Are shoppers being lulled into buying products they’re keen to avoid? Humane Society International/UK (HSI) explains why it believes fake fur is being mis-sold.
This is a guest post by Humane Society International/UK (HSI). All views expressed are its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
As a nation of animal lovers, us Brits are keen to avoid cruelty to animals, and interest in ethical, vegan fashion has rocketed. Sadly though, a series of HSI/UK investigations over recent years have highlighted the ongoing problem of “fake faux fur” whereby unsuspecting consumers risk being misled into buying real animal fur falsely marketed as faux.
HSI has uncovered a range of products, from coats, keyrings and hats to shoes, earrings and hair clips, that claim they’re made of fake fur, but laboratory tests prove are actually made of real fur from animals such as mink, foxes, raccoon dogs and rabbits.
Almost twenty years ago, after high profile anti-fur campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s, the UK government banned fur farming on ethical grounds. Public opinion has remained robustly against fur ever since, with polling in 2020 showing the vast majority of the British public (a whopping 93%) reject wearing real animal fur.
So with such an high public distaste of fur, how are consumers being lulled into buying the very products they’re keen to avoid?
Marketing products honestly
How real fur is used in fashion has changed over the years. While full length fur coats are still made, fur is now often used as trim to embellish a coat hood, jumper or accessories at deceptively affordable prices.
Many consumers wrongly assume that fur is expensive and so don’t question ‘faux fur’ with low price points. However, the tragic truth is that conditions on fur farms are so poor that real animal fur can be produced as cheaply as, or even more cheaply than, faux fur. We found a mink fur key chain for £2.49 and a beanie hat with a real fur pom costing just £13.99.
Most retailers know their customers don’t want to see real fur on their shop shelves or e-stores. While they don’t intentionally mislead them, they do have a responsibility to market products honestly that simply isn’t being met.
Confusing labelling regulations and inadequate penalties compound the problem. HSI investigators have even found retailers incorrectly claiming a real fur item is made of “vegan faux fur” or is “100% cruelty free”.
Despite HSI/UK instigating numerous complaints to consumer protection groups, publicising the issue in the press and at a 2018 Select Committee Inquiry, this problem persists.
For as long as the UK still allows real fur produced in other countries to be imported and sold here, we believe British consumers will remain at risk from fake faux fur, and we are regularly contacted by shoppers who are shocked and upset to learn they’ve unintentionally bought real fur.
Indeed, allowing the sale of fur is a double-standard in itself – after all, if Parliament has decided fur is too cruel to produce here, we believe it is also too cruel to sell here.
If you believe you’ve bought a product mis-described as faux fur, ask the retailer to investigate, using our ID guides to help inform them. If you are still concerned, contact Trading Standards or the Advertising Standards Authority.
And tell us, too! We’re on firstname.lastname@example.org
Retailers can find out more about the issue and read the Enforcement Notice on the ASA’s website.
This was a guest post by Humane Society International/UK (HSI). All views expressed were its own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Have you ever bought a product you believe was made with faux fur, only to find out later that wasn’t the case? Have you ever felt misled when buying products with fake fur?
Let us and HSI know in the comments.