IN THE NEWS: A new investigation says major retailers like Amazon are selling real fur as 'fake'


IN THE NEWS: On DEC 20, 2017

  • A recent Sky News and Humane Society International investigation says that major UK-based retailers including TK Maxx, Boohoo, Amazon, and Miss Bardo sold products made with real animal fur and mislabeled them as "faux fur."
  • Some of these retailers have no-fur policies in place.
  • The items in question aren't for sale anymore.
  • The brands called out in Sky News' report have said they're looking into the situation.
  • It's illegal to farm fur in the UK, but retailers are able to import real fur at a low cost.

A recent investigation by Sky News and Humane Society International (HSI) says that major UK-based retailers including TK Maxx (a subsidiary of TJ Maxx), Boohoo, Amazon, Miss Bardo, and Groupon labeled products made with real animal fur as "faux fur."

Sky News and HSI partnered to test fibers on various products to determine if they were synthetic furs or authentic furs — and what they say they found is pretty shocking.

Boohoo was selling a pair of earrings made with mink fur for $6.70 (£5 GBP), according to Sky News.

According to Sky News, the retailer claims to have a no-fur policy. But Boohoo also reportedly sold two pairs of "bridal" shoes that contained rabbit fur fibers.

"We are very disappointed that on this occasion our high standards have been breached by the suppliers from who these items have been sourced. The items in question were immediately removed from sale and the breach of the policy and its standards is being investigated as a matter of urgency," a representative for Boohoo said in a statement to Sky News.

TK Maxx allegedly sold a "faux fur" jacket that had fox fur fibers for $160.74 (£119.99).

TK Maxx claims to be fur-free. "Since 2003 we have not sold real fur of any type in TK Maxx. We do not knowingly source Angora products," its website says.

A representative for the brand confirmed that policy in a statement to INSIDER.

"TK Maxx has a longstanding 'no fur' policy and both our buyers and vendors understand that we do not knowingly purchase items containing fur," they said. "With regard to the jacket, we intended to buy the 'faux fur' version of this item and very much regret what appears to be an error on our part. We purchased just a few of these jackets for, and are no longer offering them for sale."

The Daily Mail reported that a woman named Jayne Webster claims that TK Maxx downplayed her concern that "faux fur" pom-poms she purchased from the retailer were made with real fur. However, according to Sky News, fiber testing showed that the item actually contained rabbit fur.

TK Maxx told Sky News that customers could be refunded for the items containing fur.

Amazon also reportedly sold shoes that contained animal fur.

"All Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who don't will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. The products in question are no longer available," Amazon said in a statement to Sky News.

Sky News also accused Miss Bardo of selling a beanie that had fox fur fibers for $10.72 (£8).

A representative for Miss Bardo confirmed to INSIDER that the product is no longer for sale.

"Upon being told the findings the entire team were shocked to find that the style we had been told was 'faux fur' actually turned out to be 100% real fur! Here at MISSBARDO, we have an anti-fur policy and we feel appalled that we have been misled by an overseas manufacturer into buying a hat that is not faux fur," they said.

Miss Bardo will refund customers who purchased the beanie, a rep for the retailer said.

Sky News also alleged that Groupon falsely advertised products made with real fur as "faux fur." The company told Sky News that it is "reviewing both the supplier and our internal processes to ensure this doesn't happen again."

According to a press release from HSI, other retailers that sold allegedly misleading products included Etsy and Not On The High Street.

What are the implications?

In 2003, fur farms were made illegal in the UK, according to the BBC. But the UK still allows farmed fur to be imported from other countries. In the wake of Brexit, some people want to ban imports on international farmed fur, Sky News reports.

"Brexit gives us the opportunity to close our borders to the cruel, unnecessary, and outdated fur trade," Claire Bass, the executive director of HSI UK, told Sky News.

Bass thinks that importing farmed fur caused the influx of "fake 'faux fur'" in UK retailers.

"The amount of fake faux fur online is truly shocking," she said in a press release obtained by INSIDER. "The combination of trusted brands, cheap prices, and items described as 'faux' or '100% acrylic,' means many people will be justifiably horrified to discover they've inadvertently bought animal fur. 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."

Although it is technically illegal to mislead customers, according to HSI, the regulation is very rarely enforced.

"There is no legal requirement to use the specific word 'fur' on items containing real fur. EU regulations do require items defined as 'textile products' to carry the confusing wording ' contains non-textile parts of animal origin ' but as well as not clearly telling consumers it means 'real animal fur' in practice this wording requirement is rarely adhered to at all," HSI noted in a press release.

HSI also said that footwear, accessories, and e-commerce, are exempt from that requirement.

What can you do to avoid buying animal hair?

This isn't the first time major retailers have been accused of selling fake "faux fur." In the past, brands like Urban Outfitters and Missguided have been in this situation as well.

In the likely event that you don't have access to HSI and Sky News' fiber-testing experts, PETA published a post that details how to tell if an item is made with real or synthetic fur.

PETA recommends the following methods for examining "faux fur" products:

  1. Look at the base of the fur. Real fur is usually bound to leather, while faux fur has mesh or threaded backing.
  2. Check the ends. Real fur tends to converge to one point, while faux fur has a more even look.
  3. Burn it. To be really certain, use tweezers to pluck hairs from the garment and then burn them with a lighter or match. Singed authentic fur will smell like human hair, but synthetic fur will smell like burnt plastic.

As shown by the inexpensive products highlighted by Sky News, price doesn't indicate whether or not a product is made with real or synthetic fur.

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