THE BLOG

There's No Such Thing as 'Ethical Fur'

07/12/2014 23:38 GMT | Updated 06/02/2015 10:59 GMT

The majority of the British public - that's 95% of us - refuse to wear real fur. Among the few heartless people who casually sling a dead animal across their shoulders, some claim that they only wear 'ethically' or 'humanely' sourced fur.

You might be wondering how on Earth anyone could have got the impression that fur can somehow be 'humanely' obtained. Well, in the face of plummeting fur sales, the International Fur Federation - in collaboration with other big players in the fur industry, including Saga Furs and Kopenhagen Fur - concocted the 'Origin Assured' initiative. Its aim is to reassure the public about the treatment of animals raised and killed for their fur and also to provide retailers - such as Harvey Nichols, which last year reneged on a no-fur policy that was nearly a decade long - with a grossly misleading marketing initiative to hide behind when faced with outraged members of the public and anti-fur protesters.

What does 'Origin Assured' even mean? It means that the fur of any approved species of animal trapped or farmed in any one of 29 countries can potentially be labelled 'Origin Assured', including the animals seen in this video narrated by singer Paloma Faith.

If you can bear to watch the video, you will see investigations that span many European countries - including Finland, Denmark, France, Italy and Poland - as well as the United States. You'd see a mink with an untreated head wound so severe that brain tissue is visible and a fox who limps around with no skin on one paw. These are just two examples of animals who have endured lives of severe pain and suffering, yet their fur would qualify to be sold on the racks at Harvey Nichols with a shiny 'Origin Assured' label.

In the wild, foxes live in small family groups, and Arctic foxes are known to wander hundreds of kilometres from their place of birth. Minks are naturally shy animals who avoid human contact, yet their cages on fur farms force them into close proximity with humans and hundreds of other animals. This often leads to fights between animals, resulting in injuries and even blindness. Bite wounds almost always go untreated, leading to infection. Respiratory disease, cancerous tumours and gum enlargement (gingival hyperplasia) are common on fur farms.

The stress and deprivation caused by confinement often drive the animals insane. They commonly engage in unnatural repetitive behaviour, such as endless circling and self-mutilation. The squalor that these animals are forced to live in stands in stark contrast with the opulence projected by the fur fashion industry and the prices that the fur garments command.

The fur trade is one of the most violent and bloody industries on the planet, and the duplicitous 'Origin Assured' labelling programme is nothing more than a misleading marketing tactic to mask the true atrocities of the industry. The animals are killed in ways that are designed to minimise damage to the pelt, rather than minimising the suffering of the animal. For minks, this means gassing, suffocation and drowning. Foxes are typically killed by an electrically charged steel rod that is inserted into their mouth and rectum.

Fur farming has already been banned here in the UK as well as in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia and Israel because of public opposition to the cruelty involved. Some communities have gone even further. Earlier this year, West Hollywood's ban on the sale of fur was upheld by a federal court, and Israel is in the process of introducing a ban on the sale of fur. The day is coming when the only real fur you'll be able to see will be on an animal - or in a museum.

I hope anyone who just has to have that furry look will join the growing trend of compassionate fashionistas and go fake, for animals' sake. The fashion crowd is certainly embracing faux fur with gusto. Jeremy Scott's collection presented in New York earlier this year included animal-free fur trim, while here in London, the hot new design firm Shrimps turned heads at its first-ever presentation at Fashion Week with luxurious faux-fur coats and accessories in a room packed with celebrity admirers.

The 'Origin Assured' fur label serves no purpose other than to make people feel better about supporting one of the cruellest industries in existence. Designers and retailers who shamelessly support and promote this sham need to see the reality of life for animals used for their fur in "assured" fur countries and realise that, wherever it comes from, if a product contains fur, the only thing that's guaranteed is that animals suffered for it.