On 24 July, Laura Donnellan presented at the world’s first summer school on the ethics of fur organized by the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. The summer school took place at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, from 23-26 July, 2017. Laura’s paper was titled: “The Cat and Dog Fur Regulation: A Critique of the EU Approach to Animal Welfare”. The paper examined and critiqued the EU’s approach to animal welfare with a focus on the Cat and Dog Fur Regulation. It analysed the Regulation’s effectiveness and discussed its limitations, most notably the omission of rabbit fur and recent reports of real cat fur being found in shoes in a high-street retailer. Future directions of EU animal welfare policy were also examined.
The Regulation was a much welcomed development as traditionally, the European Economic Community (EEC) did not concern itself with the issue of animal welfare. The EEC Treaty considered animals solely in relation to the proper functioning of the common market. Considering that human rights were not referred to in the original EEC Treaty, the omission of animals was consistent with the narrow economic focus that formed the basis of that Treaty. Animals were seen as commodities whose interests were intertwined with agricultural and environmental policy. Over the years, the position has changed albeit incrementally with the introduction of a number of secondary legislative measures, however, there still lacks a coherent policy of animal welfare protection within the European Union (EU). With regard to domestic animals, the responsibility rests with the individual Member States.
In short, economic concerns along with consumer protection have been at the core of legislative of a number of measures with animal welfare being viewed as an ancillary aim. The Cat and Dog Fur Regulation is an illuminating example of this as, the European Commission was motivated by consumer concerns in relation to products advertised as fake fur but in fact consisting of real cat and dog fur. However, that is not to say that the Commission and indeed European Parliament have not been motivated by benevolent concerns.
The paper will be submitted for consideration as part of an edited book on the Ethics of Fur. The paper was well received by those in attendance, including the Humane Society International (HSI) UK who tweeted: “Great talk by Laura Donnellan of @ULSchoolofLaw on gaps in EU #animalwelfare & deficiencies in fur labelling #EthicsOfFur #FurFreeBritain”.