The announcement by iconic British fashion brand Burberry that it is finally finished with fur comes at the start of New York Fashion Week, sending a crystal clear message to other designers that fur is dead. The decision by Burberry to go fur-free is all the more significant because the brand has sold a significant amount of real fur in the past including from raccoon dog, mink, fox and rabbit. It was also one of the biggest proponents of so-called “certified” fur, and although such a concept is of course meaningless, it’s even more powerful that Burberry has given up trying to afford fur any respectability and realised that humane fur simply doesn’t exist.
Burberry joins an ever-growing number of big design names such as Gucci, Versace and Michael Kors, that have recently pledged to go fur-free, and that can only be because they know that most modern consumers increasingly consider it vile and objectionable to cause suffering and death to animals for fur fashion. In fact, polling shows the same is true of shoppers all over the world, the future is fur-free and designers are catching up.
But not all designers, yet. Today also marks the launch of a global campaign by my charity Humane Society International, along with the Humane Society of the United States, Care2 and the Fur Free Alliance comprising more than 40 animal protection organisations from over 30 countries, to urge long-time fur user Prada to ditch fur cruelty. Prada has stores all over the world, including in the UK across London, Manchester and Glasgow, and is a major fur user. Its current range includes items made of fox and mink fur. Fur products include a fox fur jacket for £4,550, a mink fur jacket for £7,880, a full length fox fur coat for £10,700, and mink ear muffs for £895.
When Gucci announced last year that it would no longer use fur, its chief executive posed the rhetorical question:
“Do you think using furs today is still modern?... I don’t think it’s still modern and that’s the reason why we decided not to do that. It’s a little bit outdated… Creativity can jump in many different directions instead of using furs.”
Since then there has followed a cascade of compassion and common sense as Versace, Furla, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, and Donna Karan have all gone fur-free. Prada however has not yet budged, and by not doing so it is looking increasingly outdated and dare I say, out of fashion.
The launch of our global campaign against Prada’s fur use will see consumers reminding the fashion house about the appalling animal cruelty involved in fur production. On fur factory farms, wild species like raccoon dog and fox can spend their entire lives in small, barren, wire cages, denied the space or environmental enrichment of their natural habitat, the mental and physical distress of which can often lead them to exhibit stereotypical signs of psychological breakdown such as repetitive spinning or self-mutilation.
But as well as being unspeakably cruel, the production of fur also comes with a hefty environmental price tag. Fur factory farms and tanneries can be extremely harmful to our soil and waterways - pumping urine, faeces and a cocktail of harsh chemicals into the environment that far outweigh most other materials, including faux fur.
So as we celebrate Burberry’s new fur-free status, we must also now renew our efforts to remind Prada, Fendi, Canada Goose, YSL that killing animals for fur is obscene and obsolete. Brands like Prada have a clear choice to make – either be an apologist for the vile fur trade or move with the times and strike a pose for compassionate fashion.
Burberry’s decision should also further focus the UK government’s attention on our call for Britain to become a fur-free zone by banning fur imports. Our #FurFreeBritain campaign is pushing for exactly that by calling for existing cat, dog and seal fur bans to be extended to cover all fur-bearing species. Although fur farming was outlawed in the UK on moral grounds in 2000, Britain still imports and sells fur from a range of other species such as fox, rabbit, mink, coyote, raccoon dog and chinchilla, importing almost £75million of animal fur in the last year. A UK fur sales ban would follow on from fur import or sale bans in India, Sao Paolo in Brazil, and San Francisco, West Hollywood and Berkley in the United States, with Los Angeles now also considering an animal fur sales ban.
The best way to end the fur trade is to close our borders and our high streets to its cruel products.
Claire Bass is the executive director of Humane Society International