Real animal fur sold as fake on British high street

Sarah Hajibagheri, Sky News Reporter, Exclusive

Sky News has found four types of animal fur being sold on the British high street - but marketed to shoppers as fake fur.

A fibres expert has identified items which are most consistent with rabbit, raccoon dog, mink and cat being mis-sold to consumers as faux fur.

Fur farms were banned in the UK in 2003, but foreign farmed fur is still finding its way in to British retailers' supply chains from Asia - and being mislabelled as synthetic material.

We found real animal fur being sold in department store House of Fraser and fast fashion outlet Missguided - despite both retailers having fur-free policies.

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International told Sky News: "We are finding an increasing amount of real fur being sold either mislabelled or not labelled at all as real fur, in the last couple of years in the UK.

"This is a problem in two ways. Firstly it's a problem for the animals who are suffering awful, deprived lives and excruciating deaths on fur farms and traps around the world to produce these products.

"And secondly, it's a problem for consumers, who are not being protected from unfair trading, who want to shop ethically and avoid the fur trade."

All the items Sky News found were labelled as "made in China" and priced at £30 or under.

Ms Bass claims mass fur farming in Asia had driven down prices.

She said: "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."

Fibres expert Phil Greaves who tested the products told Sky News the mislabelling of real animal fur is "becoming increasingly common, particularly over the past five years."

Shopper Donna Allison bought a pair of pink stiletto heels from fast fashion retailer Missguided, with pom poms that she immediately suspected were real fur.

She says she was disappointed that despite contacting Missguided on Twitter with her concerns, they simply "dismissed it as being faux" - in line with their no fur policy.

When Dr Greaves confirmed the shoes were indeed animal fur, most consistent with cat, she told Sky News: "My life is basically animals and cats, so it's really hurtful, really shocking.

"Whether they know they are selling it or not there needs to be something done about it. They need to be more responsible for what they are selling."

Raccoon dog fur is becoming increasingly common and Ashley Palmier, director of Ventura Wildlife told Sky News that the animal's soft, dense fur has made them "quite appealing to the fur trade and that, combined with massive litters of anywhere up to 16 individuals from one set of parents, they are being mass farmed now and often skinned alive".

House of Fraser has now stopped selling a pair of gloves identified by Dr Greaves as having rabbit fur trim as a result of Sky News' investigation.

A House of Fraser spokesperson said: "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.

"Our customers want assurances that House of Fraser is not be complicit in such unnecessary suffering of animals and we take this issue very seriously and have communicated this to the brand in question.

"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."

In addition to the pink shoes most consistent with cat fur, a second pair of pointed pumps sold by Missguided were identified as having pom-poms most consistent with rabbit fur by Dr Greaves.

Missguided stressed it had a strict no fur policy and removed the shoes from sale after being informed of our findings.

A spokesperson said: "We will be launching an internal investigation with the relevant suppliers and will ensure these matters are addressed urgently."