LONDON—Online retailers are still misleading British consumers into buying real fur wrongly advertised as faux fur, an investigation by Humane Society International/UK has found. HSI/UK found fake faux fur on sale at popular shopping sites including Amazon, eBay, Romwe and Shein, misleadingly marketed as faux fur but which laboratory tests and HSI experts confirmed as real fur. COVID-19 restrictions mean that more people are choosing to shop online, but this means they can’t touch or properly scrutinise items before buying, and are entirely reliant on retailer descriptions. HSI/UK, which leads the #FurFreeBritain campaign for a UK fur sales ban, warns shoppers to be extra vigilant when purchasing items that look like fur, even when they are marketed as “cruelty-free and vegan”.
Most Brits don’t want to buy or wear real fur. A YouGov opinion poll commissioned by HSI/UK shows that 93% of the British public reject wearing real animal fur, and the words people most closely associate with a fashion brand selling fur are ‘unethical’, ‘outdated’, ‘cruel’ and ‘out of touch’. Despite this, for the sixth consecutive year HSI/UK secret shoppers have exposed real fur being sold as faux fur at trusted retailers.
For example, laboratory tests confirmed that a £13.99 beanie hat purchased from Amazon UK with a “man-made faux fur” pom was real fur; eBay sold a pair of £16.99 “faux fur fluffy sliders” that also turned out to be real fur; fashion site Romwe marketed a real mink fur bag charm for £2.50 as “100% faux fur” and an £88 “faux fur hooded coat” made with real fur, most likely fox or raccoon dog. Shein, one of the world’s largest e-fashion stores targeting Generation Z shoppers, was found selling a £2.49 “faux fur” keychain that laboratory tests confirmed was real mink fur, as well as Christmas “faux fur” pom earrings for £2.49 and a flamingo motif sweatshirt with “faux fur” detail for £10.99, both of which were real fur.
Other online retailers misleading customers were Just Your Outfit selling a £15 diamante “faux fur pom” hat that was even labelled as real fur when it arrived in the post; Danielli selling £10 “faux fur trimmed” gloves that were actually real fur, most likely rabbit; and Boho Styles selling sliders marketed as “made of voluminous vegan faux fur & 100% cruelty free” which laboratory tests confirmed were in fact real fox fur.
Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, says: “Fur is cruel which is why most Brits don’t want to buy it. So it’s really concerning that yet again we’ve found popular online shopping websites selling an alarming number of products described as faux fur which have turned out to be trimmed with real fur from fox, mink, raccoon dog and rabbit. We’ve exposed this problem for years and in 2018 a Parliamentary inquiry was held to hold companies to account; we’ve even had the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards issue warnings to companies. Even so, our latest findings show that the ‘fake faux fur’ scandal continues, meaning would-be ethical shoppers can’t shop online with confidence that they can avoid inadvertently buying real fur.
“Several well-known retailers are repeat offenders on this issue, so it’s especially disappointing that they haven’t cleaned up their act. Clearly a greater deterrent is needed to stop British consumers being missold cruel fur. Fur farming is rightly banned in the UK, but for as long as animal fur from overseas is allowed to be sold here, we remain complicit in the suffering, creating a minefield for shoppers who wholeheartedly reject that cruelty. We urge the government to bring forward plans to implement a fur sales ban in the UK so that British consumers can trust that their ethical purchasing decisions are not in vain.”
Unsuspecting e-shoppers are particularly vulnerable to misleading marketing when items are described as “faux fur” or synthetic material such as acrylic, and come with relatively cheap price tags. While many consumers wrongly assume a cheap price tag indicates faux fur, the tragic truth is that conditions on fur farms are so poor with animals often having to endure appalling deprivation, that real animal fur can be produced as cheaply as, or even more cheaply than, faux fur.
Retailers have a responsibility, under the 2008 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, not to mislead their customers in the sale of animal/fake fur. However, despite HSI/UK instigating numerous complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards, it appears that the penalties are too weak to act as a deterrent to stop some retailers misleading shoppers into buying a product that most would actively avoid. HSI/UK believes the only way to prevent real fur sneaking into British closets, is for the UK government to implement a ban on the sale of fur. Closing British borders to the cruel and unnecessary fur trade would significantly reduce the risk of real fur being sold as fake, and appropriate penalties to enforce the law would emphasise to retailers the importance of verifying that overseas suppliers provide them only with faux fur.
- Download HSI/UK’s guide to spotting fake faux.
- Watch TV’s Lucy & Tiffany Watson explain fake faux fur.
- HSI/UK has been exposing the sale of fake faux fur for many years. Retailers previously implicated include: eBay, T.K. Maxx, Boohoo, Amazon, Romwe, Not On The High Street, House of Fraser, Missguided, ASOS and Forever 21. We have worked successfully with numerous retailers to assist them in training their retail and supply chain staff to ensure that no-fur policies are adhered to.
- An estimated 60 million mink are farmed for their fur in 24 countries around the world, with the top three production countries China (20.6million mink), Denmark (17.6million mink) and Poland (5 million mink) in 2018.
- Fur farming has been banned across the UK since 2003, and has been banned and/or is in the process of being phased-out in Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia. Most recently the government in Hungary declared a ban on the farming of animals for fur including mink and foxes, France committed to phase out mink farms by 2025, and the Irish government made a commitment to end fur farming.
- Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland and Ukraine are also presently considering bans on fur farming, and in Finland the majority party of the coalition government just announced its support for a ban on fur farms.
- In the United States, California became the first US state to ban fur sales in 2019 following similar bans in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood. In 2020, legislators in Hawaii and Rhode Island introduced fur sales ban proposals, as have cities in Minnesota and Massachusetts.
Media contact: Leozette Roode, HSI/UK Media and Campaigns Manager: Lroode@hsi.org; +27 713601104