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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

U.S. Retailers: Getting Skinned by Chinese Trade?

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Federated Department Stores Inc., the huge Ohio-based retailer that owns the Macy's chain, removed hooded jackets by Sean Jean from its stores five days ago after learning the fake fur on the collars really came from a species called a Chinese raccoon dog. The Humane Society of the United States discovered the problem, and blamed it on the Chinese clothing industry, which apparently uses dog and cat skins in garments exported to the United States.

"Due to the lack of animal welfare laws and prevalence of garment factories, China currently ranks as the leading exporter of fur and supplies half of all the fur products that enter the United States for sale," the Humane Society said. "Animals documented as raised and killed in China -- in barbaric ways -- include dogs, cats, foxes, minks, and of particular note, raccoon dogs, a species of canine whose fur resembles raccoon. The Fur Products Labeling Act prohibits the advertising or sale of any fur product that is falsely or misleadingly labeled, and authorizes the Federal Trade Commission to seek criminal penalties, impose fines of up to $5,000 per violation and to seize mislabeled products."

The entire Humane Society statement is available at and describes in some depth its efforts to educate retail chains and shoppers about the shady business practices of Chinese garment-manufacturing enterprises.

Much of the Humane Society's wrath looks to be aimed at the U.S. stores and designers. But the problems really originate overseas with trading partners who do not respect American laws and culture -- the U.S. pampers its pooches and is hardly a society where people kill dogs and wear the skins as clothing.

Of course, the Chinese make and sell shiploads of religiously-themed materials for Christmas that wind up in American homes. [Full Disclosure: I just checked and all the lights on my tree are of Chinese origin.] The Marxist government is atheist and does not tolerate religious freedom. But it permits the Chinese economy to cash in on the West's biggest holiday, which ostensibly celebrates the birth of the man who founded the Christian faith. And the West abets the hyprocisy by opening its wallets.

Here, at least, is an instance of an organization -- the Humane Society -- sensing something absurd and raising cane.