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.
INDIA, 6 JANUARY 2017 – The Director General of Foreign Trade in India, which comes under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has banned the import of skins of reptiles, chinchillas, mink and fox through a notification issued on 3 January.
According to Fur Free Alliance member Humane Society International (HSI), “Worldwide millions of minks and foxes are kept in filthy and wire-floored cages until they are gassed and finally slaughtered for their fur.” The methods used in fur factory farms across the world are remarkably poor and designed to maximize profits, always at the expense of the animals.
At present, India’s import policy allows import of “raw hides, skins, leather, fur skins” of reptiles, mink, fox and other fur skins (whole, with or without head, tail or paws). But they are subject to India’s Wild Life (Protection) act, 1972 and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
CITES is an international agreement between governments and it aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
Animal rights organisations had been urging the central government to take a clear stand on the issue and close the doors for trade in exotic skins. Union women and child development minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi had earlier written a letter to the Union commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman highlighting the need to curb cruelty towards animals by prohibiting the import of exotic skins.
The Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC ) and Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), India’s nodal body for animal welfare, also supported the need to bring in the ban.
“We commend the Directorate General of Foreign Trade and MoEFCC for its firm commitment in abolishing the import of exotic skins. The exotic fur, skin and leather industry slaughters, bludgeons and skins millions of animals every year in the name of frivolous fashion. Nations across the world are switching to cruelty-free alternatives and we are glad that India is gradually emulating similar policies to reduce and eliminate unnecessary pain and suffering to animals,” said Gauri Maulekhi, who is HSI India’s government liaison.
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.”