.2 Opposing Member State
The Council of Agriculture and Fisheries approved the proposed act in November 2007, after amendment by the European Parliament. In the voting result it shows a unanimous approval (Council of the European Union 2007, 26 November). However, in all other documents, Italy is found to vote against. In the Addendum to Draft Minutes of the Agriculture and Fisheries meeting Italy explains why they did so, even though they were the first country in Europe to impose restrictions which led to a national ban in 2002 on production, marketing, import and export of cat and dog fur. “While concurring with the spirit of the proposal and with the need to enact rules harmonising this matter throughout the Community, Italy regrets the limited result achieved” (Council of the European Union 2008 : 8). Italy has two major objections to the Regulation. First, the exceptions for non commercial imports, which, be it on a smaller scale, allows products condemned in public opinion an entrance to the market. Secondly, the fact that no exception is allowed to the use of fur for scientific purposes, which Italy believes prevents study of identification of species, needed to implement Article 5 (Council of the European Union 2008 : 9). Article 5 of the Regulation requires member states to inform the Commission of “the analytical methods they use to identify the species of origin of fur by 31 December 2008” and whenever new developments demand it (European Commission 2006, 20 November). Italy feels that the text merely prevents the fur from being imported, but allows transit or storage in free or bonded warehouses. This proposal would therefore increase the scope for fraud and fails a clear message on EU’s stance against such practices. The rules should have been stricter and better defined if it did not merely want to reduce, but eliminate these practices (Council of the European Union 2008 : 9). Even though Latvia voted in favour, they point out that they consider the Regulation to be a first important step in the harmonisation of EU rules concerning trade in cat and dog fur, but they have reservations about the effective implementation of the ban. It is only possible when customs and veterinary competent authorities cooperate, and when import controls are uniform and effective practices (Council of the European Union 2008 : 10).
4.3 Consequences for Member States
As both the MEP Stevensson (2010) and HSI member Swabe (2010) indicated in their interviews, DNA-tests to determine the species of fur are very expensive. This means that it could be costly for member states to implement Article 5. In a joint response by the Commission to Parliamentary questions in 2009, she indicated that 24 out of 27 member states had provided this information for the Commission to analyse (European Parliament 2009, 9 November). Article 8 also requires member states to inform the Commission on the penalties they apply if the regulation is violated (European Commission 2006, 20 November). It therefore remains interesting to see what the report of the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of this Regulation (including customs activities) will be, which is, as required by Article 7, no later than the 31st of December 2010 (European Commission 2006, 20 November) .
5. EU Agenda: The Role of the Commission
Which political actors were influential in framing the decision and how is this reflected in the way it appeared on the EU agenda?
Having been brought to the attention of the EU institutions via a combination of public, interest group and MEP activism, this issue spent years moving around the agenda before resulting in a final regulation.
The activism detailed in other sections of this report was backed by committed support from MEPs. Numerous written questions were submitted by MEPs to the Commission between 1999 and 2003 (Eurlex). This period of early parliamentary involvement culminated in a written declaration, signed by a majority of MEPs, which requested 'the Commission immediately to draft a regulation under internal market powers to ban the import, export, sale and production of cat and dog furs and skins' (European Parliament, 2003).
Not only did this declaration receive the support of a majority of MEPs, as is required, but it achieved this support with ease – near unanimous agreement in the European Parliament, 'a sea of hands' as witnessed by Struan Stevenson (Stevenson, 2010).
The assumption made by Mr Stevenson was that such support, in addition to the volume of petitions delivered on behalf of citizens would result in a favourable response by the Commission. However, this initial declaration was not adopted. It met with opposition in Commissioner David Byrne (Ireland: Health & Consumer Protection 1999-2004).
The main focus of this section is to establish the process which took place between this period of bottom-up campaigning and the adoption by the Commission of the regulation in 2006. The crucial factors were the framing of the decision and the willingness of the Commission to adopt the issue at that level. The framing of the issue directly affects what area of competences it falls under, and accordingly how it is handled, if at all, at the EU level.
The initial framing of this issue was as an animal welfare issue. Under the existing Treaty, under article 33, animal welfare issues are only discussed at EU level when they relate to the Common Agricultural Policy; i.e. when they relate to directly to the single market. Other animal welfare issues are considered purely 'ethical' issues and are to be legislated at the Member State level. This is the principle of subsidiarity.
There was not only public and parliamentary support for action. During this period the issue was brought up for discussion in Council Agriculture & Fisheries meetings in 2002 and 2003, by the Swedish and Danish delegations respectively (Council of the European Union, 2002 & 2003). On both occasions the Commission representative rejected the responsibility of EU regulation to deal with the matter. In 2002 Commissioner Byrne claimed that such a ban 'could only be implemented through a trade agreement' (Council of the European Union, 2002), suggesting that the EU could not act unilaterally to implement a ban without renegotiating trade agreements into which the EU had entered with other groups, in particular the Chinese government. The view taken by the Commission was that insofar as this was an ethical issue, it is the responsibility of the Member States to act. If, however, it were a trade issue, there would be no legal basis to disrupt trade agreements such as those held with China and the WTO.
Struan Stevenson MEP interprets the Commission's position as being dictated by their outlook. Commissioner Byrne had a legal, rather than political background (Stevenson, 2010). As a result he was far less responsive to the pressures of democratic representation than he was to warnings about possible legal complications.
Eva Britt-Svensson MEP who acted as parliamentary rapporteur on this issue suggested that the opposition was a result of direct lobbying of Byrne by industrial groups (Eva Britt-Svensson, 2010). Though she did not identify any of the groups involved they were said to be European businesses in the chemical sector who had a specific interest in the import of the products included in the legislation.
What is clear is that the opposition was considerable and implacable. It was not until a change took place in the members of the Commission in 2004 that progress was made in dealing with the ban at the European level. It took independent legal work, funded privately, to establish that such obstacles as trade agreements were not barriers to legislating on this issue. A joint letter written to Commissioner Kyprianou, from Struan Stevenson MEP and Philip Whitehead MEP in December 2004 outlines the situation at that time; describing the evidence amassed, the multi-level support for legislation, and the 'clear legal opinion provided by [a] well known international jurist' (Letter, 2004).
Despite this, there is evidence that throughout 2005 the Commission was still having problems establishing the legal basis. Interestingly, Commissioner Kyprianou claimed that inter-institutional arrangements impeded him, specifically the Annual Commission Work Programme which is 'imposed' on the Commission by the parliament, which prevented more progress being made (Meeting minutes, 2004). The legal basis was eventually established by framing the issue as an internal market consumer protection priority, falling under Articles 95 and 133 of the EC Treaty. This framing is grounded in the risk that consumers face in purchasing fur on the European market. The EU is entitled to legislate within the principle of subsidiarity because '[e]vidence exists of the presence in the Community of non-labelled fur from cats and dogs and of products containing such fur'. Individual Member State legislation would create imbalance in the functioning of the single market, giving the EU scope to intervene. This is a notable change in thinking, demonstrating what can be achieved within the institutional and treaty constraints where the will and, essentially, the power exists.
Once the legal basis was established and the Council had adopted the regulation, there were further negotiations. These revolved primarily about specific derogations, exceptions and other terms of the legislation. By then, however, the issue was firmly on the EU agenda. This success follows a long-term commitment by MEPs and other campaigners, and the required degree of agency at the crucial level of power within the institutions, in particular the Commission.
When we began this project we were instructed to identify where the power lay in the formulation of the regulation we had chosen. What is clear at the conclusion of our research is that there exist different types of power within the institutions and processes of the EU. There is the power to harness public activism, gathering millions of petitions; the power to adopt an issue or exclude it from the EU agenda; the power to interpret Treaties to achieve legislative aims and, ultimately, the power to use the institutions of the EU to improve life in the union and the wider world.
With regards to answering the research question “How have different actors and global developments influenced the EU decision-making concerning the ban on trade in dog and cat fur directive?” we have found that certain actors wield disproportionate power, as is the case in any political system. In this case, the Commission, at the behest of only a few individuals, was able disregard a huge groundswell of public opinion and parliamentary will by employing a limited interpretation of the EU Treaties. The complexity of the EU decision-making structure means that the real power lies in the capacity to achieve cooperation between the different branches; to communicate and inspire with a message and to compromise on the right terms.
BBC (2007) ‘EU to ban cat and dog fur trade’, London, 19 June. At http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6765653.stm (01-05-2010).
BBC (2006) ‘EU Proposes Cat and Dog Fur Ban’, London, 20 November. At http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6165786.stm (01-05-2010).
Bonafos, Laurence (2010) Personal Interview. Brussels 8 June 2010. Transcription on file with the author.
Care for the Wild International (2006) ‘Glut of Chinese fur in the UK market, dog and cat pelts direct to your doorstep’, Press release, West Sussex, 4 April. At http://www.liveexportshame.com/news2/index.php?topic=2098.0;wap2 (04-05-2010).
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Interview Struan Stevenson
Topic: Ban on trade in cat and dog fur in the EU single market.
Interviewee: Struan Stevenson (SS)
Role: Member of the European Parliament, Rapporteur committee on Agricultural and Rural Development.
Interviewer: Bart Bes (BB)
Location: European Parliament, Brussels
BB: Okay, Mr. Stevensson, first of all, we are very interested to know how you got involved with the HSI.
SS: Just after I was elected in 1999, I was sent a video by the HSI, from America and MEP’s got a lot of video’s, got a lot of DVD’s, so I put it on my shelf and it was some months later that I decided to look at it and I was so shocked by what I saw. The video depicted an Alsatian dog, in a city in China, wagging its tail, clearly a dog that had been a domestic pet. It was sold to a butcher. He put a wire around its neck and then tied the wire to an iron railing and the dog was still wagging its tail. He then lifted its back leg and, with a knife, slit its artery under its leg in order not to destroy the fur, and the dog was screaming and howling as its blood poured out. He then hung the dog on top of a gate and started to skin it and it was still blinking, it was alive. And I was so stunned by this, I phoned America and I said, what can we do to help? Now, they had just successfully achieved a complete ban on the import, export and trade in cat and dog fur in America. And America of course is a member of WTO, so I concluded that, the EU being a member of WTO, we would be able to do the same. And I launched a campaign, first of all a campaign to gain the majority of the MEP’s signatures and a written declaration. And after two years we achieved that, and in fact, it was only the third time, at that point, ever, that a majority of MEP’s had signed a written declaration. It took a lot of work, but we were constantly coming across a complete opposition from the Commission. The Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs, at that time, Mr. Kyprianou, was completely opposed.
BB: Was that Kyprianou?
SS: Kyprianou, was completely opposed…sorry, no, it wasn’t Kyprianou. It was the Irish Commissioner, was completely opposed to introducing this ban, on the grounds that there was no legal basis for such a ban under WTO. That cruelty to animals is not considered appropriate under WTO rules and any such ban would be seen as being a hidden tariff barrier, a hidden barrier to trade and that the EU could then be taken to court. So, we then began almost a war of attrition with the Commission, they simply ignored the Resolution of the Parliament, and when a majority of MEP’s have signed a Written Declaration, the Commission, under the rules at that time, were required to respond…
BB: Take action? To initiate legislation?
SS: Yeah, to initiate legislation or to respond in a way that indicated that legislation would not be possible. They simply ignored us. We had petitions coming then from all around the European Community. I mean, we got so much publicity involved with this campaign and we had petitions amounting to maybe five or six hundred thousand names. We involved some big celebrities.
BB: Was that also due to the fact that the HSI campaigned for this with your cooperation?
SS: Well, no, it was myself who got the celebrities involved. First of all, Dennis Erdman, who was one of the producers of Sex and the City, from California. He had been working with HSI, and, knowing that, I contacted him about our campaign in Europe and he was more than happy, came over to the European Parliament three times, to take part in press conferences. We then involved Heather Mills-McCartney, at the time she was still married to Paul McCartney, and she attracted a lot of publicity over here. We had Rick Wakeman, of, the rock-star from the sort of eighties, nineties rock-group ‘Yes’, he is a big animal welfare campaigner, he got involved and came to the press conferences. And with all this you know we had a real bit of pressure on the Commission. And you know, with people like Paul McCartney actually phoning the Commissioner and saying, you know because Paul McCartney phoned me and asked me you know to brief him on what he should say to the Commissioner. Because when Heather Mills-McCartney suggested to me that she would get her husband to phone the Commissioner, I said; ‘But your husband doesn’t know the Commissioner’ and she famously said; ‘Yeah, but I think the Commissioner will know my husband’.
BB: Yeah, that’s true.
SS: And you know by that time it was Commissioner Kyprianou, and he became much more sympathetic to the concept of introducing legislation. I discovered then, though working behind the scenes with senior officials in Kyprianou’s cabinet, where the ‘log-jam’ was coming from. It was, it was actually, and maybe this should not appear in your report, but it was a young German lawyer, who was a member of his cabinet, who had been completely convinced since the days of the Irish Commissioner that there was no legal basis for this. And Kyprianou had to confront this guy and say; ‘Even if you think there is no legal basis, it is your job to go and find a legal basis. That’s what you’re paid for. Don’t come back and tell me there is no legal basis, go and make a legal basis’. And I said to them; ‘Listen, I don’t believe that anyone is going to, China for instance is not going to take the EU to court on the basis that China is skinning dogs alive…’
BB: The main exporting country.
SS: Yeah, so they’re not going to take the EU to court, they’ll be too embarrassed. And I went three times to Beijing and raised this with the ministers responsible, took them film footage of dogs being skinned, gave them all the evidence and they denied that this was a legal trade in China and they said; ‘This is all happening illegally and it’s partly because you guys in Europe have created the market for these products. So as long as that you have this market, our people will supply. We will try and stamp it out, but you need to introduce a law in Europe’. When we eventually did introduce the law, the Chinese were not at all happy. So that’s kind of called their bluff. But anyway, I reported all this back to Kyprianou and on that basis and on the basis that we were convinced that even if we did introduce a ban there would be no question of anyone taken this to the WTO, because no one ever took America to the WTO courts. So, eventually a legal basis was found, we appointed a Rapporteur, a factionist from the, I think the Communists.
BB: Mrs. Svensson?
SS: Yeah, Mrs. Svensson. She’s still here, she’s chairing the Women’s Committee now. And she and I cooperated very closely. The Report, in my whole ten years here I’ve never seen a Report that went through with a unanimous support of the Parliament. I looked around the room, it was a show of hands and not a single hand went up even by way of abstention. It was a solid forest of hands in favour of implementation of the Report which called for the ban. And the Commission then introduced a Regulation, so you know, there was no question of any derogation from it and the Regulation banning the import, export and trade came into force on the first January last year, across all twenty-seven member states. And I understand from our press cuttings that the first successful prosecution in the UK, took place last Spring, shortly after the introduction of the ban, where a shopkeeper was fined five thousand pounds, because the local trading standards people took him to court. He was trying to sell off some of these little furry toys made from real cat fur that he had accumulated before the ban came in and he was trying to off-load them. And he was seriously fined for it.
BB: He is punished now?
SS: He was fined five thousand pounds, so a considerable penalty. And I’ve heard of no further cases since. So, because they, people that were exporting cat and dog skins to Europe from China have mostly been involved in the legitimate fur trade, they are not willing to risk losing their license by being caught trying to break this ban. And that’s why I think the ban has been pretty watertight and pretty successful. So, now there is a ban in Australia. We’re trying to convince Canada that they should promise it and our next target is Russia, because China has changed its focus now, because they’ve lost the American and EU market. Russia, where they wear a lot of fur, they’re now refocusing their attention there, and it’s…there’s still a lot of animals being killed to supply Russia.
BB: Okay, thank you for this outline. I’ve got a couple of questions which go deeper into this process. So, if I understand it correctly, especially the celebrity figure heads motivated the public to sign petitions. Is that okay?
SS: And put pressure on the decision-makers here, because you know when we held press conferences in the European Parliament, we had a massive audience of MEP’s and they were then stimulated to go and sign the Resolution, put pressure on the Commission themselves, join that campaign, so it was a sort of foundation-building exercise which was very successful.
BB: So, you already told that in 2003 you signed the petition and so, to attract attention from the Commission for this matter and the judicial power of that is that they should act on it or should reply at least?
SS: Well, at least, they didn’t, they ignored it.
BB: They ignored it.
SS: And you know I raised questions on the floor of the House here, saying; ‘How is this possible? How can the Commission simply ignore us?’ When Kyprianou took over, I asked for copies of all the petitions that I had channeled, because I was inviting people to send their petitions to me and I was passing them on to the office of the Commission. And I asked Kyprianou to show me how many names from all around Europe had been accumulated, he couldn’t find any. It had all been put in the bin. All of them had been binned by the Irish Commission. Unbelievable…
BB: But, that is so interesting, so it seems to me that there is an overwhelming consensus from organized interests and the public and also the MEP’s, so do you think that this reluctant attitude of Mr. Byrne is only explained by because he, aside to the WTO argument, he used the subsidiarity principle? Do you think that there were other factors perhaps playing a role in his attitude?
SS: There certainly were other factors, Mr. Byrne, his background was not as a politician. He had been the Attorney General in the Irish Parliament. See, he was a legal officer, he’d never been elected to anything and he was appointed by the Irish government as the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, so he was coming at this from a purely legal standpoint with no background in democratic politics. And as such, you know he didn’t care what people thought, he was looking at it from a legal focus. And when he was inundated with petitions from every country perhaps in Europe, he was just saying; ‘I don’t care about these’ and putting them in the bin. Which is completely unacceptable, completely intolerable. And you know, I was very glad to see him leave and be replaced by Mr. Kyprianou, who was totally cooperative.
BB: I can imagine. Aside the, so I already mentioned the WTO statement, what was exactly his argument for this, because you already explained that America had a ban, so there shouldn’t be a problem with a European ban also?
SS: His argument, as I said, was that you know animal cruelty is not an acceptable legal basis for introducing a ban under WTO, a ban on any trade goods and that animal cruelty was the basis at which we were stating this ban was necessary. But, you know, maybe you’ve done the research and found what the ban originally, eventually was. But it was, you know, it was rather cleverly worked out. We paid for legal opinion, the Humane Society put the money out for it.
BB: The Matrix Chambers?
SS: Matrix Chambers. And Matrix Chambers provided the Commission with exactly what was required by with a legal basis. And that was at the time of Byrne and we showed Byrne exactly what the Matrix Chambers’ explanation was, but apparently this German lawyer and his cabinet said no, that didn’t work. But Kyprianou accepted it and changed it slightly to fit the circumstances prevailing within the Commission and within our legal services. We got a ban and no one has ever challenged it.
BB: And this new frame, was it about like more concerned with the consumer protection?
SS: Yeah, exactly that. It was because we were explaining that these items, no one in Europe would ever buy anything that they knew was made from cat and dog skins, that these things were always labeled with fraudulent labels, so you would have labels like Sobaki or Gay wolf or stuff like this and which misled the public, they would think maybe that this was a wild animal that’s been hunted you know in Siberia or something. In fact, it was fraudulent, sort of misleading labels to try and cheat the public into thinking that this wasn’t cat and dog fur. And it was on that basis that the legal basis was found.
BB: And these fraudulent practices, I was wondering, the incentive for that, why, because I already read that there was also a code before the whole legislation took effect among fur traders to do not this kind of practices. Did they say that?
SS: The European fur trade came to see me here in Brussels and said that they would introduce a voluntary code of practice where they would certainly not stock any cat or dog skins, but nevertheless we discovered subsequently in some undercover searches that we did, we discovered they were selling cat and dog fur. I’ll show you. We went with an undercover reporter from the Daily Mail in Britain. We simply looked up yellow pages to discover some furriers in and around Brussels and another furrier in Ghent. And we went to these shops and said; ‘Do you sell any blankets made out of cat skins?’ And two shops that we visited said; ‘Sure’. And we bought a rug made of chocolate coloured cat skins, I never thought you could have such a thing as a chocolate coloured cat. But, in fact, these are genuine cat skins, we’ve had them DNA-tested. And the guy was quite open about this saying; ‘There are too many of these fucking cats’, he said, ‘running around the streets, you know, pissing everywhere, so we’re doing a service for the public killing them’. So we were saying; ‘What, you take cats off the streets in Brussels and Ghent? And make them into rugs?’ And he said; ‘Sure. We give people money to bring the cats here’. Another guy we saw in the backyard of his shop, a pile of fat, which seemed to come from the scraping of the inside of these skins, so that indicated that he was also killing the cats and making the skins himself. So, you know, when you see all these notices at shop windows that were saying; ‘Missing cat’, you know ‘My pet cat has gone missing’, and little pictures of the cat, then you’re beginning to uncover what’s, you’re beginning to figure what was happening to them. But the Commission said that’s a completely different issue, because, you know, it is completely against the law to kill cats and dogs for their skins within Europe. So, you know, we can ban that under existing legislation, so that’s a different issue altogether. And I was forbidden from showing the film that we took secretly in these shops of these guys boasting about killing the cats and making rugs, because it was a breach of privacy laws in Belgium which could have led to me being prosecuted. Honestly, it was unbelievable. I could’ve ended up in prison or fined large amounts of money for breaching their privacy when they were breaking the law. And I demanded from Byrne that he take action against these people. He just ignored it again, he never did. Having told me that the existing law prevented him to have these people arrested. He actually wrote to me saying I could be arrested for showing this film. Unbelievable, I mean he was just completely antagonistic to the whole concept.
BB: So if I understand it correctly, there was a, it was a nice way to, how do you say, eliminate the street cats? Or the other ….
SS: This was what the guy at one of the shops was saying, yeah. That you know there’s so many cats that are running loose around the cities in Belgium that ‘I’m doing a public service by getting rid of them’. And he was selling the furs, I’ll show you a rug that we bought.
BB: And was there also a great need for cat and dog fur?
SS: Well, there was a demand of people of almost every country in Europe. Tourist shops were selling these cute little cats in baskets, you know you’ve got little cats with smiling faces and stuff, and sitting in a basket or lying sleeping, you know? But people that love cats and dogs were buying these for their kids, not knowing that they were really made from real cats and dogs, that they were killing and skinning cats and dogs to make these toys. And you know, I’m always buying these everywhere and we were having them DNA-tested. The problem at that time a single DNA-test was costing about twelve hundred Euros. And you would have to test maybe a dozen items to find one that was a positive and each item was costing twelve hundred Euros. Four or five of the items out of a dozen would be rabbit skin, four or five would be, would show a neutral test, because the chemicals used in the curing of the skins have destroyed the DNA, it was impossible to determine what the fur was and if you are lucky you would get one positive test. I mean, the cost was abnormal and you know, it was only through the HIS raising a hell of a lot of money, we’ve succeeded in getting some positive tests of various items all of which I can show you that any of these toys that were tested were completely destroyed in the process of the test. The only ones I have now have not been tested. So I don’t know if they’re really cat and dog fur, but they came from batches which disclosed real cat and dog in toys. Also there were ski-glove linings, ski-boot linings, the most common thing was trim for parka hoods and a lot of people wear the parkas or jackets that have a hood with a fur trim. That’s very common throughout Europe and you know, a lot of that has been made from real cat and dog skin. But also fashion items, I’ve got a full-length fur coat bought in Berlin, with no labels, it’s just got Chinese marking inside it. We calculated that it was made from the skins of forty-two Alsatian puppies. I’ve got a rug, or what the fur trade call a plate, made from four Golden Retrievers, which we bought in Copenhagen.
BB: What was, because I am interested to know what, was it more profitable to use cat and dog fur instead of other types of fur?
SS: Well, the Chinese were paying, you know, we traced this right back, they were paying a few cents for, US cents, for a cat, a live cat and maybe a dollar for a dog with a lustrous fur. So the dog that they eat in China are not suitable for fur, because they’re sort of wiry haired. I think its pet dogs with I think its lustrous fur that they use for dog fur. And a lot of Chinese breeders were importing breeding stock; Alsatians, Golden Retrievers, even Great Danes we found at one point, not Great Danes, some St. Bernards we found at one point, and using them as breeding stock. They didn’t kill them, but the pups from them were being, whenever they were matured, they were being killed for the fur trade. And, you know, if they were paying a farmer a dollar for a dog, well, with forty-two Al