Real cat fur labelled as fake has been found on sale in a popular high street shop, it has been alleged.
An investigation by animal protection charity Humane Society International (HSI) claimed to have found cat fur on a pair of Missguided shoes.
Claire Bass, director of HSI UK, told the Independent: “What the lab suggests is that cat fur is being sold in the UK which is really shocking.”
The item was found despite cat and dog fur being banned for use in clothing across the EU since 2009.
“We have been finding an increasing amount of fur either mislabelled or not labelled at all. This is misleading ethical consumers, who assume it is fake because it’s cheap. Consumers don’t know what they are buying,” said Ms Bass.
The charity said this was the first time it had found cat fur in a high street item since starting its campaign against the fur trade two years ago.
“But I’m sure we will find more. This could only well be the tip of the iceberg,” Ms Bass said.
HSI told the Independent it is in the process of writing a report to the Trading Standards’ office to call for a further investigation.
The charity’s own investigation in partnership with Sky News also claimed to have found real animal fur including rabbit, raccoon dog and mink being sold as faux fur in one of the concessions in department store House of Fraser.
A spokeswoman from Missguided said: “Missguided does not condone the use of fur in any of its products therefore we take the allegations very seriously.
“We have launched an internal investigation with the relevant suppliers and will ensure these matters are addressed urgently.”
In a statement, House of Fraser said also said it was taking the issue “very seriously”.
“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.
“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.”
Fur farms have been banned in the UK in 2003 but real fur from Asia is still appearing in the supply chain. Miss Bass said she did not think Missguided and House of Fraser had deliberately mislabelled real fur but that long and complicated supply chains make it easier for something to have gone wrong down the line.
“In China, millions of cats are being killed for the meat trade and it is possible that the fur of these animals are going into the fur trade,” she said.
Ms Bass also said there was a “lingering misconception” in the UK that real fur was associated with luxury items.
“The key thing is that cheap price is absolutely not an indicator that something is going to be fake fur. In a survey we have done, we have found that 50 per cent of people think because it is cheap it cannot be real fur but that is really not the case.
“The fur trade is staging a back door come back,” she said.
In a survey, HSI found that nearly 80 per cent of interviewees thought it was unacceptable for people to buy and sell products in the UK that contain fur not only from cats and dogs, but also from seals, foxes, raccoons, minks and rabbits.
HSI is urging the government to consider a ban on all imports of fur, regardless of the animal species.
Meanwhile, there are some simple checks shoppers can take in order to find out whether fur is fake.
This includes checking whether the fur is attached to a piece of fabric when parting it rather than skin or pelt. If the end of the fur tapers into a point, that is also a sign the fur is real.