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Is fur unethical?

Fur comes with massive animal rights and animal welfare issues. In this article, we discuss the ethics of fur, which brands still use fur, and whether faux fur is an ethical alternative. 

What is fur used for?

Fur has been used in clothing for thousands of years. But these days it is often produced industrially for large brands on fur farms.

Fur can be used for coats, as well as trimmings or linings on jackets, boots and other items. It is seen as a luxury item, and is more likely to be used by designer fashion houses. These days, almost all ‘fur’ used in high street shops is faux fur, made from polyester. 

Fur and animal rights

Many people boycott fur because they believe that humans do not have the right to take an animal’s life, especially if it’s just for fashion. Each year, around 100 million animals are raised and killed for their fur, according to the campaign group Fur Free Alliance.

The vast majority of fur comes from farmed mink. Foxes, raccoon dogs, rabbits and chinchillas may also be raised on farms for fur. EU regulations ban trade in fur from domestic cats, dogs or commercial seal hunts. Fur farming itself is is banned in the UK, but imports of fur from fur farms abroad are not. 

Sometimes fur may also be used from wild trapped animals such as coyotes, lynx, beavers and otters. The UK has some restrictions on the types of traps that can be used both for trapping in the UK and for imports, but has not banned the practice.

Vegans are likely to avoid fur alongside other fibres and products from animals such as leather, suede and down.

Fur and animal welfare

For other consumers, the key issue with fur is animal welfare – the conditions in which foxes, mink and other animals are kept on fur farms.

Over 95% of fur sold globally comes from farmed animals, according to Fur Free Alliance. These animals are often kept in battery cages, without the space or conditions to enact their natural behaviour. Most fur farms are in China and Europe.

As the animal welfare organisation Eurogroup for Animals points out, “The species farmed for their fur are essentially wild animals”. This means they are likely to be particularly distressed by the farming conditions.

The Fur Free Alliance says that animals are also often killed in inhumane conditions for fur, in order to preserve the pelt.  

Is buying and selling fur legal?

Some countries have banned fur farming, like the UK and 18 European countries. 

Israel is the first country to ban the sale of fur, along with California and some cities in the United States which have banned sales of new fur.

White rabbit in cage

Which companies still use fur? 

In 2022, The Independent reported that multiple luxury fashion brands were still using fur in their collections, including:

  • Dior
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Fendi
  • Max Mara
  • Harrods
  • Alberta Ferreti
  • Carolina Herrera
  • Roberto Cavalli

For every brand Ethical Consumer rates, we check whether they are selling fur. Any company selling fur gets marked down in our Animals category. 

Which clothing companies do not use fur? 

Many clothing companies have banned the sale of fur in recent years. These companies include designer brands such as Burberry, Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana, with Stella McCartney having never used fur.

None of the companies in our Ethical Clothing Guide use fur. 

Other fur free brands include many high street brands, such as:

  • Asos
  • Gap
  • H&M
  • Topshop
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Zara

If you are concerned about animal rights and animal welfare, you may want to look for a totally vegan clothing range or brand. These companies do not use fur, leather, suede or other animal products, or have ranges free from those products. You can find vegan options in our Ethical Clothing Guide.  

Is faux fur ethical?

While it’s great that so many companies are banning fur in their ranges, faux fur is not necessarily an ethical solution either.

Faux fur is made from plastic-based fibres. Plastic fabrics are produced from fossil fuels, meaning they have significant climate impacts.

They break down into microfibres, either shedding these tiny plastic strands during their lifetimes or in landfill. Microfibres pollute rivers and the sea, making their way into sea creatures’ food chains, releasing toxins and damaging fishes’ organs and their ability to reproduce. They can also end up in our own food.

Our guide to choosing the most sustainable fabric will help you find truly ethical options for clothing materials.  

How to tell the difference between real and faux fur

Generally, the label on an item of clothing will tell you what it is made of. However, some brands, including Boohoo, TK Maxx and Amazon, have previously been found to be selling real fur labelled as faux.

Humane Society International has a guide to telling the difference between real and faux fur. They suggest:

  • Checking what the fur is attached to. Faux fur will be attached to woven fabric, which is often easy to see, whereas real fur will be attached to a skin or leather. 
  • Checking the tips of the hairs. Real fur will, in general, be tapered to a point, while faux fur is often blunt at the ends. 
  • For items you already own, doing a burn test. Cut off a few hairs. When burnt, real fur will smell singed, like your hair on fire! Faux fur will smell of burning plastic. 

Is secondhand fur ethical?

For some people, wearing an animal’s pelt will never be ethical. They argue that it normalises wearing part of an animal’s body for fashion.

For others, the key issue will be whether it’s directly funding the industry. They may choose to prioritise reuse of the fur. 

Ethical Consumer’s rating and fur

Ethical Consumer rates all companies on their use of animal products, including fur. 

Companies using fur will score lower in our ratings system. In our shopping guides, we also highlight totally vegan companies in the scoretable (usually with a V).