It's the kind of bizarre news that could only come from one of Germany's notorious, dumpster-diving tabloids -- only this time it appears they didn't have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get their scoop.
At this year's annual autumn harvest market in Leipzig in the eastern state of Saxony, the usual gorgeous produce, regional dishes and handmade goods were among the products on sale. But tabloid Bild reports that visitors also discovered an unexpected and rather unsavory offering as well: Coats and vests believed to be made of domestic cat fur. That's not a very animal-friendly headline for a city that was home to the country's latest animal celebrity, Heidi, the recently deceased, cross-eyed opposum.
The paper claimed on Wednesday that a vendor admitted to one of its reporters the goods he was selling were "made of cat fur. I sewed it myself just last week."
Bild first learned of the incident from Steffen Soult, a lawyer in the city who claims he stumbled upon the fur coats while strolling with his wife through a downtown market. Soult contacted a journalist at the paper with his story.
'18 To Make a Coat'
"I thought it looked like cat fur, and the seller himself confirmed this, telling my wife he needed 18 to make a coat," Soult told SPIEGEL ONLINE, confirming the account he gave to Bild.
Aware that the sale of both cat and dog fur violates a German animal protection law (indeed, it would also breach European Union regulations), Soult said he notified police and other city offices. An official with the local market authority in Leipzig also confirmed the incident when contacted by SPIEGEL ONLINE and said his agency has since banned the vendor from selling his wares at any city-run market until the allegations have been investigated.
"This has no place in an accredited market," said Herbert Unglaub, head of the Leipzig market authority. The authorities responsible for enforcing the law have also been alerted, and could confiscate the goods if any law has been violated, he added.
According to Unglaub, the seller had participated in local markets for years, but this was the first time he has been suspected of offering products made from what may have been domesticated animals. The official added that if the vendor sold products with cat fur, it would be "illegal."
In its report, Bild published what it alleged was a photo of the vendor helping its reporter try on what was believed to be a cat-fur vest. The man reportedly described it as "cozy and warm." The item, also reversible, required eight cat pelts to make and was priced at 500, the paper reported.
When confronted by the paper about the allegations, the vendor strenuously denied them, the paper said. "I have been coming here for 10 years and there were never any problems," he reportedly told the newspaper. "The only thing I sell here is clothing from sheep and rabbit fur."
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