by Erin C. Healy - Monday, March 25, 2019
The NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum was established to bring pro-hunting organizations together to fight the culture war on our hunting heritage. Our mission at NRAHLF.org is to report on hunting-related news, to follow where hunters’ dollars go, to celebrate our rich hunting tradition and to call out those who seek to destroy it. We are not shy about exposing the animal-rights agenda to end meat-eating, fur-wearing, pet-owning and our hunting way of life. What we won’t do is misrepresent the truth. When we make a mistake, we admit it and correct our reporting.
On Monday, Mar. 11, this website published an article written by a contributor reporting that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) paid two Chinese men to skin a raccoon alive on camera so the organization could then use the film to forward its anti-fur agenda. This was incorrect, and we apologize for contributing to any spread of misinformation on this important topic. Two other animal-rights organizations, Swiss Animal Protection and the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), were responsible for making the 2005 film. PETA only disseminated it on its YouTube channel [graphic content] and on a microsite it hosts entitled, A Shocking Look Inside Chinese Fur Farms [graphic content].
PETA On Site
However, as reported by Kim I. Hartman on May 2, 2010, in Digital Journal, a center-left-leaning Canadian Internet news service that offers a mix of professional reporting and user-submitted stories, PETA representatives were on site with Swiss Animal Protection-EAST when they visited fur farms in China. “When undercover investigators from the Swiss Animal Protection-EAST International agency and People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) toured fur farms in China's Hebei (sic) Province, they were first-hand (sic) witnesses to the cruel and inhumane manner in which these fur-bearing animals are being treated,” Hartman wrote in “China accused of skinning live animals for fur [graphic video].”
In the article, Hartman further writes that PETA “released graphic video’s (sic) of the killing of these helpless animals,” implying that PETA had authority to “release” the film. Hartman adds: “A call to PETA’s office confirmed these statements and the validity of the investigation and undercover video’s (sic) made during the trip to China fur raising farms.”
The article concludes with a thank you to the reporter from the president of PETA, Ingrid E. Newkirk.
This doesn't mean the video was made on this trip or that PETA representatives were present during the making of the video, only that PETA representatives visited Chinese fur farms together with the makers of the video.
PETA Connected to Filmmakers
On the other end of the political spectrum, right-leaning WND, former World Net Daily, reported in “China flaying animals alive,” that Swiss Animal Protection was indeed responsible for making the film footage. In an interview with Swiss Animal Protection spokesman Mark Rissi (whose name is also on the copyright screen of the video), reporter Bob Unruh writes, “Rissi said the actual onsite investigation was done by his organization’s staff members as well as trusted Asian animal protection supporters, but as fur production was not a controversial subject, ‘people willingly showed their farms to the team.’” We don’t know exactly who or what those “trusted Asian animal protection supporters” were, but we do know that PETA is active in Asia.
Then Unruh includes this: “[Rissi] said he’s glad other organizations, such as the U.S.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have joined in his group’s campaign.” Rissi is referring to the anti-fur trade in general here rather than the movie in particular.
Swiss Animal Protection was founded in 1861 and is the oldest and largest animal protection organization in Switzerland along with being the umbrella organization for 58 regional animal protection associations in that country. No financial connection has been found between PETA and Swiss Animal Protection.
However, PETA donated to EAST twice in 2002, once for $1000 and once for $500 on Sept. 23 and 24 respectively “to support program activities” according to that year’s Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax.
PETA Claims the Film Is Real
On April 21, 2009, PETA published the video on its YouTube channel. The post has garnered over 3.4 million viewings of the torture and is still up. As mentioned, PETA also maintains a microsite dedicated to the Chinese fur trade. That video is also still up. PETA continues to claim the production was a real and not staged.
Fur Commission USA represents mink farmers and, along with organizations such as the National Trappers Association and the Fur Information Council of America, is a member of the International Fur Federation (IFF). On its website you will find a running list of what’s called animal “snuff” films that animal-rights extremists use to raise money for their organizations because of the high emotional impact on viewers who gladly pay to make the suffering depicted stop. Some of the videos really happened and some were orchestrated. Fur Commission USA advises journalists to ask for full, unedited versions of any footage, with sound. To date, Swiss Animal Protection-EAST has failed to supply any outlet with an uncut version of the raccoon skinning footage. The Fur Commission also suggests reporters request that everyone appearing in the film be identified by name, and that sworn statements be given by the crew as to the time, place and circumstances of any illegal activity that they observe. As a responsible fur industry member, the organization encourages exposure of genuine cruelty and illegality.
The Fur Commission verifies that Swiss Animal Protection/EAST created the film in Heibei Province sometime between 2004 and 2005. According to the Fur Commission USA’s “Animal Snuff Films” list, “The audio during this process is unclear, but certain words—translated here from the local dialect—are discernible. What do they mean? You decide.
“As the man prepared to skin the raccoon dog alive, another man appears to be instructing him with such expression as ‘You should do this.’ Meanwhile, a clearly surprised on-looker asks, ‘You will skin the animal alive?’ After the animal has been skinned, another on-looker calls to the cameraman, ‘Take a picture here quickly. The animal is still alive.’”
Is Skinning a Furbearer Alive Logical?
Common sense dictates that skinning an animal when it’s alive is inefficient, dangerous and costly. First, the struggling animal will scratch and bite, injuring the skinner. The skinner will be unable to perform the meticulous, detailed knife cuttings with an animal that is flailing and kicking. And, finally, if you skin an animal that is alive, the blood will ruin the fur, making it worthless. Interestingly, the Fur Commission article determines that the video is highly suspect for just this reason. “The camera then comes in close on a skinned, but still moving animal on a pile of animal carcasses. While the moving animal is covered in blood, showing its heart was pumping during the process, the animals beneath it are clean, as they would be if skinned while dead, which, of course, is the normal procedure and the ONLY acceptable one by humane standards.” (Emphasis original.)
The Fur Commission USA report continued saying that animal-rights groups in Europe argued that China lacks regulatory oversight of its fur industry. The China Fur Commission and China Leather Industry Association countered, releasing a statement, saying: “Pictures showing animals being skinned alive are obviously plotted. All those with common sense would not choose this slaughter method to attain fur.” The government of Suning County, Hebei Province, also issued a statement that detailed its welfare practices on fur farms.
Women’s Wear Daily Breaks the Story
So on Mar. 5 Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) Executive Editor Arthur Zaczkiewicz published an exclusive article entitled “Film Denouncing Fur Deemed ‘Staged’ by IFF Investigators.” The subhead reads: “The International Fur Federation described the 2009 video, which is used by antifur groups, as a ‘snuff film.’” You can also read the piece on the Fur Commission USA site.
The article that ran on NRAHLF.org was precipitated by a notice in The Ag Watchdog e-newsletter, published by the Center for Consumer Freedom, that brought attention to the WWD article. And what an article it was. The IFF said in a statement to WWD: “[The video] has been presented to legislators by animal rights supporters to launch fur ban campaigns in Los Angeles and San Francisco and used repeatedly over the last decade in presentations to designers, brands and the media. The gruesome footage, captioned, ‘A shocking look inside Chinese fur farms’ caused widespread public revulsion and has pushed designers to drop fur.”
Proof that the film was staged came in the form of IFF’s decade-long investigation, including interviews and signed affidavits from the two skinners who appeared in the video, Ma Hong She and Su Feng Gang. The men worked in the Shancun fur market in 2005 and admitted that they accepted payment to perform the heinous act on camera.
In his affidavit, which is in the possession of NRAHLF.org and was thoroughly reported on in the WWD article, Ma said that the two men were working and they were approached by a man and a woman who had a camera and were filming. They asked what they were doing, and, according to Ma, the woman said that her grandfather had never seen a raccoon skinned alive. She asked if Ma would do it and if she could film him. He told her that he could not because the animal might bite him. She said she’d buy them a good lunch or give them a few hundred yuan to buy their own lunch.
Su said in his sworn statement, also in the possession of NRAHLF.org and reported on in the WWD article, that Ma was his boss and that he wanted Su to skin the animal. Su said he wouldn’t because it was too cruel and the raccoon would feel a lot of pain. Ma said that the man and woman would give them a lot of money, so Su performed the skinning while the woman filmed. In his statement, Su said: “The man went to another stall and was also filming.”
The article details how badly the men felt afterward. “It was cruel for the animal. Even now, after so many years, every time I think about what we did it makes me uncomfortable. It is something we regret,” Ma said. He added that he worked as a skinner for years and nobody would ever skin an animal alive, and that he never saw anyone do so.
Right and Wrong
Our article on Mar. 11 got it wrong. As far as anyone knows, PETA did not have any part in the making of this nightmarish film. Everything else in our article was accurate. And as NRAHLF.org has reported, the animal-rights organization has been caught making fake animal-abuse videos before. In June of 2017 Mashable reported that PETA aired footage of a cat being beaten by his trainer, only the whole thing was created using computer generated imagery (CGI).
The color and tone of the NRA HLF piece was true to the author’s voice; we encourages contributors to write passionately about their love of hunting and their disdain for those who are determined to impose anti-hunting measures on freedom-loving Americans. PETA did and continues to do everything within its power to use the footage of this staged horror to raise money and malign the fur industry so that it can sway public opinion into banning fur. PETA is not the only organization operating in such a fashion, just a front-and-center element of an anti-pet, anti-meat, anti-hunting and anti-fur movement. In fact, right now a California bill (AB 44) is being debated to ban the sale and manufacturing of fur statewide. Michael Whelan, executive director of Fur Commission USA, said, “It is sponsored by the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States, another animal-rights organization) and is chock full of misinformation and false claims against our industry.”
About the Author: Erin C. Healy is the associate editor of the NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum website. She edited a lifestyle magazine on Cape Cod for 14 years and provided marketing services for her local guntry club prior to joining BLADE magazine. She served in the U.S. Army, is an NRA Life Member, a National Wild Turkey Federation member and sends her Jack Russell Terriers to ground as often as possible.
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