Category Archives: Europe

Europe news and happenings

NYTimes 20080401: A Push to Stop Swiss Cats From Being Turned Into Coats and Hats

Just to balance the sheets a little, fashionistas are as culpable as gourmands when it comes to killing cats and dogs:

Lucerne Journal
A Push to Stop Swiss Cats From Being Turned Into Coats and Hats

Nicolas Righetti for The New York Times

Tomi Tomek at her home, a 260-cat shelter, in Noiraigue, Switzerland.

Published: April 1, 2008

LUCERNE, Switzerland — Had just one of her cats disappeared last October, Isabelle Nydegger would simply have assumed it had lost its way in the nearby forest or been attacked by a dog or wild animal.

But first Zeus, a 2-year-old black tabby, vanished. A few days later it was her 2-year-old black and white tabby, Zorra. And, finally, the prize of her brood, 4-year-old Merlin, a fluffy white Siberian whose perky visage remains in her mobile phone six months later. All were gone within the first couple of weeks of the fall hunting season.

The cats, Mrs. Nydegger and others are convinced, were shot by hunters near this central Swiss city and sold to tanners for their fur, which is used in garments and blankets in the last western European nation where such a trade is still legal.

Legal, that is, but increasingly stigmatized — and soon Switzerland is likely to outlaw the practice.

That the first country to outlaw it, Italy, did so only six years ago reflects the long European history with cat fur and how quickly the public has soured on its use in the face of an international campaign to redefine a centuries-old practice borrowed from traditional Chinese medicine.

While it is legal in Switzerland to shoot feral cats as well as domestic ones that stray more than 200 yards from their homes, it is not clear how many cats are hunted every year here and across the border in France, where residents have also complained about disappearing felines. One government official put the number at a couple of dozen. Luc Barthassat, a legislator with the Christian Democratic People’s Party, said about 2,000, but members of S O S Chats, an advocacy group, say tens of thousands are killed.

Estimates of the value of each pelt vary wildly. Mr. Barthassat said he had been told by tanners that they pay only about $5. But animal rights advocates say that hunters make much more than that, noting that some blankets made from 10 pelts sell at retail for more than $1,700.

But the numbers almost seemed beside the fact this fall, after a series of TV reports created a public furor. Three TV news crews from Switzerland and France conducted hidden-camera investigations that caught tanners who had officially denied trading in cat fur actively doing so and, in at least one case, explaining that cat meat was also available.

Soon S O S Chats had collected more than 123,000 signatures urging the government to ban the practice. Brigitte Bardot and Michael Schumacher, the popular Formula One driver, signed the petition, as did leaders of animal-rights groups around the world.

“This is probably the most popular subject we are dealing with this year,” said Mr. Barthassat, who has introduced a bill that would ban the import, export and domestic commercial trade in cat fur. “By this summer, it will be resolved. It is very personal for many people because cats are more than animals to us.”

Regardless of how common it is, news media reports over the past year across Europe portraying Switzerland as a cat-slaying haven have helped S O S Chats press its case. “The politicians must be careful what they say, but that they are helping us is a good thing,” said Tomi Tomek, the director of S O S Chats, who has lived since 1981 at a 260-cat shelter nestled in the rugged western Swiss mountains near Neuchâtel. “All of this publicity has driven the trade underground, and that is good, too.”

The matter would most likely have reached the Swiss Parliament in some form this year regardless of the activism and publicity because the European Union has required member states to prohibit the import and export of cat fur by the end of 2008 anyway. Switzerland is not a member of the Union but does have treaties that require it to adhere to many of its rules on trade matters. Mr. Barthassat’s effort to end the domestic trade, however, is a step beyond the European Union’s demands.

Ms. Tomek said her organization had spent a decade trying to bring attention to the use of cat fur and the theft of domestic cats. She said one of the biggest problems her group faced was to convince people that there really was a trade in cat fur.

“For a long time, nobody believed us because we had no proof,” she said. “We would call up the tanners and tell them who we were and ask them, and they would never admit they did this. Then we started just pretending we wanted to order some cat fur, and they sold to us. Now we are not seen as liars anymore.”

Armed with a thicket of receipts showing purchases by S O S Chats of cat fur garments as recently as last August, Ms. Tomek approached journalists from across Europe, persuading several to look into the matter.

Until she saw the news reports, Mrs. Nydegger herself dismissed Mrs. Tomek and others as radicals. But the loss of her third cat, Merlin, was particularly shocking because he was so loyal and well behaved, often taking walks with her and her dogs without a leash. That Merlin would have wandered off, she said, is “just completely impossible.”

No less than Christophe Darbellay, the president of Mr. Barthassat’s own party, has said he is alarmed by the growing international outrage over the trade in a Western European nation otherwise known for its high regard for animal welfare. The Swiss are a pet-loving people, more than 60 percent of whom have a dog or cat, he said. Companion animals are often seen sitting with owners in restaurants and on public transportation.

“Switzerland is becoming the place where the most cats are being killed for the import and commerce to sell the cat fur,” Mr. Darbellay said. “We don’t like to be seen this way.”


BBC: Last cat saved from Olympics site

Remember the news about the cats in the London 2012 Olympics stadium site? Great news is the Celia Hammond Animal Trust did it! They’ve saved all the known cats from the demolition threat. Now if only the same were done at en-bloc sites here. Foster Mum’s cats-for-adoption drive will reopen soon, starting with 13 en-bloc affected community cats that are moving into the cattery this weekend. Some of these were pets abandoned when their owners moved away from the site long ago, so this is the second tragedy to befall these ex-pets.

Page last updated at 19:28 GMT, Friday, 11 July 2008 20:28 UK

Last cat saved from Olympic site

The charity aims to find a home for Blackjack within the next month

The last remaining stray cat has been rescued from the Olympic Park site after eluding capture for months.

A charity saved 186 cats from the building site in Stratford, east London, but could not catch one they named Blackjack.

The Celia Hammond Animal Trust finally lured him into a trap containing a plate of chicken this week.

(click on title to read whole article)


Thanks to Budak for the headsup.

London Also Spilling Cat Blood For Olympics

China bashing, ever popular past-time of citizens angry about the state of things at home, and politicians with an agenda to hide, embraces everything from US Pet Food Recall 2007 to kitty and poochie death camps in the name of the Olympics.

Take a look in cyberspace and you see smatterings of “boycott China”, “ban China”, “I Hate Them”, “Chinese are cruel” a host of similar rants in the menagerie. (I got a hysterical email with all these calls.)

However, from an animal welfare perspective, are the Chinese so unique in their cruelty? Take a look at this report on London 2012. It was reported late last year. (source: Cats to be sacrificed on altar of expediency for Olympic glory) Do you see the same intensity in the outcry over this? I don’t. The world is biased, even in its outrage.

Yes, in mitigation, London seemed to have done some work in minimising the kitty death toll. But the fact remains that some are more equal than others. (Links mine)

Last Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007, 10:54 GMT

Olympic cats ‘could be crushed’

Hundreds of stray cats and kittens face being crushed during demolition at the Olympic stadium site, it is claimed.

The Celia Hammond Animal Trust said London 2012 bosses had reneged on a deal to allow the charity access to the east London site to rescue cats there.

A computer generated image of how the 2012 Olympic Park will look

Three litters of newborn kittens were said to have been found on the site
Former model Celia Hammond said about 150 cats and kittens on the site had been saved but more were at risk. The Olympic Delivery Authority said it was discussing the timing of future visits with the trust. ‘Feral kittens’ But a spokesman said prolonged access to the site was no longer possible.

“We have been working closely with the Celia Hammond Trust for a number of months to capture and remove over 150 feral kittens and lactating cats,” he said.

“Each building is thoroughly checked for wildlife ahead of demolition and the ODA has agreed to contact the Celia Hammond Trust if [cats] are discovered…”

He said there was significant contamination on the Olympic site and the ODA’s number one priority was ensuring the safety of its workforce and visitors.

A petition on the Celia Hammond Trust website has attracted more than 5,000 supporters’ signatures.

Actress Joanna Lumley is also supporting the campaign.

Bride of Knut? A Lesson for Survival of Species

While the world celebrates ‘Flocke‘, I find myself being more interested in the treehugger‘s story about how the situation for this bride of Knut came to pass. People really should learn to read between the lines.


This little quagmire, Germany’s Polar Bear Cub Quandary, is neither cuddlesome nor healthy. Padding in the footsteps of the captive entertainment animals that have gone before them is not a life for these lords of the Arctic… whose homeland and wild brethren are being threatened by oil-men.

BBC News: Postmen complain of cat attacks

Postmen are, to my knowledge, the exclusive province of dogs. As are letters and letter-fetching. Perhaps this kitty suffers from an identity crisis?

Then again, it may be cause of misunderstood intentions, as the owner says. Regardless, the important thing is that she has done her part to resolve the issue, as a RESPONSIBLE pet owner.

Last Updated: Monday, 17 December 2007, 10:40 GMT

Postmen complain of cat attacks

A woman has put a mailbox at the end of her drive after postmen complained of being repeatedly attacked by her cat.

Sarah Goddard, from Derby, said her moggy Georgi had left a postman bleeding after scratching his hands as he put letters through the door.

Georgi the cat

Ms Goddard says Georgi still waits for the postman to come everyday

She explained: “I think she only wants the letters but obviously she must just accidentally catch his fingers.”

(read complete article)

BBC News: Ancient polar bear jawbone found

A bit of geeking. This is really interesting news (emphasis mine):

Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 17:19 GMT

Ancient polar bear jawbone found
By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News, San Francisco

What may be the oldest known remains of a polar bear have been uncovered on the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic.

The jawbone was pulled from sediments that suggest the specimen is perhaps 110,000 or 130,000 years old.

Professor Olafur Ingolfsson from the University of Iceland says tests show it was an adult, possibly a female.

The find is a surprise because polar bears are a relatively new species, with one study claiming they evolved less than 100,000 years ago.

If the Svalbard jawbone’s status is confirmed, and further discoveries can show the iconic Arctic beasts have a deeper evolutionary heritage, then the outlook for the animals may be more positive than some believe.

(read on…)

BBC News: Cat, 26, could be record breaker

Thanks to Budak for letting us know. And black‘s such an unpopular pet cat colour here as in a lot of places:

Last Updated: Sunday, 2 December 2007, 14:20 GMT

Cat, 26, could be record breaker
A 26-year-old domestic cat from Shropshire could be one of the oldest in the UK.


The elderly cat survived a fox attack four years ago

Pussywillow lives in Ratlinghope and is still “sharp in her mind and her eyes”, according to owner Lin Brown.

The black cat, who now enjoys curling up by the stove, lived off animals she caught herself until she was 22, Ms Brown said.

… read on

In relation to Pussywillow’s secret to longevity, you might want to consider your cats’ menu options, and review your knowledge on commercial cat food, and cat food alternatives.