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May 20, 2009

Congress Calls for Truth in Fur Labeling In Response to Ongoing Misrepresentation

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States urged speedy passage of The Truth in Fur Labeling Act, introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, as H.R. 2480 and S. 1076, to protect consumers by bringing much-needed accuracy and full disclosure to fur labeling laws. The bills, introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. and Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., closes a loophole in federal law that allows some animal fur garments to go unlabeled if the value of the fur is less than $150, leaving consumers in the dark as to whether they are buying faux or animal fur.

"Many consumers choose to avoid buying and wearing animal fur and they deserve to know what they're getting so they can make informed purchasing choices," says Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.  "As a result of our investigations, we've seen dog fur labeled as coyote, and real fur labeled as faux fur. We are grateful to Senator Menendez and Representatives Moran and Bono Mack for introducing this important consumer protection bill, and we urge the Congress to pass it swiftly into law."

Under current law, an estimated 14 percent of garments trimmed with animal fur and sold in the United States are exempt from disclosing the fur in labeling or advertising because the value of the fur is less than $150, even if the fur is dyed pink or blue to look synthetic. The bill will also direct the FTC to review for accuracy the 50-year-old list of names used to describe the types of animals.

Investigations in China have revealed millions of raccoon dogs killed by cruel methods, including being skinned alive. Raccoon dog fur trim was found on more than two-thirds of the falsely advertised or mislabeled jackets tested by The HSUS over the last three years. Domestic dog fur has also been found on unlabeled garments sold in the United States, despite being illegal.

Statements from bill sponsors:

"This bill is more than just empowering consumers to be able to make informed decisions about where their dollars go, and this kind of labeling is more than just picking the right size or the preferred brand," said Sen. Menendez. "This is about allowing consumers to make decisions about whether they want to support a practice — a practice that, given all the facts, so many would be adamantly opposed to."

"Consumers expect to have access to all necessary information in order to make informed purchases. Unfortunately, a current loophole in federal regulations exempts a sizable portion of U.S. garments containing fur from labeling requirements. This means consumers could be purchasing products with the expectation that they bought 'faux' fur, but which actually contain real fur, perhaps from a dog or cat," said Rep. Moran. "This legislation will close that loophole and provide consumers with the product information they expect and deserve."

"People depend on product labels to make informed decisions about their purchases," said Rep. Bono Mack. "This bill would close the loophole that has allowed too many companies to sell fur products made from cats and dogs under the guise of being 'faux.' Consumers deserve to know what they're buying and be confident in whether or not it's fake or real fur, regardless of the cost of the product." 

Facts:

  • Other original cosponsors of the Moran-Bono Mack bill include Reps. Dennis Moore, D-Kansas, Henry Brown, R-S.C., Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., George Miller, D-Calif., Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Sam Farr, D-Calif., Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., Brad Sherman, D-Calif., Peter King, R-N.Y., and Todd Platts, R-Pa.
  • Original cosponsors of the Menendez bill are Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Russ Feingold, D-Wisc. and Carl Levin, D-Mich.
  • Designers and retailers already have an obligation to label fur garments with the name of the species and country of origin if the value of the fur is $150 or more, and the new legislation would extend that same labeling standard to all fur apparel regardless of value.
  • The HSUS investigation found raccoon dog fur on 80 percent of a nationwide sample of fur-trimmed jackets purchased from well-known retailers and designers. Of the raccoon dog fur jackets tested, not a single one properly identified the animal in advertising or labeling, instead calling it such things as faux fur, raccoon or simply not labeling it at all.
  • Estimates on the number of raccoon dogs being caged and killed in China range from 1.5 million to 4 million.
  • It is illegal to import, export, sell or advertise any domestic dog fur in the United States, but raccoon dog fur is currently not included in this ban.
  • The Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000 banned the trade in domestic dog and cat fur after an HSUS investigation revealed the death toll of 2 million animals a year in China and other parts of Asia and found domestic dog fur for sale in the United States.
  • Raccoon dog fur is commonly unlabeled or inexplicably called "Asiatic raccoon," "Finn raccoon," "tanuki" or other names, without any consistency in the marketplace. "Raccoon dog" is the only accepted common English-language name used by federal agencies and leading mammologists for the species Nyctereutes procynoides, a wild member of the dog family native to parts of Asia.

Timeline:

  • 2005 – The HSUS begins investigation into raccoon dog fur trade.
  • February 2006 – The HSUS announces widespread industry scandal finding raccoon dog fur for sale in United States.
  • December 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.
  • Winter 2006-07 – Deréon, Macy's, Rocawear and Sean John pull offending garments; Rocawear and Sean John pledge not to use raccoon dog fur in the future.
  • February 2007 - Tests commissioned by HSUS investigators find domestic dog fur on unlabeled jackets advertised as "faux" fur.
  • February 2007 – Calvin Klein pledges to go fur-free because of The HSUS' investigation.  
  • February2007 - 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.
  • March 2007 – The HSUS files petition with FTC seeking to enforce the Fur Products Labeling Act.
  • March 2007 – Tommy Hilfiger pledges to go fur-free because of The HSUS' investigation.
  • May 2007 – Foot Locker pledges to go fur-free after discussions with The HSUS.
  • Aug. 15, 2007 - Legislation to require fur labeling signed into law in New York.
  • February 2008 – BCBGMAXAZRIAGROUP pledges to go fur-free after discussion with The HSUS.
  • July 3, 2008 – Legislation to require fur labeling signed into law in Delaware.
  • July 10, 2008 – Overstock.com pledges to go fur-free after discussion with The HSUS.
  • November 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.

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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 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS 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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