Animal welfare transparency is a major concern among U.K. consumers, and some of the nation’s popular retailers are being exposed for mislabeling their real animal fur products as fake.
A recent investigation conducted by the Humane Society International UK and U.K. media company Sky News, found that trusted retailers, like Amazon, Boohoo and TK Maxx, were selling accessories, apparel and footwear advertised as faux fur when testing revealed that they were in fact made with real animal fur. Based on the findings, the Humane Society said many U.K. consumers have unknowingly purchased items that contained real fur from chinchillas, foxes, minks and rabbits—when they were falsely advertised as being ‘fur free.’
“It is appalling that British shoppers, who are actively choosing not to buy real fur because of the terrible animal suffering, are being misled into buying the very same fur products they’re trying to avoid,” Humane Society International UK executive director Claire Bass said. “Consumers rightly expect brands to sell what they say they’re selling, so urgent action is needed to stop this insidious creep of fur through the back door.”
The investigation revealed that many of these retailers were selling real animal fur products—spanning from earrings to coats—to U.K. consumers in stores and online, Sky News reported. Fast fashion tycoon Boohoo was selling £5 ($6.68) earrings that were advertised as fur free –when testing conducted by fiber expert Dr. Phil Greaves from Microtex Laboratory confirmed it was actual mink fur. TK Maxx, which notes on its website that “since 2003 we have not sold real animal fur of any type,” was found to be selling fox fur coats and rabbit fur key chains. Additional mislabeled ‘fur free’ items were sold to U.K. consumers on Amazon.
Since the public exposure of the investigation, Amazon, Boohoo and TK Maxx have all apologized for falsely advertising their animal fur products and pledged to further clean up their supply chains. Boohoo told Sky News that the items in question have been removed from sale and that it is further investigating the mislabeling. Off-price tycoon TK Maxx thanked Sky News for the investigation and said consumers could return the animal fur items for a full refund. Amazon also immediately took action against the false faux advertising and told Sky News, “the products in question are no longer available.”
[Read more about fur free retailers: Gucci Goes Fur Free, Looking to Change Luxury Sector]
Despite efforts to curb fur in products, the Humane Society said there are still loopholes when it comes to animal welfare regulations. The organization said there isn’t a legal requirement to label items containing real fur with the specific word “fur” and that the current legislation system on animal fur is poorly enforced since online retailers are exempt from labeling fur items as fur for consumers. Even though the U.K. government prohibited fur farming in the nation more than 10 years ago, retailers are still importing fur items from global sources that often don’t enforce efficient animal welfare compliance.
To further animal welfare progress, the Humane Society International UK is urging the U.K. government to ban the import of animal fur and make the nation a fur-free zone. Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, told Sky News he will push the U.K. government to make changes on animal welfare regulations—including issuing a nationwide fur ban.
“The vast majority of British people believe that animal fur has no place in our high streets and wardrobes, and would support a U.K. ban,” The Humane Society’s Bass added. “Mandatory, clear labeling of all fur is urgently needed to stop consumers being misled, but ultimately to properly protect both animals and consumers, the government must use the opportunity presented by Brexit to ban all U.K. fur imports.”