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December 9, 2015

Shocking Video Shows Factory-Farmed Rabbits Brutally Killed in China for Fur Trim Sold in UK Shops

Rabbits seen shaking in fear as cage mates killed and skinned

Humane Society International/United Kingdom

  • Rabbits and other animals suffer for frivilous fur fashion.

LONDON—Shocking video footage released by Humane Society International/UK reveals the horrific suffering of thousands of rabbits being factory farmed and cruelly slaughtered in China, for fur trim sold in Britain’s shops. Some real fur is even being mislabelled as faux fur on bobble hats, gloves, scarves, keychains and coats, with British shoppers unaware of the hidden suffering.

Chinese animal advocates on behalf of HSI/UK filmed at two rabbit breeding farms and a slaughter facility in a major fur farming province in North China, where up to 10,000 rabbits are killed every day.

The rabbits are bred in miserable factory farm style conditions, crowded together in small, filthy, barren cages with no environmental enrichment and insufficient room for the animals to stretch out, run or even stand up with their ears extended. With no bedding, they spend their entire lives standing and bearing their full weight on the slatted floors which can lead to extremely painful ulcerative pododermatitis (sore hocks).

Video footage shows large amounts of faeces on the floors and surrounding areas, and investigators witnessed clearly sick rabbits left unattended in their cages. No veterinarian was seen at either facility during our visits.

At the slaughter house, thousands of rabbits are processed daily in a killing production line that sees animals killed in front of each other. Live rabbits are seen shaking in fear on the delivery truck as their cage mates are hung upside down and have their throats cut after a largely ineffective blow to the head. Some rabbits can be seen writhing on the hook, meaning it is highly likely these animals had their throats cut whilst conscious.

Claire Bass, executive director of HSI/UK, said: “This is the grim reality of the fur trade that consumers need to see –fur trim hats, scarves or gloves bought this winter represent the immense suffering of animals languishing in squalid fur farms. There is no excuse for making these animals into our fashion victims. So we’re urging shoppers to always buy faux fur instead, but also to be extra vigilant in ensuring that the fake fur they buy is genuinely synthetic and not real fur in disguise. If in doubt, give animals the benefit of that doubt and leave the item on the shelf.”

Take Action: Make it fake, for the animals’ sake.

The slaughter process revealed in HSI/UK’s investigation often involves a blow to the head of only moderate force. HSI/UK’s veterinary advisor, Professor Alastair Macmillan, viewed the footage and concluded that the blow was unlikely to be hard enough to render the rabbits unconscious before their throats are cut, and that in some cases the rabbits are even hit in entirely the wrong part of the head to render them unconscious.

HSI/UK’s veterinary advisor Professor Alastair Macmillan, said: “As a veterinarian I am shocked to see rabbits kept in such appallingly inadequate conditions. There is no question in my mind that these rabbits will have endured extremely severe and prolonged physical suffering, fear and distress, and a death that is both painful and frightening.”

Fur farming was banned in the UK in 2000, meaning that all fur sold in the UK is imported. According to official statistics, last year £3.5million worth of fur skins and articles were imported into the UK from China, where 60 million minks, 13 million foxes, 14 million raccoon dogs and untold millions of rabbits die each year as part of the fur trade. But HSI/UK believes the true scale of Chinese fur imports could be underestimated due to the failure of animal fur labelling in the UK marketplace.

Claire Bass, executive director of HSI/UK, said: “We’ve uncovered an alarming number of items on sale in UK independent shops, markets and online stores, that are trimmed with real animal fur but either marketed as fake fur or labelled without any mention of fur at all. That means many British shoppers could be buying and wearing what they believe is a cruelty-free synthetic item when in fact it comes from an animal who will likely have endured the kind of deprivation and pain that we’ve uncovered at farms in China. Consumers will be horrified to learn that they’ve been conned into cruelty because of inadequate labelling, so we’re urging the government to remedy this situation quickly. And we’re also reminding retailers that they have a duty to implement and enforce rigorous buying procedures so that customers are never misled into buying real fur thinking it’s fake. ”

TK Maxx online was found to be selling Pia Rossini gloves for £9.99, made in China, marketed as ‘Grey faux fur cuff gloves’ but laboratory analysis revealed them to be real animal fur, most consistent with rabbit. House of Fraser online was found to be selling a Silvian Heach coat for £150, made in China, marketed as “Long sleeve faux fur hood coat – 95% polyester 5% nylon” but laboratory analysis revealed it to be real animal fur, most consistent with fox. Since being alerted to these items, both outlets have withdrawn them from sale.

In addition, HSI/UK conducted spot checks at independent shops and markets in London and four other UK cities, and found a large number of items containing real fur but without fur labelling, and most ‘Made in China’. Specific details of these items cannot be revealed as HSI/UK’s evidence dossier has been handed over to trading enforcement authorities to investigate, however they include a ladies' coat with a real fur trim on the hood, labelled polyester 100 per cent; a pair of fingerless gloves with real fur trim, labelled 100 per cent acrilico; a knitted hat with a real fur bobble, labelled 100 per cent acrylic; and a pair of woollen gloves with real fur trim, labelled 80 per cent wool, 20 per cent polyester.

HSI/UK’s “Make It Fake for the Animals’ Sake” campaign is urging consumers not to be caught out with real fur mislabelled as faux. Use our handy “Guide to Faking It” [pdf] for telling real fur from fake - and if you are in any doubt, leave the garment on the shelf! Sign HSI’s no fur pledge.

ENDS

Media contact: Wendy Higgins, whiggins@hsi.org, +44(0)7989 972 423

TK Maxx is a corporate supporter of The Humane Society of the United States, HSI’s U.S. affiliate.

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