10 APRIL 2017, LONDON—An investigation by Fur Free Alliance member Humane Society International/UK has discovered shoes containing real cat fur for sale on the British high-street by youth fashion chain Missguided.
The import and sale of fur from domestic cats and dogs has been banned across the EU since 2009, and Missguided is a vocal advocate of its fur-free policy. Despite this, laboratory tests confirmed that the pom-poms of fur decorating the shoe were cat fur . The shoes, which have been on sale by the retailer both online and at its Westfield Stratford store, list only man-made materials on the label.
Concerned shopper Donna Allison alerted HSI/UK to the shoes after suspecting they contained real animal fur, despite receiving an assurance from the store’s official Twitter account of their policy to only sell fake fur. In countries such as China – where the Missguided shoes were made – an estimated two million cats a year, including pet cats, are snatched from the streets and killed for their meat and fur.
HSI has contacted Missguided about the finding and has forwarded the information to Trading Standards and asked that the enforcement authority investigates the findings further in relation to the The Cat and Dog Fur (Control of Import, Export and Placing on the Market) Regulations 2008. Donna Allison said:
“I find it horrifying that Missguided and other retailers are selling real fur — in my case cat fur — and that they didn’t appear to take action when I raised my concerns about this serious issue. All retailers should be taking action to ensure complete traceability of their materials. It’s unacceptable that they are helping fund an industry where animals have to endure unimaginable cruelty and for something so unnecessary. I urge everyone to be more vigilant and understand how to identify and ensure they’re buying faux fur.”
Whilst trade in dog, cat and also seal fur is banned across the EU, and all fur farming has been illegal on moral grounds in the UK since 2003, imports of fur from a range of species such as fox, rabbit, mink, coyote, racoon dog and chinchilla can still be legally sold here. It’s a double standard that makes no moral sense, and yet as a member of the EU single market, unilaterally banning the trade of fur into the UK would likely have been challenged in Brussels and by EU member nations that continue to farm animals for their fur.
However, Brexit offers the opportunity to change that, and HSI/UK is calling on the British government to make the United Kingdom a fur-free zone by extending the cat, dog and seal fur bans to all fur-bearing species. A 2016 YouGov opinion poll  asked whether people found it acceptable or unacceptable to buy and sell fur from nine different species and found that, averaged across all species, only one in ten people believe it is acceptable to buy and sell real fur. Claire Bass, executive director of HSI/UK, said:
“It is extremely concerning to find cat fur on sale illegally in the UK, both because of the cruelty that cat and all fur products represent, but also because it will rightly dent the confidence of consumers seeking to buy only fake fur. Fake faux fur is a growing problem; when items have cheap price tags and labels saying ‘100% acrylic’, consumers can understandably be caught out mistaking them for fake fur, when in fact they contain fur from a tormented animal. Independent stores, popular markets like Camden, as well as online retailers such as Amazon are awash with cheap animal fur-trimmed garments that are either mislabelled as ‘faux’ or not labelled at all. To properly protect both animals and consumers the government needs to take action to stop Britain’s insidious fur trade.”
The Missguided ‘fake faux’ fur shoes are the latest in a large number of similar items exposed by HSI/UK over the past couple of years, including several well-known high-street brands. Most recent items discovered by HSI’s secret shoppers from December 2016 – February 2017 include:
* another shoe style at Missguided that tested positive for rabbit fur;
* a pair of gloves at ‘fur free’ retailer House of Fraser that tested positive for rabbit fur;
* a range of shoes from Westfield Stratford store Primars all sold as fake fur but found in tests to contain fur from rabbit, mink and fox;
* a bobble hat sold on Amazon UK as faux fur but testing positive for raccoon dog or fox fur (this listing included an on-screen no-fur assurance); and
* another bobble hat sold on popular fashion boutique website Lily Lulu sold as “faux fur” online, labelled as 10% marmot on delivery but testing positive for raccoon dog fur when sent to the lab
In several cases where HSI’s secret shopper questioned staff in-store, they incorrectly confirmed items were faux fur. HSI/UK believes that most consumers would be horrified to discover they’ve inadvertently bought real fur. HSI’s Claire Bass said:
“We know that the vast majority of British people reject the inherent cruelty of the fur trade but at the moment they are not getting the right information as consumers to avoid it. Clear labelling of all fur is an obvious starting point that will likely reduce the UK’s fur trade significantly, but we don’t believe that goes far enough. Whether it’s fur from coyotes caught in the wild in agonising traps, raccoon dogs and foxes enduring miserable lives and painful deaths by electrocution on fur farms, or cats bludgeoned to death in China, we believe all fur is cruel and should be banned regardless of species. Morally, there is no logic to banning fur from some animals and not others, and Brexit means we could have the opportunity to reflect public opinion and make the UK the world’s first fur-free nation.”
Around the world in countries such as China, France and Poland, animals on fur farms can be subjected to the same terrible conditions as those the UK banned back in 2000, with the UK’s final fur farm closing in 2003. Beautiful wild animals are kept their entire lives in filthy, tiny cages, forced to endure physically and mentally damaging conditions before being killed and skinned for their fur. Wild animals such as coyotes fair no better, caught in agonising traps for hours or even days before they’re put out of their misery.
USA, 11 AUGUST 2016 – Seventeen large retailers are found to sell real fur items that are advertised or labeled as “faux fur”. New research shows that the retailers are promoting apparel and accessories of brands as Canada Goose, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Burberry Brit as fake fur, while the items actually include animal fur from raccoon dogs, rabbits and coyotes.
Fur Free Alliance member The Humane Society of the United States asks the Federal Trade Commission to bring enforcement action under federal consumer protection laws against the 17 retailers for false advertising of fur garments. Amazon, Neiman Marcus, Kohl’s, Nordstrom are among those facing potential civil or criminal penalties.
In its largest collection of industry misrepresentations to date, The HSUS highlights violations from December 2011 through December 2015 by retailers Amazon, A-List/Kitson, Barneys, Belk, Bluefly, Century 21 Department Stores, Eminent/Revolve, Gilt, Kohl’s, La Garconne, Mia Belle Baby, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Ross, Ruelala, Searle and Stein Mart. Pierre Grzybowski, Research and Enforcement manager of The HSUS’s Fur-Free Campaign, says:
“Consumers would be horrified to know they have been duped into purchasing animal fur when they thought they were buying a humane alternative. The FTC must crack down on this industry-wide problem of misrepresentation that The HSUS has been uncovering and documenting year-after-year for a decade.”
The sale of these coats, footwear, key chains, handbags and cardigans as “faux fur,” when in fact they include animal fur, is a violation of the US Fur Products Labeling Act, The Federal Trade Commission Act, and in some cases a violation of outstanding cease-and-desist orders already issued by the agency. Violations can carry penalties of up to one year in prison and/or fines of up to $40,000.
MICHAEL Michael Kors, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Burberry Brit, Canada Goose, Rebecca Minkoff, Elie Tahari and Rag & Bone are among the 32 different brands of apparel and accessories sold by the retailers named in the petition.
The submission represents the latest in a series of HSUS investigations and actions regarding rampant false advertising and labeling in the animal fur apparel industry. The HSUS previously sought FTC action on the problem in March 2007, April 2008, November 2011, July 2014 and April 2015. But lack of vigorous industry-wide enforcement has allowed widespread violations to go unchecked.
Neiman Marcus and Eminent/Revolve are already under 20-year cease-and-desist orders from the FTC following an HSUS petition that identified similar violations in 2011.
More details can be found in the links below:
WASHINGTON, 1 FEBRUARY 2016 – Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor settled a civil contempt suit brought by Fur Free Alliance member The Humane Society of the United States after an investigation revealed more than 40 fur advertising and labeling violations between December 2013 and November 2014.
The HSUS’ investigation uncovered evidence that Saks and Lord & Taylor violated the Fur Products Labeling Act and 2009 court orders prohibiting false advertising of animal fur garments. Among other violations, the retailers falsely marketed real animal fur garments as “faux,” incorrectly advertised fur from raccoon dogs – a species in the dog (Canidae) family – as “raccoon” fur and failed to disclose fur garments’ country of origin (where the animal was killed) and other legally required information.
Under the settlements, Saks and Lord & Taylor certify that they will cease selling fur from raccoon dogs, one of the most horribly mistreated and commonly misrepresented species in the fur trade, pay The HSUS approximately $50,000 in investigation costs and legal fees and agree to pay additional damages if they breach the agreement in the future.
Ralph Henry, director of litigation at The HSUS, said:
“We are pleased with the terms of these settlements, which ensure that Saks and Lord & Taylor will phase out raccoon dog fur, while holding the retailers accountable for continuing to falsely advertise fur garments despite their prior agreement to stop. While the production of animal fur inherently involves suffering, and we urge companies to go completely fur-free, the killing of raccoon dogs for their fur has been repeatedly shown to be among the worst of the worst. The HSUS will continue to aggressively pursue fur vendors who ignore their legal and contractual obligations to protect both animals and consumers.”
LONDON, 26 NOVEMBER 2015 – As winter approaches, and the majority of the British public continue to reject the idea of wearing real animal fur, investigations by Fur Free Alliance member Humane Society International/UK and the BBC’s consumer show Fake Britain expose how inadequate and misleading garment labelling is leaving consumers without clear information to tell real animal fur from fake. High-street stores House of Fraser and TK Maxx are among retailers found to be selling real fur garments as fake.
As market stalls and shops stock up with warm clothing and accessories, especially this season’s trend of fur bobble hats and pompom key chains, HSI/UK launches its new campaign, ‘Make It Fake.’ The campaign will raise consumer awareness of the prevalence of animal fur on items shoppers may assume are fake fur, and will call for robust labelling laws that enable ethical consumers to buy fake fur with confidence. Claire Bass, executive director of HSI/UK, said:
“More than 100 million rabbits, foxes, raccoon dogs and other animals endure appalling lives and suffer terrible deaths just to make cheap trim for coats, hats and gloves that end up on the UK high-street. Polls confirm that the vast majority of people want nothing to do with this sickening trade yet our research shows that real fur is being widely sold in markets and stores. One logical explanation is that unsuspecting consumers are being duped into buying real fur assuming that it’s fake.”
In an exposé by HSI/UK and the BBC’s Fake Britain programme that aired this week, lab tests revealed that both independent and chain stores, including House of Fraser and TK Maxx, were found to be selling items containing real animal fur, either mis-labelled as fake or not labelled at all.
It is alarming that current EU fur labelling laws are inadequate and poorly implemented, creating a confused marketplace. Unlike food labelling where ingredients must be clearly listed on packaging, garment labels do not have to stipulate where real fur is used in every case. Our YouGov poll shows that the vast majority (85 per cent) of consumers expect that when animal fur should be clearly marked on the label when used in the clothes and accessories they buy.
The poll also reveals that people rely most heavily on feel (50 per cent) and price (47 per cent) as lead indicators to assess whether fur is real or fake. Both can be misleading, with many real fur items cheaper than their faux fur counterparts. Life is cheap in the animal fur industry; miserably poor conditions in countries such as China – where much UK fur trim comes from – means real fur can be produced and sold very cheaply. At many online wholesalers, retailers can bulk-buy real rabbit fur trim for £1 per metre, a 70cm raccoon dog fur hood trim for £3, or a raccoon dog fur pompom for just 30p.
In March this year, the government welcomed new EU textile labelling regulations and acknowledged the need to safeguard consumer choice and confidence around products containing animal parts. The then Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Jo Swinson, said
“It is important that consumers have accurate information to enable them to make informed choices when they are buying textile products that contain non-textile parts of animal origin.”
However, the current legislation is both confusing and poorly enforced and wants BIS to take urgent action by calling for the EU legislation to be improved. Claire Bass said:
“It is unacceptable that inadequate labelling could be leading British consumers to buy real fur believing it to be fake. So we’re calling on the government to introduce clear labelling of all animal fur items including the animal species and country of origin, as is already the case in the United States. Only then will consumers have the information they need to make informed, ethical shopping choices.”