Fur farming was outlawed in the UK in 2000
The supposedly synthetic fur was so realistic she contacted the company’s customer service team.
A series of emails ensued with the retailer reassuring her that the pom-pom had “been investigated by our internal trading standards department” and that they had “been assured that this item is in fact faux fur”.
But Jayne was not reassured and instead got in touch with animal rights group Humane Society International (HSI).
Their resulting investigation not only revealed that the pom-pom had actually been made with rabbit fur but that the selling of real animal fur under the guise of fake or faux fur is endemic across the British high street.
The amount of fake faux fur online is shocking with even trusted retailers mis-selling real animal fur as synthetic
Investigators found that as well as the pom-poms, TK Maxx was selling a coat made with fox fur and that mink fur earrings, rabbit fur shoes and keychains, fox fur hats and chinchilla fur scarves were all on sale advertised as faux fur by retailers including Amazon, Boohoo, Miss Bardo, Not On The High Street and Etsy, and through Groupon.
“The amount of fake faux fur online is shocking with even trusted retailers mis-selling real animal fur as synthetic,” says Claire Bass of HSI.
“It is appalling that British shoppers are being misled into buying the very same fur products they are trying to avoid.”
Much of the fur comes from “fur farms” abroad where animals suffer appalling conditions, living their entire lives in tiny cages before being killed and skinned.
Selling of real animal fur under the guise of fake or faux fur is endemic across the UK high street
The intensive nature of such farms means the resulting fur can often be sold at prices cheaper than the fake equivalent.
Although fur farming was outlawed in this country in 2000, it remains legal to purchase fur from elsewhere.
EU regulations ban fur from dogs, cats or commercial seal hunts and a special permit is needed to import animal skins but the UK still legally imports and sells fur from animals including foxes, rabbits, mink, coyote, raccoon dogs and chinchilla.
Nearly £40million worth of fur came here from EU countries last year and £15.7million from the rest of the world.
A YouGov poll in 2016 showed that nine out of 10 British people believe it is unacceptable to buy and sell real fur and several MPs have called for a total ban on the practice. “When the cruelty of the fur trade is so well known I would have thought that manufacturers and stockists would have more sense than to try to smuggle such vile products into the hands of wellmeaning customers,” says MP Angela Smith, co-chair of the AllParty Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare.
“I will be calling on the Government to tighten up the regulations to ensure this kind of flagrant deception does not happen again and to help bring an end to this barbaric trade.”
Conservative Animal Welfare group president, MP Roger Gale, adds: “It is crazy that we banned it here but we still permit imports. With retailers it is not an excuse to say, ‘We didn’t know.’” Following the exposé the retailers have issued apologies and pledged to tighten controls.
TK Maxx, which has previously claimed not to have sold real fur since 2003, said all customers who had bought real fur products would be offered a refund. And Boohoo, which has an “animal welfare policy” that it says was approved by animals rights charity Peta, says: “We are very disappointed that on this occasion our high standards have been breached by the suppliers from whom these items have been sourced.
“The items in question were removed from sale and the breach of the policy and its standards is being investigated as a matter of urgency.”
Amazon says: “The products in question are no longer available.” And Groupon insists it is reviewing its “suppliers and internal processes to ensure this does not happen again”.
Etsy, which claims, “Our mission is to keep commerce human”, says: “We appreciate the Humane Society shining a light on this issue and we will investigate the identified listings.”
A spokesperson for Miss Bardo said they were “appalled”, adding: “We find it a disgusting trade and we would never ever willingly want to sell real fur on our site. We are educating all of our buyers. We trust the Chinese supplier.”
And Not On The High Street says: “Our policies prohibit the sale of real fur and angora and products made with synthetic materials made to look like animal products must be clearly labelled as such.
“Any products that violate these policies are removed from sale.”
Nearly £40m worth of fur came here from EU countries last year and £15.7m from the rest of the world
It is perhaps this labelling issue which is the trickiest to regulate.
Under EU rules there is no legal requirement to use the specific word “fur” on items containing real fur.
Instead, EU regulations require items defined as “textile products” to carry the wording “contains non-textile parts of animal origin”. But the HSI says: “In practice this wording is rarely adhered to.”
It gets even more confusing.
Products sold online are exempt from that requirement as are footwear and accessories. And although it is illegal to mislead consumers (by claiming a real fur product is faux fur) retailers are very rarely prosecuted with most instances being put down to “honest mistakes”.
Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party
The present investigation is not even the first time the HSI has exposed the practice. In April it found that real fur was being sold as fake at House Of Fraser, Missguided, Lily Lulu and Amazon.
In the case of Missguided the fur came from cats. Just as with the most recent scandal, all of the companies in question apologised, removed the items and promised to investigate further. But campaigners fear that the selling of real fur as fake will continue for as long as a fur trade exists at all.
Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green Party, says: “We need to have a ban on fur coming in from other countries.
This fur can be imported incredibly cheaply, which probably just speaks to really appalling conditions that those animals are kept in.” And according to the HSI’s Claire Bass: “Brexit gives us the opportunity to close our borders to the cruel, unnecessary and outdated fur trade.
“We banned fur farming in the UK in 2000 because it was deemed unethical. Why are we now paying countries such as China and Poland to keep animals in those exact same conditions?”