India bans import of snakeskin, fur

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New notification by Directorate General of Foreign Trade will impact industrial units that manufacture products from exotic animal skin for major global brands

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), on Tuesday, issued a notification amending the trade policy of India, prohibiting the import of the skins of reptiles and fur of chinchillas, minks and foxes, “whole, with or without head, tails or paws”.

In 2014, PETA India and Humane Society International/India began a parallel campaign urging the Government of India to take a “moral stand by closing its doors to the trade of exotic skins”.

The ban comes after Union Cabinet Minister of Women and Child Development and animal welfare activist Maneka Sanjay Gandhi wrote a letter to Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State (IC) Commerce and Industry pressing the need to curb cruelty towards animals by prohibiting the import of exotic skins. Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC and Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) further supported the need to bring in the ban.

“Many countries are switching to cruelty-free alternatives and we are glad that India is gradually emulating similar policies to reduce and eliminate unnecessary pain and suffering to animals,” said Gauri Maulekhi, trustee, People for Animals, and HSI/India’s Government liaison . The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 only allows the slaughter of animals for subsistence, and this too is regulated to minimize the pain and suffering of animals.

The fur and skin trade has forced several animal species into extinction or on to the endangered species list. “With many stylish and cruelty-free alternatives available, such as fake snake, mock croc, and faux fur, there’s absolutely no need or justification for wearing animal skins or fur”, says PETA India Government Affairs Liaison Nikunj Sharma. “Animals are not fabric, and we commend the government of India for recognising that fact.”

Slaughter house horror tales

In 2015, PETA India released a PETA US’ exposé of two factory farms in Zimbabwe and one in Texas, US, that supply crocodile and alligator skins to Hermès-owned tanneries – to create USD $40,000-plus Birkin bags or USD $2,000 watchbands. On the Texas farm, the necks of reptiles were sawed open – and some animals still moved minutes after they had been attacked with a knife or box cutter in a crude effort to slaughter them.

A video footage captured by PETA US investigators at Padenga Holdings’ crocodile farms in Kariba, Zimbabwe – which supply skins for Birkin bags – shows miserable concrete pits, each of which is filled with as many as 220 crocodiles.

Other investigations by PETA India’s global affiliates have shown that snakes are commonly nailed to trees and that their bodies are cut open from one end to the other as they are skinned alive, in the belief that live flaying keeps the skins supple. Their mutilated bodies are then discarded, but because of these animals’ slow metabolism, it can take hours for them to die. Lizards are often decapitated, and some writhe in agony as the skin is torn from their bodies.

Much of the world’s fur comes from China, where millions of dogs and cats are bludgeoned, hanged, bled to death, and often skinned alive for their fur, and Chinese fur is often deliberately mislabelled as the fur of other animals.