Real fur sold as "fake" in House of Fraser

With the British high street under scrutiny, Humane Society International says it "wouldn't be surprised" if the problem affected Irish shoppers...

Real fur sold as "fake" in House of Fraser

Picture by Jonathan BradyPA ArchivePA Images

Furs "most consistent" with cat, rabbit, raccoon dog and mink and have been identified in items sold on the British high street and marketed to shoppers as "faux fur".

A fibres expert made the discovery as part of an investigation by animal charity Humane Society International and Sky News which has found that, despite fur farms being banned in the UK back in 2003, foreign-farmed fur is still finding its way into UK retailers' supply chains from Asia. They are then being incorrectly labelled as synthetic material.

Real animal fur was discovered being sold in department store House of Fraser and fast fashion outlet Missguided – despite both retailers having fur-free policies.

All the items Sky News found were labelled as "made in China" and priced at £30 or under.

With House of Fraser having a presence on these shores in Dundrum Town Centre and Irish shoppers able to purchase Missguided's range of items online, Newstalk.com contacted the Humane Society International to ascertain whether real fur posing as fake could find its way into Irish wardrobes.

HSI spokeswoman Wendy Higgins said:

"Whilst we have no direct evidence of this issue affecting Irish retailers, I wouldn't be surprised if it did because the problem is pretty widespread...

"I would say that the potential for retailers to slip up is industry-wide, and the problem seems to be getting worse not better. Retailers and consumers alike need to be vigilant to avoid selling or buying cruel animal fur as fake fur, as indicators such as a cheap price tag can give completely false assurance."

She also noted that the organisation has found evidence of similar practices on other online stores.

Fibres expert Phil Greaves, who tested the products, told Sky News the mislabelling of real animal fur is "becoming increasingly common, particularly over the past five years."

British shopper Donna Allison had bought a pair of pink stiletto heels from Missguided, with pom poms that she immediately suspected were real fur.

She said she was disappointed that, despite contacting Missguided on Twitter with her concerns, they simply "dismissed it as being faux" – in line with their no fur policy.

When Dr Greaves confirmed the shoes were indeed animal fur, most consistent with cat, she told Sky News:

"My life is basically animals and cats, so it's really hurtful, really shocking.

"Whether they know they are selling it or not there needs to be something done about it. They need to be more responsible for what they are selling."

House of Fraser has now stopped selling a pair of gloves identified by Dr Greaves as having rabbit fur trim as a result of the investigation.

A spokesperson for the retailer said:

"House of Fraser has a strict no fur policy and we ensure all of our suppliers and brand partners are aware of this.

"We would never knowingly mislead our customers, who we believe have the right to know what they purchasing.

"We are extremely concerned that fur can be mislabelled in this way, particularly for brands that we stock.

"Our customers want assurances that House of Fraser is not be complicit in such unnecessary suffering of animals and we take this issue very seriously and have communicated this to the brand in question.

"As a result all products have been removed from sale and returned to the brand.

"We will offer a full refund on any purchases of this item previously made. We will also be launching a full brand partners and supplier engagement to ensure that they are reminded of our no fur policy."

In addition to the pink shoes most consistent with cat fur, a second pair of pointed pumps sold by Missguided were identified as having pom-poms most consistent with rabbit fur by Dr Greaves.

Missguided stressed it had a strict no fur policy and removed the shoes from sale after being informed of our findings.

A spokesperson said: "We will be launching an internal investigation with the relevant suppliers and will ensure these matters are addressed urgently."

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International, stated:

"We are finding an increasing amount of real fur being sold either mislabelled or not labelled at all as real fur, in the last couple of years in the UK.

"This is a problem in two ways. Firstly it's a problem for the animals who are suffering awful, deprived lives and excruciating deaths on fur farms and traps around the world to produce these products.

"And secondly, it's a problem for consumers, who are not being protected from unfair trading, who want to shop ethically and avoid the fur trade."

Ms Bass claims mass fur farming in Asia had driven down prices.

She said:

"Life is really, really cheap in the fur farming industry. These animals are kept in appalling conditions; they're denied veterinary care, they are fed terrible food."

The import and sale of fur from domestic cats and dogs has been banned across the EU since 2009. In countries such as China – where the Missguided shoes were made – an estimated two million cats a year, including pet cats, are snatched from the streets and killed for their meat and fur.

Additional reporting by IRN