FUR COMMISSION USA COMMENTARY, MAY 25, 2005
By Simon Ward,
The world’s fur industry held its breath this spring as animal rights groups released new and truly shocking video purporting to show “normal” fur-production practices in China.
Short-term damage, at least, has been limited in North America, in part because the media seem at last to be treating such materials with the skepticism they deserve. But the video is not going to disappear, and references to it in animal rights propaganda are everywhere.
So the industry cannot afford to rest easy. On the contrary, we must turn the situation in our favor by exposing those responsible for this gruesome production – whoever that might turn out to be.
Trouble started when the animal rights group Swiss Animal Protection began distributing video on the web and at protests, purporting to show standard fur production practices in China.
Not for the first time, the allegation was made that animals are skinned alive. But what made this video so horrific was that they clearly were, and in the most brutal manner imaginable!
One stomach-churning sequence, set in a marketplace, begins with a man wearing a butcher’s apron quickly dispatching a raccoon dog. But then another man in street clothes (leather jacket and pleated pants) is shown with a live raccoon dog tied to the back of a truck with no license plate. He then proceeds to skin the animal with great difficulty as it struggles and tries to bite him. (See Suspicious Dialogue below.) To those of us in the industry, all the signs were there of another manufactured “snuff” movie: highly edited snips of footage taken in unidentified locations, of unnamed humans committing inhumane acts – perhaps for money? But would the media catch the tell-tale signs?
The camera then focuses on a skinned but still moving animal on a pile of carcasses. While this animal is covered in blood, indicating a heartbeat during skinning, the animals beneath it are clean, as they would be if skinned while dead.
Another sequence shows a man clubbing a fox on the head with a knife, temporarily stunning but not killing it. He then attempts to skin the still moving animal, alternating with beating it with the knife. The animal struggles so much as to make the job impossible, so the man stands on its head.
Unedited Video Requested
The industry sprang into action, though taking care to ensure this was a coordinated and global team effort. Whether or not the video was staged, it was vital to determine where these illegal and barbaric acts were committed and by whom.
A European fur trade representative wrote to Swiss Animal Protection requesting a copy of the unedited video, including audio, plus details of when the video was shot and exactly where. But the request was refused.
And Chinese industry and government representatives issued strong statements challenging the video’s authenticity.
“Pictures showing animals being skinned alive are obviously plotted,” observed the China Fur Commission and the China Leather Industry Association in a joint statement. “All those with common sense would not choose this slaughter method to attain fur.”
“[W]e strongly reject some organizations which claim an individual problem which is without basis, even to the extent of producing and widely distributing an untrue report,” wrote the government of Suning County in Hebei Province, a center of Chinese fur production. “We hope that the Swiss Animal Protection Organization can respect the truth and will stop their unjustified reflection on our county’s fur industry.”
On the other side of the fence, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals began disseminating the video in North America, adding other scenes from sources unknown.
In hindsight, this may have been a blessing in disguise. Few if any of the media outside of Switzerland had probably ever heard of Swiss Animal Protection, making its credibility an unknown. PeTA, on the other hand, is renowned as an unreliable source, so its association with the video in all likelihood increased the media’s skepticism.(1)
Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Whatever the reason, most TV stations in North America chose not to air the video when its integrity was questioned.
Some doubtless were alerted by the fact the video was a graphic depiction of why only a fool would skin a live, struggling animal. But even the least discerning editor would have been mindful that their industry has been caught out before.
In the UK, for example, the 1995 duping of the BBC by Greenpeace over the alleged contents of the Brent Spar oil rig led to a collective resolution by Britain’s press corps to be more vigilant in future. And in the US just this April, the Boston Globe was humiliated after it ran an article describing Nova Scotian hunters “shooting harp seal cubs by the hundreds, as the ice and water turned red.” In reality, the hunt had been delayed and did not start for three more days!(2)
To avoid such disgrace, major media organizations in the US now contact FCUSA as a matter of course whenever fur stories cross their desks. This time around, our website’s comprehensive chronology of animal rights “snuff” films(3) was enough to dissuade several media outlets from airing the highly suspect footage. After all, their job is to deliver the facts, not to broadcast propaganda.
But damage control at times like this does not end with the media.
Fully 40 years ago, a man filmed skinning a seal alive ended up signing an affidavit confessing he had been paid to commit this atrocity.(3) Yet even so, the footage would end up in a production of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the lie that sealers engage in this practice remains as strong today as ever in animal rights propaganda.
Likewise, animal rights groups will continue to refer to this latest video for all it’s worth, on websites, in press releases and in fundraisers. And it’s a simple truth that if people hear something often enough – particularly the young and impressionable people animal rights groups prey on – some will believe it.
If fur farmers are to avoid bearing the same stigma that sealers have carried for 40 years, we must nip this latest allegation in the bud.
We must lend every assistance in uncovering those responsible for this video, be they fur farmers or, as seems likely, animal rightists.
And if it indeed turns out the video was staged, we must seek to punish the culprits and those who profit from their actions under all applicable laws.(4)
We must get the message out loud and clear that the fur industry comprises people who share the exact same values as the societies of which we are a part. Skinning animals alive is a sin, and we don’t need anyone to tell us that.
|Chinese Fur Industry Contacts|
The following two organizations are members of the International Fur Trade Federation:
China National Native Produce and Animal By-Products Import and Export Corp.
Handling Suspect Video
When offered video of unknown authenticity, the media are urged to:
Ask for the full, uncut film footage, with sound. Any individual or group offering video but unwilling to meet this requirement is most likely hiding something.
Ask that all people in the film be identified by name.
Require sworn statements from the filmmaker and crewin the case of footage of illegal activities, attesting to the time, place and other circumstances relating to the illegal activity.
For essential background reading, see Saving Society from Animal “Snuff” Films.
As this report goes to press, the investigation continues into highly suspect dialogue in the latest shock animal rights video from China. The audio is unclear, but certain words – translated here from the local dialect – are discernible. What do they mean? You decide.
A man in street clothes is about to skin a raccoon dog alive. Another man appears to be instructing him with such expressions as “You should do this.” Meanwhile, a clearly surprised on-looker asks, “You will skin the animal alive?”
After the animal has been skinned, another on-looker calls to the photographer, “Take a picture here quickly. The animal is still alive.”
Dollar Farming …
… or how to make money from snuff.
Produced by the Belgian association Brok (a freedom-of-choice movement) in cooperation with the Belgian Fur Trade Federation, “Dollar Farming” explains the simple business drive that often lies behind animal snuff films. All rights for using and distributing this movie belong to Brok.
(1) A notable exception was PeTA’s hometown newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, which seemed to accept the video’s authenticity even while reporting on PeTA’s role in editing it. See PETA vs. J.Lo: Behind the scenes of a campaign, Virginian-Pilot, May 22, 2005. (Outside link.)
(3) See Saving Society from Animal “Snuff” Films, FCUSA commentary.
(4) In the US, this could include Title 18, Sec. 48 of the US Code, which prohibits the profiting from film depicting animal cruelty. See Saving Society from Animal “Snuff” Films for full text.
For further information contact Fur Commission USA.
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