When You Find Out What These Gloves Are Made of, You Won't Be Able to Look Your Pet in the Eye

An animal rights group's investigation uncovers Chinese factories that make leather products from dog skins.
(Photo: Reuters)
Dec 23, 2014· 2 MIN READ
David Kirby has been a professional journalist for 25 years. His third book, Death at Seaworld, was published in 2012.

The next time you go shopping for leather gloves, you might want to ask yourself an unsettling question: Did that accessory come from the skin of a family pet in China?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals last week released a video shot by an undercover investigator showing dogs at a factory in China’s Jiangsu province being butchered not only for their meat and organs—considered delicacies in that country—but also for their skin, which is tanned and sold as leather on the world market.

“A PETA Asia investigator has obtained a pair of dog-leather gloves, along with never-before-seen video footage in which workers in China's Jiangsu province, where dog slaughter is a regional trade, grab terrified dogs with a metal noose, club them, and slit their throats,” the animal rights group announced on its website. 
“The animals' skin is then cut off, and PETA Asia's investigator saw workers peel the skin off dogs who were still alive. The investigator also documented that dog skin was turned into women's fashion gloves, men's work gloves, and other products that are exported around the world.”

PETA said it visited three slaughterhouses and six processing plants during a one-year undercover investigation. One slaughterhouse employee told PETA that the facility kills and skins 100 to 200 dogs each day.

“Although the dog-meat industry in China is well known, this is the first time that PETA Asia has captured the production of Chinese dog leather on camera,” the group said.

Most of the world’s leather products, including gloves, belts, shoes, purses, and other accessories sold in the United States, are produced in China.

Ashley Byrne, a PETA campaign specialist, said the Chinese dog leather industry has been thriving for years.

“It seems like it’s quite established, especially since there’s no penalty for using animals killed for their skin in China,” Byrne said. “Skin is an economically important part of the dog-slaughter industry.”

Where do all those doomed dogs come from? Byrne said that a small number are raised specifically for their meat, skin, and fur, but the vast majority are either pets that were kidnapped from their owners or dogs rounded up on the streets of Chinese cities and villages.

Short of conducting a DNA test, there is no easy way for importers, retailers, or consumers to know exactly what type of animal any leather product is made from.

The United States Fashion Industry Association and National Retail Federation did not respond to requests for comment on dog leather products, while an official at the American Association of Exporters and Importers said the group had no information on the practice.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, meanwhile, provided a link to its website stating, “It is illegal in the U.S. to import, export, distribute, transport, manufacture, or sell products containing dog or cat fur in the U.S.”

The Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000 calls for the seizure and forfeiture of each item and penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation.

That law, however, has not stopped the import of dog fur from China passed off as raccoon fur, including a 2012 incident involving Neiman Marcus and, the following year, designer Marc Jacobs.

As far as PETA is concerned, slaughtering dogs for their skin is little different from using cows or sheep for the same purpose.

“The difference is that most people are more familiar with dogs than they are with cows,” Byrne said.

Consumers who are worried about wearing dog products should not buy any leather, she added, noting that PETA has a Web page called “How to Wear Vegan.”

“It’s easy to find inexpensive quality shoes and accessories that are stylish and free of animal suffering,” Byrne said. “Whether it’s coming from dogs or cows or other animals, we absolutely have the choice not to buy them in the first place.”