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February 16, 2009

Buyer Beware: Investigation Finds NY Retailers Flouting Fur-Labeling Law

The Humane Society of the United States

NEW YORK — The Humane Society of the United States and Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, D/WF-Manhattan, revealed today at a press conference that some of the largest retailers in New York — including Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue — have been selling unlabeled fur-trimmed garments in violation of state law.

HSUS investigators and Assemblymember Rosenthal visited stores in New York City with undercover cameras last month to determine whether retailers are in compliance with the 2007 law Rosenthal authored. The law requires that all apparel with real or fake fur be labeled as real or fake, so that shoppers can have access to important product information. The investigation showed that Bloomingdale's was selling unlabeled "Parajumpers" and "Steve by Searle" brand jackets trimmed with animal fur, and that Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue were both selling "Moncler" brand jackets trimmed with unlabeled animal fur.

"I passed this law to ensure that consumers in New York could make informed decisions about the type of clothing they are buying," said Rosenthal. "Many people prefer not to wear animal fur, and they should be able to tell at a glance whether an article of clothing is made with fur or not. Retailers have had more than a year to comply with this law, and it is appalling that so many have disregarded it," she said.

"We've found over and over again this widespread deception in the fashion industry, and consumers simply don't know whether they're buying synthetic fur, or fur from animals skinned alive in China," said Michael Markarian, The HSUS' executive vice president. "Even in the face of a state law that was enacted to curb these abuses, some retailers continue to pull the fur over shoppers' eyes."

A Bergdorf Goodman salesperson admitted that jackets trimmed with animal fur should be labeled, but often are not.  A Bloomingdale's salesperson appeared to be duped by an unlabeled garment, telling investigators the fur was "fake" after seeing no mention of it on the label. An HSUS fur expert confirmed that the fur was in fact real.

"Assembly Member Rosenthal is one of only a handful of legislators to get a perfect score on our latest New York State Legislature Humane Scorecard, which graded members based on their support for animal welfare issues. This labeling bill was one of the bills we scored on, and we applaud Rosenthal once again for taking the next step to make sure this consumer/animal protection law is enforced," said John Phillips, executive director of the New York League of Humane Voters.

Undercover video of and still images of jackets are at video.hsus.org.

Timeline

  • 2005 – The HSUS begins investigation into raccoon dog fur trade.
  • Feb. 2006 – The HSUS announces widespread industry scandal finding raccoon dog fur for sale in United States.
  • Dec. 2006 - Tests commissioned by HSUS investigators find raccoon dog fur on jackets advertised as "faux" and labeled as other species such as raccoon or coyote.
  • Feb. 2007 - Tests commissioned by HSUS investigators find domestic dog fur on unlabeled jackets advertised as "faux" fur.
  • Feb. 2007 - U.S. Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Michael Ferguson, R-N.J., introduce the Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act, H.R. 891.
  • Mar. 2007 – The HSUS files petition with FTC seeking to enforce the Fur Products Labeling Act.
  • Aug. 15, 2007 – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal's legislation to require fur labeling signed into law in New York.
  • Nov. 2007 - New York fur labeling law goes into effect.
  • Sept. 2008 – U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Norm Coleman, R-Minn., introduce the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, S. 3610.
  • Nov. 2008 – HSUS files suit against a number of major retailers including Macy's, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue for engaging in false advertising and mislabeling of fur garments.
  • Jan. 2009 – More than a year after retailers were supposed to comply with the law, entire racks of animal fur-trim jackets were still found unlabeled.

Background:

  • Federal Fur Products Labeling Act of 1951 passed to protect consumers by requiring all garments with real fur to indicate species and country of origin on label, but loophole allows some fur-trimmed garment to be exempt.
  • Delaware, New York and Wisconsin all passed laws to require more complete fur labeling.
  • Raccoon dog is the most commonly unlabeled or misrepresented type of fur sold in the U.S. according to HSUS investigations.
  • Raccoon dogs have been documented to be skinned alive in China for their fur.


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The Humane Society of the United States has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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