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May 14, 2010

Letting Consumers Know for Sure What’s Fur

  • This Burberry jacket was part of an HSUS investigation that found unlabeled and mislabeled apparel for sale containing animal fur. Tests found it to be trimmed with rabbit fur. HSUS

  • This Rocawear jacket was also part of an HSUS investigation that found unlabeled and mislabeled garments for sale with animal fur. Tests showed it was trimmed with raccoon dog fur. HSUS

The Humane Society of the United States has been a prominent voice calling for more accurate labels on fur apparel.  At a hearing this week on Capitol Hill, The HSUS's chief operating officer Michael Markarian testified before a Congressional panel in support of important legislation to close a loophole in fur labeling requirements.

The federal Truth in Fur Labeling Act would require all garments with animal fur to contain a label telling consumers what species of animal the fur comes from, regardless of the value of the fur.

Federal law requires most garments containing animal fur to be labeled with the type of animal and other information. However, if the value of the fur is $150 or less, this rule doesn't apply.

This can leave consumers in the dark about whether they're buying animal fur. For example, a trimmed jacket at your local department store doesn't have to be labeled to identify whether its trim is made from rabbit or raccoon dog — as long as the dollar value of the trim itself is $150 or less. About 13 percent of all fur and fur-trimmed garments sold in the United States fall into this labeling loophole, according to information from the Federal Trade Commission.

One of the bill's lead co-sponsors, Rep. Jim Moran from Virginia, spoke to the U.S. House panel about the "confusion" created by the current loophole in labeling requirements. He told the subcommittee that this "common-sense" legislation would help "to ensure consumers have the requisite knowledge to make informed choices consistent with their medical needs and ethical beliefs."

Markarian expressed The HSUS's strong support for the Truth in Fur Labeling Act. "Consumers who may have allergies to animal fur, ethical objections to fur, or concern about the use of certain species should have the same opportunity to make informed purchasing choices, regardless of the amount or dollar value of animal fur used on a garment," he testified.

He showed photos of jackets that were part of an HSUS investigation into mislabeled and unlabeled fur apparel. One jacket cost hundreds of dollars from a luxury retailer who advertised it online as fake fur, and the label said nothing about the fluffy trim along the collar. Tests ordered by The HSUS found that the trim was made from rabbit fur.

With the $150 loophole, a jacket could conceivably contain dozens of rabbit pelts and still not have to disclose this information on the label. HSUS has also found jackets containing animal fur that were sold as faux fur, misleading customers who may not want to purchase fur for ethical or other reasons.

With advances in synthetic fur technology, and with animal fur being dyed unnatural colors such as blue or pink, it's become even more difficult for shoppers to tell whether fur is faux or not just by looking at it, Markarian explained. Consumers shouldn't have to be detectives to make informed purchases.

After testimony from the Federal Trade Commission, The HSUS and fur industry representatives, it was clear that labeling fur accurately is something everyone can agree on. All the witnesses expressed their support for removing the fur labeling loophole to protect consumers nationwide.

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