BY CASEY JACOBSON, Editor
The lining on the hood of the winter jacket looks so real. It’s incredibly soft to the touch and a mottled brown-and-black color, and it’s the height of winter fashion this season. The label reads “faux,” so what harm could be done?
But in reality it’s not the fur that’s faux—it’s the label.
That real-looking fur on those boots, lining that jacket or adorning that accessory often looks real because it actually is. It’s just labeled faux to soothe consumer consciences.
There is a major difference between actual fur and faux fur: one comes from a sacrificed animal and the other is manufactured. Ultimately, the choice either to wear faux or real fur is decided by the consumer when they buy their products.
Yet, animal-friendly consumers are being manipulated by buying products that read “faux fur” when in reality, the fur is real.
That’s why the Humane Society of the United States is suing big-name retailers like Barney’s, Neiman Marcus and Dillard’s for deceiving customers by mislabeling fur products as “faux,” when they’re really made from animal fur.
The animals being harmed in the process of the fur trade may outrage some people, but many are more concerned that their choice as consumers is being taken away.
Senior Angelica Delgado said she owns a faux fur coat, but she didn’t know that some companies have been selling mislabeled fur products.
“It’s really depressing. That news makes me not want to wear or buy faux fur items ever again,” Delgado said.
Senior Paige Parnell was also shocked by the lawsuit. She said she owns faux fur products that are mostly coats and wasn’t aware of the mislabeling.
“I wasn’t aware, but now I am. It’s terrible, and people shouldn’t be wearing that stuff,” Parnell said.
Yet many other consumers believe that wearing fur is just like using animals for any other purpose, such as eating meat or wearing leather.
Junior Maddy Espinosa owns real fur items including a purse, sweaters, cardigans and shoes.
“I obviously don’t care that much [about wearing fur],” Espinosa said. “I wear fur, and we use animals for meat and other stuff, so why not use their fur?”
INSIDE THE CASE
The Fur Products Labeling Act, which has been in place for nearly 60 years, makes it against the law for businesses to label fur on garments without the correct species.
It’s illegal for a company to label their product as “raccoon” when the real species is raccoon dog, and it’s also illegal when the label doesn’t include whether the product is from an actual animal.
Eleven different companies are being sued for falsely labeling real fur as faux fur, including Barney’s, Beyond the Rack, Bop LLC, Dillard’s, DRJays.com, Eminent, DBA Revolve Clothing, Gilt Group, Neiman Marcus, SSense Spa, Summit Sports and Yoox Group Spa.
The HSUS, who filed the lawsuit against the companies, is the nation’s largest animal protection organization with over 11 million members and supporters.
“We published the information right away so that the consumers would know about the false advertising and to further look for products that are falsely labeled,” said Pierre Grzybowski, the Research and Enforcement Manager of the HSUS’s Fur-Free Campaign.
The campaign works to end the killing of animals for fur and fur trim, often by promoting faux fur as a humane alternative to the use of genuine fur pelts on products, but the campaign staff is now concerned that it may have unintentionally promoted real fur because of inaccurate labeling.
“We [HSUS Fur-Free Campaign] work with everyone from consumers to designers to retailers, basically anyone who can use or buy. We tell about the amount of suffering that comes to animals from fur production and encourage consumers to purchase faux fur,” Grzybowski said.
According to the complaint, the false and deceptive advertising and labeling injured the HSUS and its members. Companies do this by misleading humane consumers into buying real fur products and increasing consumer confusion, thereby hampering The HSUS’s organizational mission.
“I spend a good deal of time in December through January looking [for falsely labeled fur],” said Grzybowski. “I go to stores all across the country and shop online to look for products that are possibly mislabeled.”
Grzybowski said this isn’t the first account of mislabeled fur; it has been going on for years.
“This whole thing started in late 2006, when a retailer from a company gave us a tip that a garment was to be advertised as faux, but it was really animal fur,” Grzybowski said. “We have been finding products that are either real fur and labeled faux, or the garment is labeled a completely different species than it actually is.”
WHERE THE FUR COMES FROM
The fur may be pretty, but the source of it isn’t.
The fur on accessories, jackets, coats and shoes often comes from dogs. According to the HSUS, raccoon dogs are native to Asia and are terrier-sized social butterflies in the animal world. They do have markings similar to raccoons, but they are just like any other dog.
Although many people in China believe they bring good luck, the dogs themselves are extremely unlucky. They are heavily abused in the fur trade and are often the animal that is mislabeled in products.
Their fur is often labeled incorrectly as “raccoon” or dyed a different color to make it look more fake, but their harsh treatment is incredibly real.
“The most killed animal for their fur is the mink [for fur coats], but the fur trim which is most commonly mislabeled is the raccoon dog. Animals come from all around the world, but most raccoon dogs come from China,” Grzybowski said. “The United States is the leading country in trapping. The US kills the animals by setting up traps.”
Grzybowski said that there are only some regulations when handling these animals. Since there are few standards, raccoon dogs are often skinned alive or killed by sending shock waves through the anal area all the way to their mouths.
IS IT A PROBLEM TO WEAR FUR?
The argument whether or not fur is a problem to wear comes from many different factors and consumer opinions.
Animal cruelty groups argue that the harsh treatment of animals in the fur trade is never worth the fashion statement.
On the other hand, consumers who wear fur argue that wearing fur is no different than the leather worn on shoes or eating meat.
“I’d rather have it be an animal [being killed] than me. People use animals for other stuff, so I believe that it’s the same thing,” Espinosa said.
For many, the issue comes down to consumer’s right to know what they are buying.
“They [companies] should let us know because I would never buy anything that had real fur,” Delgado said.
Companies legally do not have the right to potray real fur as faux fur. No matter what the opinion of the consumer is, they have the freedom to express it.
“It’s the responsibility of companies to be truthful to consumers so they can make their own decisions about the products they buy,” science teacher Breanne Kahl said.