Last month, I was sitting in the audience of the Kering Talks when Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzarri announced that, from 2018, the iconic Italian label was banning fur.
The relief that surged through the hall was palpable, the applause deafening. Bizzarri’s nod of acknowledgement showed that he knew he’d delivered the goods. Here was a major brand, previously defined by its fur offering (remember those furry slippers) adding significant heft to fashion’s growing anti-fur movement.
Now, Humane Society International UK and Lush Cosmetics team up to helm a new anti-fur campaign, focusing not on the Guccis of fashion but on the cheap-and-not-so-cheerful reality of the high street fake ‘faux fur’ industry.
Those furry pom pom keychains that dangle charmingly from handbags? That ‘faux fur’ trim parka? Those knitted hats with fur bobbles? Extensive research by HSI has shown that at least some of them are rabbit, racoon dog, fox, and chinchilla.
And, at dirt cheap prices, those animals have lived the worst of lives and endured the worst of deaths: deprived of physical or emotional nurture, in tiny barren cages, on fur farms where animal welfare is considered a wanton frippery.
“People think that real animal fur a luxury item, that it’s really expensive,” points out Claire Bass, HSI UK’s executive director. “Actually, the grim reality is that life on fur farms is so cheap that real fur can be made more cheaply than fake fur.”
Just how grim was made clear to the audience at the campaign’s launch last month when LUSH hosted a screening of animal rights film Klatki. Created by Open Cages and directed by Connor Jackson, Klatki revealed the pure suffering of animals farmed for fur in Poland.
By the time the lights came up, the audience was mute with horror. All this pain for a bit of fur trim? A committed panel, including Made In Chelsea star and vegan lifestyle influencer Lucy Watson, Cosmopolitan UK’s Senior Fashion Editor Sairey Stemp, and wildlife TV presenter Anneka Svenska, took to the stage – still visibly moved – to talk about the implications of the film and how to move Britain towards a fur-free future.
It’s complicated – but possible. The key factor is how much Britons already love animals. In 2000, fur farming was banned in Britain – largely due to public protest – and just last year, a YouGov poll revealed that nine out of 10 thought it ‘unacceptable’ to sell or purchase real fur.
Yet the UK is still importing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of fur from farms abroad every year – all under the guise of faux.
If British shoppers understand that the ‘faux fur’ trim came from an animal who had suffered electrocution, gassing and even, in some cases, skinning alive, argues the campaign, even the low price point will not be enough to pull them in.
“British consumers would be shocked to learn that they are being duped into buying real animal fur,” admits Bass.
Part of the problem is labelling which legally does not have to list fur. This makes avoiding real fur a complicated task – especially when it’s labelled, as HSI have discovered it can be, as 100 per cent polyester.
LUSH and HSI are asking for crucial changes to the law, including a campaign for the government to sanction mandatory fur labelling so that consumers can shop with transparency.
Ultimately, however, the campaign is gunning for a nationwide ban on the import and sale of fur. If the UK leaves the single market when it leaves the EU, there will be a chance, hard won, to turn the tide on the fur trade. As fur is not produced in the UK, under World Trade Organisation rules the country should be allowed to ban the import of fur.
“The force of public opinion is absolutely with us and would support our call for a ban on the import of fur,” says Bass, confidently.
“We know from our own experience that what customers want from companies is cruelty-free products, transparency, and honesty,” adds LUSH ethics director Hilary Jones. “We’re getting involved because it makes us bloody angry. Like animal testing for cosmetics, fur farming is absolutely inexcusable.”
The aim of this campaign, she says, is to“empower customers and to remind the government that current fur policy is neither consistent nor in line with public feeling.”
Alongside the petition, HSI is arming consumers with the tools to detect real fur for themselves. The best way, says Bass, is to part the fur; real animal fur will have skin at the base whereas fake fur will have a fabric mesh.
Another clue is the ends of the hair strands, which will be blunt (like they have been cut) if they are fake. Real hair usually tapers to a point. A guide on HSI’s website will help.
“Be vigilant when you’re out shopping,” says Bass. “Report to us items you’re concerned about as well as informing trading standards.” If consumers do uncover what they believe to be real fur mis-sold as faux, take it up with the retailer, who may be unaware.
It’s a potent mix of actions that has one aim in mind: to stop endless suffering for innocent creatures, being killed in the name of fast fashion, and to give tools – and peace of mind – to shoppers who really want to do the right thing.