London - Fashion retailers still have difficulty spotting the difference between real fur and fake, which has lead to a number of online giants, including Boohoo.com, TK Maxx, Miss Bardo and Amazon UK unknowingly selling real fur as faux. Together with the likes of Groupon, Etsy and Not On The High Street, these online retailers have been accused of misleading British consumers into purchasing real fur from foxes, rabbits, chinchillas, and minks after mislabelling their products in the latest investigation released by the Humane Society International (HSI) and Sky News.
The online scandal of real animal fur being sold as faux
“Our investigation has identified that some of the biggest and best-known names in online retailing are selling real animal fur misleadingly described as either “faux fur” or as a synthetic material such as acrylic,” wrote HSI and Sky News in a statement. Following a non-exhaustive search, the two uncovered a range of items sold online from Boohoo, TK Maxx, Etsy, Amazon UK, Groupon, Miss Bardo and Not On The High Street that they suspected were real fur, based on their website photos.
Even though the majority of these online retailers have a strict no-fur policy in place (with the exception of Esty and Groupon) the investigation found these e-tailers were selling products such as bobble hats, scarves, shoes, coats, and earrings that contained real animal fur after sending them off for laboratory testing. A number of these items were sold at a deceptively low price point, for example, earrings made from Mink were sold for as little as 5 pounds on Boohoo.com, highlighting how cheap animal lives are on fur farms. As real fur detailing or trims can often cost the same or even less than faux fur, judging if a product is genuine fur or not based on price is no longer applicable for consumers or retail buyers alike.
‘The tragic truth is that conditions on fur farms are so bad that real animal fur can be produced as cheaply as, or even more cheaply than, fake fur’
“The amount of fake faux fur online is truly shocking, with even trusted retailers mis-selling real animal fur as synthetic,” said Claire Bass, Executive Director of Humane Society International UK. “It is appalling that British shoppers, who are actively choosing not to buy real fur because of the terrible animal suffering, are being misled into buying the very same fur products they’re trying to avoid. 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.”
HSI and Sky News contacted all of the online retailers mentioned in the investigation with their findings prior to going live. TK Maxx thanked both HSI and Sky News for bringing "this serious matter to our attention,” and added that customers who wish to return the items will be given a full refund. This is not the first time TK Maxx has been caught selling real fur falsely mislabelled as faux. Back in 2015 an investigation carried out by HSI UK and the BBC discovered the discount retailer was selling gloves containing real fur.
A spokesperson for Boohoo told FashionUnited that the fashion etailer takes its Animal Welfare Policy seriously while believing they can offer customers products that look like fur using available faux alternative. “We are committed to working in this way, and give our suppliers clear standards with which to comply. 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,” added the spokesperson, who noted Boohoo would never knowingly use real fur in any products and aims to continue monitoring its processes.
HSI has offered both retailers training on how to spot the difference between real and faux fur. “We certainly hope they will be making policy changes to ensure that this does not happen again,” said a spokesperson for HSI to FashionUnited. At the same time, HSI also urges Groupon and Etsy, along with other companies without a fur-free policy, to adopt such policies as soon as possible and to ensure all their sellers' products are labeled correctly.
This investigation marks the third time that HSI UK has worked with Sky News to expose the ongoing scandal of real animal fur being mislabelled and sold as fake fur to unsuspecting British consumers. “We decided to target online outlets because of the huge popularity of e-shopping, particularly with younger consumers who favour the fast fashion that internet-only outlets are able to deliver,” said HSI and Sky News. “E-shoppers are also particularly vulnerable to dishonest or inaccurate marketing because they are unable to touch or visually scrutinize products first hand, and are therefore completely reliant on the description supplied by the e-retailer.” It comes after their previous expose found that Missguided was illegally selling shoes containing real cat fur on the British high street.
Photos: Courtesy of HSI and Sky News