Cat fur sold as fake on UK high streets

11 April 2017

Shoes using cat fur labelled as faux have been found for sale at a UK high-street chain, an investigation has claimed.

Lab tests on shoes sold by retailer Missguided found cat fur in pom-poms decorating a pair of shoes and rabbit fur on a separate style, while the labels listed only man-made materials.

The investigation conducted by Sky News and the Humane Society International (HSI) also found mislabelled real fur in a number of other high-street stores, including rabbit fur in gloves sold at House of Fraser. Other online suppliers were found to be selling raccoon dog and fox fur as faux.

Missguided said on its website it does not condone the use of fur and is investigating the issues. It also said the items identified by the investigation had been removed from sale.

House of Fraser said the gloves were sold by a concession brand, were not an in-house product and had been removed from sale. “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,” it said.

Suppliers that try to pass of real fur as fake are essentially committing fraud, but this is still a problem the “sits squarely on the shoulders of buyers,” said Duncan Brock, director of customer relationships at CIPS. “Unless buyers have audited every tier of their supply chain, they are buying on a misguided sense of trust, or they are simply ignoring the issue until they’re caught out.”

As well as regularly inspecting and testing goods and building strong supplier relationships, “procurement professionals need to widen their information networks to include anti-counterfeit agencies and other bodies to develop wider and deeper knowledge of what is happening to the goods and services they are ordering,” he added.

Incidents like this demonstrate a mismatch between policy and implementation, said Clare Lissaman, a director at the Ethical Fashion Forum. The retailers all had clear and strong policies against the use of fur, she said, but high-level policies needed to be embedded into implementation roles. 

“In this case it’s fur, but it could be any other ethical issue. How you get that embedded into everybody’s role and not just see as something that the CSR team takes care of, or the ethical team takes care of? It’s about that aspect of how buyers consider these policies being as much part of their job as profit margin or quality.”

Quality control may have partly been to blame. You would expect a firm to notice if it was supplied polyester instead of cotton, said Lissaman, and firms ought to be just as vigilant with fur.

Strong supplier relationships can help maintain ethical standards and quality control, she went on. “If you have a really good, ongoing, long-term customer relationship and your supplier really understands your needs, your wants, your policies, they’re less likely to try and go around them,” she added.

Low-priced farmed fur from Asia is also driving the problem, said Clair Bass, executive director of HSI. “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,” she told Sky News.

Following best practice makes buyers less likely to source unethically or receive inauthentic goods. Buyers should:

 

  • Inspect and test goods periodically with experts – the test for fake fur can be easier than for other goods, for example Manuka honey
  • Vet, audit and increase visibility all the way down the supply chain
  • Know your suppliers and their suppliers and build stronger relationships
  • Be part of and communicate with organisations such as Fur Free Alliance for advice on how to spot real fur
  • Consider sharing data with other companies and ethics organisations to help catch unethical and counterfeit suppliers

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