Fur Trade


 

Last updated: nov 2006

 

Fur is officially out, Jenny Rhodes reports on the companies who have, and have not, signed to a new retailer commitment against fur.

 

Each year the worldwide fur industry kills more than 40 million animals in the name of fashion.[1]  Farmed fur contributes to more than 85% of the total world trade in fur, with most fur farming taking place in Northern Europe and North America.[2],[3] Opinion polls carried out in the last 10 years in the UK have consistently shown that 75-76 per cent of the population is opposed to fur farming, with MORI polls showing that 76 per cent supported an outright ban.[4]

Fur farming was banned in the England & Wales on the grounds of “public morality” by the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000 which came into force on 1 January 2003.[5],[6] Scotland and Northern Ireland followed suit with similar legislation.[7] Italy, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands have all introduced measures to curtail or ban fur farming.[8] The UK, along with 88 other countries, has also banned the use of the steel-jawed leg-hold the main method used to trap wild animals for their fur.[9]

 

Dressed to kill

Campaigners against the fur trade believe that it is morally wrong to kill an animal for fashion whether it is trapped or farmed. Fur clothing, they believe, is a trivial and non-essential luxury item obtained through the infliction of prolonged suffering on wild animals. Some consumers assume that fur farming is the same as any other type of intensive farming.

This isn’t the case. Mink and fox (the main species farmed for fur) are wild animals and have substantially different welfare requirements to domesticated farm animals. It is impossible to keep wild animals in barren captive environments without imposing suffering.[10]

Prior to the banning of fur farming in the UK, the Farm Animal Welfare Council (the UK government’s independent advisory group on farm welfare issues) declined to issue a welfare code for mink and fox-farming as fur farming was not considered acceptable as practised. It was felt that, had a government-approved welfare code been issued, this would have implicitly condoned the industry.[11]

Occasionally religious groups have argued that animals are put on the planet for human benefit therefore wearing fur is acceptable. However Judaism, Christianity and Islam do not condone the use of animals without moral restraint.[12]

 

Consumer confusion

Shoppers have for years been confused by companies and designers who claim to go fur-free only to renege on the commitment at a later date.  Famously, Naomi Campbell represented Peta (People for the Ethical treatment of Animals) in its 1997 ad campaign proclaiming “I’d rather go naked than wear fur,” only to be sacked for subsequently wearing fur on the catwalk. Peta now includes Campbell in its gallery of “fur hags”.[13]

 

A losing battle

According to the British Fur Trade Association the trade is worth £400-£500 million a year to the UK. The International Fur Trade Association (IFTA), which exists to protect fur trade interests and and promote a positive image of the industry, states that worldwide fur sales continue to increase.[14],[15]

Yet in August 2006 IFTA resorted to global campaigns in Vogue, Elle and Wallpaper* to prop up the industry’s reputation. The magazines were selected “as they represent the worldwide voice of fashion and lifestyle, and have a unique and trusted dialogue with the readers.”[16]

 

According to IFTA “Each campaign explores a different aspect of fur.

  • Vogue: High fashion, luxury without measure and the tempestuous beauty of fur.
  • Elle: Striking glamour and the dynamic allure of fur.
  • Wallpaper*: The sensuous appeal and hedonistic beauty of fur.

The underlying message that unites these beautiful images is fur as the choice of the strong, stylish woman with a sense of individuality”.[17]

 

IFTA’s campaign may attempt to bolster the  opinion of the influential fashionistas, but at high-street level it is having little or no effect.

UK shoppers still remain hostile to buying and wearing fur, with high-street retailers remaining responsive to customers on this issue.[18] Inditex, owners of Zara, adopted a formal policy against the use of fur in its products in all 2,064 of its stores only three days before a planned international day of protest against the company.[19]

 

Fur Free Retailers

The Fur Free Alliance (a coalition of over 35 animal protection and environmental organisations) have launched the Fur Free Retailers scheme represented by Respect for Animals in the UK. The scheme provides consumers with reliable assurance that anything purchased from a Fur Free Retailer certified store will be fur free.

 

The scheme involves retailers:

1. Signing the retailer commitment against fur

2. Developing an internal system to ensure vendors don’t supply the company with items that contain real fur, including credible assurances that faux fur (including trims and accessories) are not animal fur.

 

Three retailers, the Co-operative Group, Marks & Spencer and Topshop all signed up for the launch of the scheme, with invitations going out to other retailers subsequently.

Topshop’s Buying Director Karen Finn stated that “Topshop is delighted to sign up to the Fur Free Retailers Initiative. We have a long standing anti-fur policy and we feel very strongly about the use of real fur in fashion and believe that the breeding of animals for their skins can not be justified. To create the look we use high quality faux and artificial furs”.[20]

Katie Stafford, Sustainable Development Manager at Marks & Spencer, also welcomed the initiative “as it will help consumers interested in these issues  to choose products from retailers that have made a pledge to only sell fur free products”.[21]

The Fur Free Retailers logo will be available for all retailers who sign up to the initiative to display instore and on company websites.

 

Faux pas

When shopping, watch out for coats, boots, hats, gloves and jumpers with fur trim. Even cheap items can be made from real fur.

A few quick tips for telling real fur from fake fur are:

1. Feel - real fur is soft and smooth, faux is coarse

2. Look – real fur has several layers with thin hairs forming a dense sub-layer and a leather base, faux is simpler with most hairs having the same length and colour

3. Pin test – real fur has a leather base which is hard to push a pin through, with faux a pin easily goes through the base

4. Burn test – carefully pull a few hairs and hold to a flame, real fur singes and smells like human hair, faux melts like plastic and smells like burnt plastic. It also forms small hard plastic balls at the ends[22]

 

Take Action

  • Support Co-op Group, Topshop & Marks & Spencer who have signed up to the Fur Free Retailers scheme
  • Boycott retailers who stock fur: Dune, Harrods, Joseph, Nine West[23]
  • Ask retailers not signed up to Fur Free Retailers scheme but who claim not to stock fur to sign up
  • If you own real fur and don’t know how to dispose of it, Respect for Animals will take donated fur items and use them to use to educate consumers about the fur trade.

 

Links

 

References
1 Facing the facts: behind the scenes of 10 animal welfare areas RSPCA June 2005 p18
2  www.britishfur.co.uk/main/news/Key%20Facts viewed 20/09/06 
3 www.britishfur.co.uk/main/news/Key%20Facts viewed 20/09/06
4 The Ethical Case Against Fur Farming: A statement by an international group of academics, including ethicists, philosophers and theologians., Respect For Animals 2002
5  http://infurmation.com/furfarmlegislation.html viewed 21/09/06
6 The Ethical Case Against Fur Farming: A statement by an international group of academics, including ethicists, philosophers and theologians., Respect For Animals 2002 
7 http://infurmation.com/furfarmlegislation.html viewed 21/09/06
8 The Ethical Case Against Fur Farming: A statement by an  international group of academics, including ethicists, philosophers and theologians., Respect For Animals 2002
9  http://infurmation.com/legislation.html viewed 21/09/06
10 The Ethical Case Against Fur Farming: A statement by an international group of academics, including ethicists, philosophers and theologians., Respect For Animals 2002
11 The Ethical Case Against Fur Farming: A statement by an international group of academics, including ethicists, philosophers and theologians., Respect For Animals 2002 
12 The Ethical Case Against Fur Farming: A statement by an international group of academics, including ethicists, philosophers and theologians., Respect For Animals 2002 
13 www.peta2.com?OUTTHERE?o-furhagcontest.asp viewed 21/09/06
14  www.britishfur.co.uk/main/news/Key%20Facts viewed 20/09/06
15 www.iftf.com/iftf_3_1_1.php?id=125 viewed 21/09/06
16 www.fur-style.prjcts.com/page/pressitem.php?season=2007_... viewed 20/09/06 17 www.fur-style.prjcts.com/page/pressitem.php?season=2007_... viewed 20/09/06 18 Facing the facts: behind the scenes of 10 animal welfare areas RSPCA June 2005 p18
19 Ethical Consumer issue 98 January/February 2006 p15
20 Email from Topshop to Ethical Consumer 20/09/06
21 Email from Respect for Animals 21/9/6
22 http://infurmation.com?consumer.php viewed 20/09/06
23 www.caft.org.uk/fur_policy.html viewed 21/09/06

 

From Ethical Consumer, Issue 103, November/December 2006