Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Golf goes to the dogs. (As do plenty of other unwitting consumers…)

Perhaps because dogs are people, too, I find the idea of eating dog completely appalling. In a way that I don’t find the idea of eating chicken, beef, and pork.

I guess that once dog lips touch yours, and you don’t go all Lucy Van Pelt over the experience, you’re a dog person. And while dog lips might touch yours, dog anything will never pass them. (Seriously. Eating dog? I don’t care if it tastes like chicken.)

So I get completely skeeved out by the thought of dog on the menu, as is pretty common in parts of Asia. But:

Not just the dog meat is prized. Factories use leather from dog skin for use in everything from drums to guitars, says John Dalley, co-founder and vice-president of the Soi Dog Foundation, a nongovernmental organization in Thailand devoted to canine welfare. Manufacturers of golf gloves also prize dog leather, Dalley adds, especially from the skin of the testicles of male dogs  “because that skin is particularly soft.” (Source: Business Week)

Okay. There’s dog skin, and then there’s dog skin.But whatever the source of that dog skin, I really don’t want to be wearing it.

(Alibaba.com, the business-to-business website owned by Chinese e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba, has lots of listings for gloves made from dogs.)

Couldn’t resist. I just clicked through. And while I did not see any mention of the t-word, I’m going to have to try and figure out whether my good pair of leather gloves are dog. Fortunately, most of my trusty winter go-to’s are made out of Polarfleece or the like.

The dog trade is illegal. And the trade is down, thanks to folks like Dalley putting pressure on Asian governments to crackdown on smugglers. Still, where there’s money to be made…

But these are pets, for crying out loud.

Thailand has a large population of stray dogs wandering the streets of major towns and cities, but most of those captured for meat or pelts are stolen from pet owners or temples. “Stray dogs are extremely difficult to catch,” explains Dalley. “It’s far easier to catch pet dogs or unwanted service dogs.” The illegal trade is based on “extreme cruelty from start to finish,” he adds. “We see over 100 dogs stuffed into cages in the back of pickup trucks. Lots of dogs are skinned alive. It’s a horrendous industry with absolutely no regulation.”

As for golf gloves made out of dog, don’t expect to see Poodle or Chihuahua gloves sponsoring the Masters anytime soon.

Sure, it’s one thing for Alibaba to talk dog. In China, they eat it so why not wear it?

But once they get to the pro shop, all those Phil Mickelson wannabes aren’t going to be trying dog on for size – or at least they won’t know that’s what they’re doing. Whatever its provenance, the leather will probably say “cabretta”, which is sheep skin. Which seems perfectly acceptable. After all, how many people accept sheep kisses? Isn’t that how anthrax is spread?

Of course, I wouldn’t put much of anything past golfers. If there’s something out there that will improve their game, most golfers I know – even those who are pretty much duffers – will go after it. I’m quite sure that if some golf guru claimed that using a mashie niblick would help trim a few strokes off their norm, there’d be a run on mashie niblicks (only this time around they’d be made with titanium).

I know, I know. It’s easy to accuse golfers of going to the dogs.

But there’s apparently quite a trade in canine (and feline) hides being passed off as a fur that gets a less visceral reaction – like fox or raccoon or any other animal that you’re not likely to have curling up beside you when you take a nap.

Skins from these animal go into making full-length and short coats and jackets. Fur-trimmed garments. Hats. Gloves. Decorative accessories. Even toy stuffed animals. All made with the fur of dogs and cats. (Source: Case4, a vegan on eBay – I take my information where I can get it. Some of Case 4’s comes from InFurMation)

German Shepherds are apparently considered especially desirable.  (Say it isn’t so. The thought of old family retainer Grimbald being shanghaied and turned into a stuffed animal!)

One shipment from a Chinese company to the Czech Republic, reportedly for the Czech army, contained 5,329 kilograms (11,924 pounds) of "house cat skin jackets + plates", representing the slaughter of 40,000 to 55,000 cats.  Chinese fur factory told investigators that it had 100,000 cat skins stored in its factory.

Just as, on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog, half the time information sources are undated, so it’s not clear whether there’s still as much dog and cat fur flying around out there. From what I can tell, domestic pet fur is now prohibited in the EU and the U.S. Which is not to say that it’s no longer used, Likely, it’s just passed off as something else. China doesn’t appear to have any regulations against using it – or lying about it.

I don’t want to be too much of hypocrite here. I don’t eat a ton of meat, but I’m by no means a vegetarian. (Vegetarian is at least within the realm of possibility; vegan: never.) I wear leather shoes, and wool sweaters. But I pretty much draw the line at fur. And I don’t want any animals to suffer cruelty in the service of mankind, however mediated my consumption of animal products is by Whole Foods or Zappo. And I find the idea of dogs and cats being kidnapped from their owners and sold off so that someone can have a faux-fox trimmed hood on their parka, or nice and soft golf gloves, completely appalling.

Completely. Appalling.

1 comment:

valerie said...

You drove me to Google with "mashie niblick". Always interesting and so much fun. Now write a book please.