Animal rights

How to make sure your new fur is fair

It’s that time of year again. The idea of a snuggly fur coat starts to take hold as the temperature drops, and funky fun-fur trims inspire warm feelings inside. But how do you make sure your cuddly new aquisition hasn’t been produced at a horrific cost to real animals?
Earlier in 2019, UK fashion retailers were ordered to take immediate action to make sure garments they advertise as faux fur are not, in fact, made from actual fur. From 11 February 2019, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), part of the ASA, has threatened to sanction any company found to be selling animal pelts labelled as fake fur.
The ruling followed growing scepticism about the ‘faux fur’ available to the ethical fashionista, culminating in a string of complaints against online retailers Bohoo and Missguided, high street stores like House of Fraser and TK Maxx and vendors selling via Amazon and Ebay. The CAP enforcement notice requires vendors to take a firmer approach to checking their supply chains and verifying the accuracy of claims made to them about the provenance of any fur used.
The charity Humane Society International (HSI), which began investigating the problem in 2015, has found many products, including some explicitly advertised as ‘faux fur’, to use animal fur. Fur farms were banned in the UK in 2000 but real fur is still appearing in supply chains, often farmed in Asia and undetected by the retailer. In 2017, Missguided was found to be selling shoes trimmed with cat fur, despite cat and dog fur having been banned for use in clothing across the EU since 2009. The charity also found real animal fur including rabbit, raccoon, dog and mink being sold as faux fur by a concession in House of Fraser.
In 2017, Claire Bass, director of HSI UK, told the Independent there was a “lingering misconception” among UK shoppers that real fur was associated with luxury items. “The key thing is that cheap price is absolutely not an indicator that something is going to be fake fur,” she said, adding that the fur trade was “staging a back-door comeback.” With the rise of ethically-concerned fashion, real fur has been found for sale in the UK at lower prices than real equivalents.
Several retailers have since been caught explicitly selling real fur as ‘faux’. Most recently, Boohoo’s “faux fur pom pom jumper”, listed as 100% acrylic and first advertised in September 2018, was referred to the ASA as part of the HSI’s ongoing investigation. Independent lab analysis confirmed its brightly dyed pom poms to be real, probably rabbit, fur. A similar case involving the equally innocent-looking pink pom poms on Zacharia’s ‘Alter Ego Faux Fur Pom Pom Headband’ reached the same conclusion. In both cases the retailer had been sold the material as ‘faux fur’.
“Fur is a product of animal suffering that most British consumers want nothing to do with,” says Bass.“They have the right to be confident that when they buy faux fur they are not being duped into buying the exact animal cruelty they are trying to avoid.”
So, what can you do? The hope is of course that popular retailers will now step up their efforts to meet their own commitments not to sell fur products. (Boohoo, Missguided and House of Fraser all had no-fur policies in place when their cases came to light.) The ASA hasn’t ruled on any similar cases since the enforcement notice was issued. That said, we think it’s fair enough to remain sceptical until they’ve earned our trust.
In the meantime, if you’re looking at garments in a shop, check whether or not the furry trim is the real thing. Look at the base – is it real leather? Faux fur is likely to be backed by woven fabric. Check the tips of the fibres, too – real hair tapers, while synthetic fibres usually have blunt ends. If the suspicious item is already yours, you can also burn some of the fibres. Real fur will singe and smell like burning hair. Faux fur melts. If you’re not sure, don’t buy it, especially if it’s not clearly labelled either way. If you bought it online because it said it was faux, this was false advertising. Return it for a refund and explain why.
Join the HSI’s campaign for a new law to end the import of fur into the UK. You can sign the petition here.
Choose furry styles from vendors you know to be motivated by their ethics, not just the bottom line. Stella McCartney‘s Fur-Free-Fur has a label on the outside so everyone can see that you’re not supporting the disgusting fur trade. For transparency, the brand works only with a few select mills to produce acrylic, polyester, wool or mohair ‘fur’ fabrics in an environmentally sound way. Check out the funky black long-hair fur-free-fur gilet for a nice warm feeling both inside and out!

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