Fur trade in the UK Contents

2Mis-selling of real fur as fake fur

5.In the last few years, there have been a number of examples of the mis-selling of real fur as fake fur. In April 2017, a joint investigation between Humane Society International UK (HSI UK) and Sky News identified that House of Fraser and Missguided were mis-selling real fur as faux fur. In total, it found rabbit, racoon dog, and mink fur.

6.They returned to the issue in December 2017 and January 2018 and found that other retail companies, online sellers, and market sellers were also selling real fur as fake fur. Retailers included TK Maxx, BooHoo, Amazon, Not On The High Street, Groupon, Etsy, Tesco, FatFace, Boots, Kurt Geiger, and Romwe. Many of these retailers had no-fur policies.

7.In February 2018, BBC London News investigated the issue by visiting stalls and shops in Camden Market, stalls in Shepherds Bush and Stratford market, and wholesalers in Commercial Road in East London. The investigation found numerous examples of real fur being sold as fake fur.

8.During our inquiry, we took evidence from a number of these retailers to learn how real fur had been mis-sold as fake fur and what changes had been put in place to ensure that this would not happen again.


9.HSI UK told us that the incidents of high-street retailers selling real animal fur as fake fur were few, in comparison to the amount of fake fur sold as a whole.3 However, it said that the sale of “fake faux fur” appeared more widespread through small independent stores, market stalls and online platforms.4 While the majority of cases seemed to be genuine errors, there were instances of retailers and traders setting out to deliberately mislead customers. Ceri Davies, Operations Director at Camden Market, acknowledged that there were some instances of “try[ing] to slip [real fur] through the system”.5

10.Many of the items mis-sold as fake fur were small items, and low in price. Examples included, but were not restricted to, fur trims on hats and gloves, pom-poms on hats and clothing, and fur trims on footwear. HSI UK told us that due to “high-volume, low-welfare intensive farming of animals”, real fur could be produced and sold more cheaply than fake fur.6

11.Retailers argued that, like consumers, they assumed that the low cost of the product from their supplier was a good indicator that the product did not contain real fur. House of Fraser told us that there had been a lack of knowledge about why a supply chain would be contaminated with real fur, and that this “was something that only really came to light with the Sky News inquiry”.7

12.Witnesses from the retail sector admitted that their own processes had not identified that real fur had entered their supply chain.8 However, it appears that retailers across the industry did not react to initial findings in spring 2017. Continued investigations uncovered further examples of fake faux fur nine months later. As Sarah Hajibagheri, a reporter from Sky News, noted:

… given the level of publicity, and having seen rival fashion firms in the headlines, you would have thought that most companies would therefore look at their own procedures and their own schedules in terms of buying products, to make sure that they had the right checks in place.9

It is disappointing that they did not.

13.Paul Horsfield, Merchandising Director at BooHoo, admitted that the company had had misplaced confidence in its processes, and had not investigated the issue: “We felt at the time that the processes we had in place were pretty robust, if I am being honest. That is why there was no further investigation”.10

14.In some instances, retailers had not reacted sufficiently to concerns raised by their own customers. Missguided had dismissed a concern raised by a consumer, replying via tweets that it had a fur-free policy.11 TK Maxx assured a consumer that it had investigated their concern and that the item was fake fur. Sky News told us that this was not the case as it had tested the item and found that it was real fur.12

15.HSI UK criticised Amazon for the lack of a “substantive response” after informing the company about fake faux fur items being sold on their site.13 Not On The High Street expressed regret that a supplier identified as selling fake faux fur items in December 2017 had been found to be continuing the practice in April 2018.14

16.A common theme during the evidence sessions was the difficulty in distinguishing real fur from fake fur. BooHoo and Missguided told us that, following the findings of HSI UK and the media investigations, they had improved the education of their buyers and their staff.15 We were pleased to hear that House of Fraser had worked closely with HSI UK to improve awareness of the issue among their staff:

We brought not just our own brands and concessions and our own suppliers together, but we opened it up to all retailers here in the UK. We did a big session with them, so that Humane Society International could bring the expertise about this challenge in the supply chain, and bring all the toolkits of what you need to do, how you need to have better due diligence …16

17.BooHoo and Missguided also told us that they had changed their checking processes, and increased sample testing.17

18.Concern was expressed by witnesses about how smaller businesses and market traders would be educated on this issue. Camden Market told us that they wanted to take a proactive approach on the issue, but that it would take time to change historical behaviour.18 Staff would be trained in identifying the difference in products and “engage with tenants on a day-to-day basis”.19

19.Longer-term, House of Fraser told us that improved labelling would improve transparency in the fur industry.20 We look in detail at this issue later in this Chapter.

20.It is not illegal to buy or sell fur. However, investigations over the last few years have highlighted examples where consumers, believing they are purchasing fake fur, have bought real fur.

21.Consumers should be able to have confidence in the product they are purchasing. All retailers, including online sellers and marketplace sellers, have a responsibility to ensure that they are selling items as described. We recognise that it is more difficult for online market sellers to examine all the products they sell, but that does not remove the responsibility they have to ensure that the products they sell on their site are correctly described. All retailers must comply with the law and those named in the Report have not done enough to track the risk of selling real fur accidentally. This is not something that should have been discovered by campaign organisations and the media.

22.The retail industry must not be complacent about the issue of fake faux fur. We welcome the work that has been done so far to improve the supply chain and to improve communications with online sellers, and call on the retail industry to ensure that this continues.

Trading Standards

23.Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 makes it an offence for traders to give false information about the characteristics of goods.21 Consumer protection is enforced by Trading standards officers, employed by local authorities.

24.We were surprised to find that retailers, on being aware of fake faux fur being sold in their establishments, had not contacted Trading Standards. Most had tried to deal with it ‘in-house’. Not On The High Street told us that they relied on the sanction of removing a seller from the site.22 Lesley Smith, Director of Public Policy, UK & Ireland, at Amazon was unable to tell us at what point of repeated offences Amazon would contact Trading Standards about a seller on their site: “We are absolutely prepared to bring in trading standards. I am sorry that that I do not know the exact threshold for that”.23

25.Ceri Davies from Camden Market admitted that, although he had discussed other issues with Trading Standards, he had not raised the issue of fake faux fur: “I will put my hands up and say this is something that we should have done, specifically related to the tenants that were called out”.24

26.HSI UK were critical of the response of Trading Standards officers in dealing with fake faux fur:

We have presented evidence to Trading Standards and the responses have varied from noting it was “not a priority service area” to retailers being written to or visited, and warnings issued. We are not aware of any additional actions having taken place, such as prosecutions.25

27.The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation urged Trading Standards officers to be more proactive in conducting investigations into the mis-sale of fake faux fur.26

28.Nicola Tudor, Chair of London’s Fair Trading Group,27 and a Trading standards officer in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, acknowledged that she had been unaware of the issue of fake faux fur until approached by HSI UK.28 This had prompted more activity from Trading Standards officers. However, due to a lack of resources for Trading Standards, she told us that fake faux fur was not a priority for many local authorities:

If you have two members of staff and roughly 200 bits of legislation that you are meant to be enforcing, then other things are very often more important, particularly locally.29

29.It is illegal to give misleading information about the characteristics of goods. We are disappointed that there has been a lack of enforcement by Trading Standards officers in local authorities against those retailers responsible. The Government must ensure that local authorities are properly resourced to deliver these services.

30.We call on local authorities to ensure that Trading Standards officers enforce the law on selling fake faux fur. Where required, we call on local authorities to ensure that Trading Standards officers receive training on this issue and to conduct proactive investigations into the mis-sale of real fur as fake fur.


31.Consumer labelling of fur is covered by the EU’s Textile Labelling Regulation.30 The Regulation requires textile items containing real animal fur to carry the wording “contains non-textile parts of animal origin”.

32.Witnesses told us that the current law was not being adequately complied with. The RSPCA noted that non-compliance of fur labelling law was widespread and “indeed is worse in the UK than other Member States”.31 A survey by Fur Free Alliance found 93% non-compliance on the labelling rules in the UK compared to 49% non-compliance in Austria (the best performing country of the ten surveyed).32

33.HSI UK told us that the current legislation was “a minefield” and did not tell consumers what they needed to know in plain language.33 The Regulation classifies real animal furs as “non textiles”. This puts it into the same category as any other non-textile part present, including leather, down, or a bone button. This makes it impossible to identify real fur from the label if there is another animal product present, as there is no requirement for real fur to be listed on a product’s fabric content label.

34.In addition, too many products containing real animal fur do not need to be labelled at all. Garments that are comprised of less than 80% textile fibres (i.e. more than 20% fur) fall outside the scope of the Textile Regulation, as they are no longer classified as a textile product. There is then no requirement for the label “contains non-textile parts of animal origin”. The more animal fur that is used in a garment, the less the legal requirement for it to be labelled. As HSI UK set out:

Perversely, because [the textile regulation] only applies to textile items, which have to be 80% by weight textile, if you have a full-length fur coat, you do not have to have any fur label on it, because it is a fur item, not a textile item.34

35.The Regulation covers only textiles, and therefore products such as shoes, handbags and accessories, such as key rings, containing real fur are exempt from any requirement to label the fur.

36.Products sold online are also exempt from the wording requirement.

37.The overwhelming view of our witnesses was that the current legislation was “not fit for purpose”.35

38.Retailers such as House of Fraser and BooHoo stated that more detailed and clearer labelling requirements for both manufacturers and suppliers would allow better traceability of fur origin and would allow consumers to make informed choices regarding purchases.36 Amazon said there was a need to:

Knock out the 20% requirement. You would need to think about how you categorise what is fur and what is not. Angora at the moment is classed as wool, not fur. You would probably want to change those rules and say, “If there is any fur whatsoever, it must be identified on the product, even if it is lower than the threshold requirement at the moment”.37

39.Representatives from the fur industry agreed there was a need for better labelling of fur. Michael Moser, Chief Executive Officer of British Fur Trade Association (BFTA) said that he “would not want anybody to buy a piece of fur if they truly did not wish to do that. We have enough people wanting to buy real fur. … I will do anything I can to help people make that clear distinction”.38

40.Many of the animal welfare charities, such as HSI UK, RSPCA, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, Respect for Animals and Four Paws UK, called for the Government to introduce a new mandatory labelling scheme.39 Four Paws UK stated that the new labelling law should require the inclusion of product information detailing:

a)the species from which the fur derives;

b)the country of origin of the fur (where the animal was farmed, or hunted, or killed); and

c)how an animal was reared and killed.40

41.BFTA agreed that there was a need for a new labelling regime to include the species from which the fur derived, “to make it very clear and very easy for buyers”.41 But fur industry representatives were against “an overregulated labelling scheme for fur products [which] would become burdensome for the industry while not providing any added value for consumers”.42 BFTA did not agree that there was a need to show the country of origin, as the “vast majority of consumers would not know the welfare regulations of one country from another”.43

42.The International Fur Federation told us that the fur industry was developing its own voluntary labelling scheme: FURMARK. This would be launched in 2020 and would cover all fur produced in the US, Canada and Europe, and provide clarity on the type of fur used in the product including where multiple types were used.44

43.The Rt Hon Lord Henley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in BEIS agreed that consumers needed to be properly informed.45 He told us that the current regulation around labelling was “confusing”46 and admitted that his own civil servants had found it difficult to interpret the Textile Labelling Regulation.47 The Minister told us that it was important to “get to a position where we can label …. in a manner that does not necessarily use the words “contains non-textile parts of animal origin””.48

44.The Minister informed us that there were no plans to seek changes to the relevant EU regulation while the UK was still a EU Member State.49 However, he acknowledged that there was a case for looking at the labelling regime post-Brexit and improving clarity for consumers.50

45.Consumers have a right to know what they are buying. The current EU labelling regime lacks clarity and is confusing for retailers and consumers alike. The “animal origin” label is unclear, and can refer to a number of animal products in a garment; it does not specifically identify when a product contains real animal fur. The labelling of clothes has to be consistent, transparent and customer-friendly.

46.We welcome the Government’s acknowledgment that the current EU labelling regime is confusing and needs amending. The Government’s ability to amend the labelling regime after Brexit will depend on the nature of the future EU-UK trading relationship.

47.We recommend the introduction of a new mandatory labelling regime that identifies fur and other animal products accurately. The fur label should show the species of fur, the country of origin and method of production. We call on the Government to amend the labelling regime for products containing fur post-Brexit.

3 Q11

4 Q11

5 Q197

6 Humane Society International UK (FUR0040)

7 Q111

8 Qq67, 74, 79, 149, 154

9 Q4

10 Q93

11 Q15

12 Q15

13 Q11

14 Qq148, 149

15 Qq79, 88

16 Q113

17 Qq79, 88

18 Qq193, 197

19 Q198

20 Q145

21 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, Section 5, (‘Misleading Actions’)

22 Q216

23 Q213

24 Q210

25 Humane Society International UK (FUR0040)

26 Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (FUR0036)

27 London’s Fair Trading Group consists of Trading Standards Officers from each of the boroughs and meets on a regular basis.

28 Q219

29 Q230

30 Regulation 1007/2011

31 RSPCA (FUR0031)

33 Q26

34 Q26

35 Q247

36 House of Fraser (FUR0069), BooHoo, (FUR0066)

37 Q188

38 Q245

39 Humane Society International UK (FUR0040), RSPAC (FUR0031), Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (FUR0036), Respect for Animals (FUR0055), Four Paws UK (FUR0041)

40 Four Paws UK (FUR0041)

41 Q253

42 Fur Europe (FUR0043)

43 Q255

44 International Fur Federation (FUR0062)

45 Q318

46 Q327

47 Q317

48 Q337

49 Q366

50 Qq318, 337

Published: 22 July 2018