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Nordstrom Under Fire After PETA Exposé Reveals Cruelty on Russia Fur Farms

Animal-rights activists are urging Nordstrom to stop selling fur after an undercover video revealed widespread mistreatment of fur-bearing animals such as minks, chinchillas and sables at farms in Russia.

Obtained by the Asian arm of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the footage captured workers bludgeoning, decapitating and electrocuting animals across five facilities, including ones that reportedly sell skins to leading fur auction houses such as Kopenhagen Fur and Saga Furs.

Now, PETA is calling on Nordstrom to follow the lead of fellow retailers Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s and “go fur-free.” Nordstrom, it claims, sells fur sourced from Russia despite banning fur from its own line years ago.

“Shoppers should keep firmly in mind that behind every fur coat, collar or cuff is a filthy wire cage, a shrieking animal and a blood-soaked slaughterhouse floor,” Tracy Reiman, executive vice president at PETA, said in a statement. “This holiday season, PETA is urging Nordstrom to give some peace to these tormented animals by joining the majority of the fashion world in going fur-free.”

In a statement to Sourcing Journal, Nordstrom said it “tries to balance” concerns about animal welfare with the needs of its customers, many of whom “want to be able to purchase fur products” at the department store.

“We’ve been paying close attention to this topic, particularly given the recent announcements coming out of various brands, publications and local governments,” a spokesperson said. “We realize our customers have different opinions, and our commitment to them has always been to listen to that feedback and be open to change.”

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The fur debate is becoming increasingly contentious, and brands and retailers have been quick to draw lines in the sand.

Luxury brands, including Chanel, Burberry, Gucci, Michael Kors, Prada and Versace have all dropped fur in recent years, as have high-end e-tailers such as Farfetch and Yoox Net-a-Porter.

Governments, too, have been drafting anti-fur legislation. In October, California became America’s first state to outlaw the sale and production of all new products from fur-bearing animals. New York is mulling a similar ban as well.

Such proposals have not come without pushback.

Trade groups such as the International Fur Federation say a fur ban would shutter hundreds of businesses and result in the losses of 7,500 fur-related jobs in New York City alone. Environmentalists have looked askance at the synthetic alternatives taking fur’s place. Most are derived from virgin plastic, they say, and won’t degrade for hundreds of years. Still, Stella McCartney is working on a partially plant-based faux fur. For brands like Meghan Markle fave Sentaler, cruelty-free alpaca “fur,” which is sheared rather than skinned, is another option.

More than 100 million animals such as rabbits, foxes and mink are killed each year for their fur, according to the Humane Society. Eighty-five percent come from fur factory farms; the rest are trapped in the wild.