Fur farming was banned in the UK twenty years ago in 2000, yet the sale of real fur including coyote fox and raccoon dog imported into Britain is still permitted now, twenty years later. We hope this may soon change. The Government is now considering a move to ban the sale of real fur following Brexit. Zac Goldsmith, DEFRA Minister, met with the Humane Society International in May to discuss the fur trade, but the move to stop sales of imported real fur has previously been blocked by single market restrictions in the EU. Once the UK leaves the single market it will have the power to unilaterally ban fur sales, perhaps making Britain the first completely fur-free nation.
It feels as though the move to stop selling real fur in the UK is gaining momentum. Humane Society International UK recently hosted a ‘No Business in Fur’ webinar attended by MPs, Civil Servants, and Journalists all contributing to the discussion about the possibility of a ‘Fur Free Britain.’ Helen Moore was invited to talk about the place faux fur has in the real vs faux fur debate and to make clear that it is not a simple two sided choice. We must all be aware of the impact any fabric has on the environment whether supposedly natural or man-made and work towards more sustainable ways of manufacturing and buying as consumers. Helen has been working with faux fur for over twenty years and in that time the quality has improved beyond recognition.
The best faux fur is easily mistaken for real fur as it so soft and tactile. It is for this reason that the real fur industry is on a mission to denigrate faux fur, citing environmental grounds and particularly the release of microfibres as reason to reject faux fur in favour of so called ‘natural’ fur.
But let’s take a look at these claims in more detail.
Faux fur fabric has to comply with the stringent European Chemical Agency REACH standards, so it’s actually certified as free from toxic chemicals.
On the other hand, real fur has a devastating impact on the environment, as without the application of noxious chemicals such as chromium, formaldehyde and ammonia every vintage fur coat would have decomposed years ago – just rotted away.
Microfibres and Plastic
The release of synthetic microfibres from any man made fabric in the wash cycle of a washing machine is something that we take very seriously. The irony is that fake fur rarely needs washing, in fact no more than real fur would. A gentle clean with warm water, a sponge and soap will usually do the trick.
Another example of attempts to denigrate faux fur is the label ‘Plastic Fur’ – just a quick google search will show you many articles referring to faux fur as plastic fur. If this is the case surely ALL items made from synthetic fabrics should be labelled as plastic -plastic trainers, plastic sports clothes, plastic lingerie, plastic wedding dresses… the word plastic has been at the centre of environmental debates about single-use plastics (straws, water bottles, etc) so it has become a very loaded word. It is clear that the fur lobby has singled out faux fur from a huge group of synthetic materials in an effort to enhance its own reputation.
So if the word ‘plastic’ is putting you off going faux, think again – it’s possible that many items you own should also have been considered as plastic items. It’s a complex debate and even natural materials like cotton have an enormous impact on the environment. Cotton farming takes many litres of water to produce and uses pesticides that cause damage to both humans and the environment.
So where do we go from here?
There are of course many options to try and reduce the impact of using synthetic furs as an alternative to the cruel and inhumane production of real fur. There’s an enormous amount of creativity and energy directed at developing new textiles. Companies such as Ecopel are key leaders in the development of sustainable alternatives, including recycled faux fur. The Faux Fur Institute and all the work they do has been a leading light in this area, too. Helen believes one of the major contributors to environmental damage is over production. She is proud to be a British manufacturer, not least because each piece is made individually with great care and with the expectation that it will be treasured for many years to come.
“Minimum order quantities result in unworn clothing, which inevitably ends up in landfill. We don’t have to adhere to minimum quantities and we only make what we know we can sell, so there’s very little waste. How tragic that an animal has suffered for nothing to produce a piece of real fur, treated with noxious chemicals to stop it rotting that can be imported and sold cheaply in this country.” – Helen Moore
For those of you familiar with the Helen Moore ethos and sustainability statement, you’ll know that this is an issue close to our hearts. By offering customers luxurious, beautifully made accessories to wear or have in the home, we hope they will be treasured for many years to come.
A Sustainable Future
The development of a truly sustainable and more environmentally friendly faux fur may be just around the corner – hopefully this is the case. As part of the faux fur industry, we can aspire to change as new opportunities arise – but the bottom line is that there is no way real fur can be produced without causing intense suffering and the exploitation of animals in the name of fashion.
We are committed to supporting the campaign for a Fur Free Britain. You can support the movement and sign the petition here.
Click here to learn more about Helen Moore's sustainability statement.
Featured images from the Humane Society International UK