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April 10, 2017

Illegal cat fur sold as faux fur on British high-street

Latest exposé in HSI/UK’s campaign for a Fur-Free Britain

Humane Society International/United Kingdom

  • Raccoon dogs suffer for fur fashion. Alamy

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LONDON—A joint investigation by Humane Society International/UK and Sky News 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 [1]. 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 [2] 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 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.”

Get active – urge Ministers to support a fur-free Britain

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.

Get active – urge Ministers to support a Fur-Free Britain at hsi.org/furfreebritain and for more information go to hsi.org/makeitfake Check out our guide to identifying real vs. fake fur [pdf]

View the full Sky News report.

ENDS

Notes to editor

1. Missguided shoe test results were produced on 21 December 2016 by Dr Phil Greaves, C.Text.FTI; Dip. RMS who has almost 45 years’ experience in fibre analysis, from Microtex Laboratory, a lab used by Trading Standards for fur analysis. Microscopy testing of any fur sample will always deliver a verdict that the sample is ‘most consistent with xyz species’ meaning that the fibres had the morphological and characteristic features of that species. The fur from the pink Missguided shoes are most consistent with cat.

2. YouGov opinion poll commissioned by HSI UK. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2051 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9th and 12th September 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).The poll listed nine species, including domestic dog, mink, seal, fox and rabbit, and asked people whether or not they found it acceptable for fur from these animals to be bought and sold in the UK. Results reveal that less than 10% of people feel it is acceptable to be able to buy and sell products containing domestic dog fur (7%), seal fur (8%), and cat fur (9%), respectively, and indeed such imports are banned by law. But critically the poll also shows similar distaste for fur items from other species that can still be legally sold here - only between 8 and 12% of people said that they found it acceptable to buy or sell fur from foxes (12%), mink (12%), chinchilla (9%), raccoon dogs (8%) and coyotes (8%) (the last of which are not farmed, but wild trapped). Rabbit fur had the highest approval rating, but is still only acceptable to one in five people despite being one of the most commonly found fur trim items on the high-street.

3. FAQs about fur labelling Q: Is it legal to sell fur trim [clothing] not labelled as fur?"
A: Yes, there is no requirement to use the specific word "fur" or to name the animal. However, Article 12 of the EU Textile Labelling Regulation requires that items defined as “textile products” must carry the confusing wording “contains non-textile parts of animal origin”. An article is only classified a textile product if it contains at least 80% textile fibres by weight. Note that fur is not a textile, which means perversely that the more fur an item contains, the less likely it is to require labelling. Regardless, in practice this confusing wording requirement is very rarely adhered to, and even where it is the wording doesn’t clearly tell consumers it means “real animal fur”, especially as it applies equally to other animal products such as leather or feathers/down. In addition, the wording is only required to appear on the product itself, not at point of sale or when advertised online, and it doesn’t apply at all to footwear or non-garment accessories such as handbags and keychains. If the item doesn't meet Article 12 criteria, it doesn’t need to have any wording, confusing or otherwise.

Q: What about shoes?
A: It is legal to sell fur trim [shoes] not labelled as fur if the fur is a decorative element. Only if it makes up at least 80% of the upper, or the sock, or the sole, would it need to be labelled.

Q: Is it legal to wrongly label as synthetic an item that is real fur?
A: Under consumer protection legislation, it's technically illegal to mislead. However, the regulation – with respect to the sale of animal fur – is very poorly enforced and companies claiming they made an honest mistake or used the description given to them by a supplier, is considered a legitimate defence.

Q: What would HSI like to see change?
A: Ultimately we would like to see the UK introduce a ban on the import of all fur. However, in the meantime HSI believes that all products containing real animal fur (including clothing, footwear, accessories such as key rings, handbags etc) should be clearly and consistently labelled in plain English. Such labelling is already in place in the US - Fur Products Labeling Act and Switzerland - Swiss Ordinance on the Declaration of Furs and Furskins, and to a lesser degree, in France. Such labelling should require the inclusion of product information detailing: the species from which the fur derives (both the common and scientific name); the country of origin of the fur (where the animal was bred or hunted and killed): how the animal was reared and killed (whether the animal was caught by trapping or reared in a cage with a wire floor, for example)

Media contacts: HSI (United Kingdom): Wendy Higgins: whiggins@hsi.org, +44 (0)7989 972 423

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