Hastings, who reps the 20th congressional district of Florida, which includes Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, wrote a formal letter to CBP commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske that cites a PETA Asia investigation which caught on video the brutal massacre of dogs at a factory that makes gloves out of dog leather.
Hastings is asking Kerlikowske to help make sure sure that dog leather doesn't enter the U.S. The U.S. banned the importation of dog and cat fur and skin into the country in 2000, but Hastings notes a report that there's a possibility that some goods coming in from China may contain either dog leather, or dog fur.
"Since it is difficult for customers to identify the difference, some manufacturers simply label the products as being from cows or pigs," Hastings writes in the letter.
After seeing the investigation for himself, Hastings' solution to the issue is having customs randomly test Chinese leather products as they are imported.
"Representative Hastings has always been a good friend to animals and we shared this information with him," PETA Campaign Manager Danielle Katz tells New Times. "We're grateful for his proposed solution to the issue."
In November of 2014, a PETA Asia investigator was able to obtain dog-leather gloves from China's Jiangsu province. According to PETA, one of Jiangsu's main trades deals with dog slaughter. An extremely disturbing video shot by the investigator shows workers at one glove-making facility bludgeoning dogs to death with sticks, and then skinning them in order to make leather. In all, about 100 to 200 dogs a day are killed, according to the investigation.
Warning: The video is graphic and may not be appropriate for some, and is NSFW.
There were about 300 live dogs in the compound slated for slaughter on the day the video was shot, PETA says.
The investigation also revealed that some dogs were grabbed with a metal noose, clubbed and then had their throats slit. Their skin was then ripped off to make dog-leather gloves, toys, belts, and other items that were later exported to the U.S., according to PETA.
"PETA Asia has documented that dogs were rounded up, beaten in the head and body with a metal bar or wooden post, skinned, and made into leather gloves bound for the United States," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. "These articles are never labeled 'dog leather,' so the U.S. needs to step up and protect America's import laws, its consumers, and dogs alike."
In his letter, Hastings asks Kerlikowske if anything can be done at the congressional level to make sure American consumers aren't duped into buying gloves, belts and leather products made with dog leather. He also asks what, if anything, is being done by CBP to make sure the dog-leather gloves aren't making their way through customs.
"Given the wide range of CBP's investigative tools, I would be interested to know what your agency has done regarding this issue." Hastings writes. "I would be interested in learning whether you feel it would be appropriate to engage CBP's full-service analytical laboratories so that they can randomly sample a small number of Chinese leather imports to determine the species of origin for these products being sold to Americans."
Katz says that the CBP might have technology available to do DNA testing of some kind on leather products imported from China, but cautions that it's difficult to truly tell the difference.
"One of the things we like to point out is that it's hard to tell the difference between what is dog leather and what isn't," she says. "You never can really tell. So we're asking consumers to ditch leather altogether.
PETA has set up a page asking people to pledge to swear off leather, as a result.
"We just launched another investigation this week that revealed cows being transported from from India to Bangladesh were being bound alive," Katz says. "It just goes to show you that, whether the products come from China or Bangladesh, that animals being slaughtered and mistreated for their leather.
You can read his letter to the CBP below: