Shoppers have been warned not to always trust the label after an online fashion retailer was caught passing off animal trims as fake.
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has penalised Romwe after charity Humane Society International (HSI) bought clothes from the fashion website and had them tested at an independent lab.
A pyjama set advertised as having ‘faux fur detail’ actually contained rabbit hair, while ‘black artificial mink fur ball earrings’ turned out to be made with the real thing.
Campaigners say this sort of false advertising is an ongoing problem in the UK, prompting calls for businesses to get their act together when dealing with suppliers.
Humane Society UK campaigner Shelly Bryan told Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s very important that retailers should absolutely know what they are buying and are absolutely clear what they do and don’t sell.
‘I think the retailers need to be a lot more aware and a lot more questioning and a lot more careful.’
She said the issue keeps coming up both online and in store and urged shoppers to keep their eyes peeled and to raise issues with shops and websites if they have any suspicions.
It comes after TK Maxx was found to be selling real fur in multiple stores across Britain, despite introducing a ban on animal trims in 2003.
The ASA first contacted Romwe in January 2019 and issued an Enforcement Notice over the ‘misleading’ claims about ‘faux fur’ in clothes and accessories.
But having learned they were continuing to sell real animal trims, the regulatory body contacted them again last month.
After giving no response, Romwe has now been listed as a non-compliant advertiser and may face further sanctions.’
Shelly said misconceptions which could easily mislead shoppers include the idea that fur is always expensive or exclusive, when in fact it can be surprisingly cheap.
She added: ‘I think that’s quite a shock for people. Their fur really is that cheap, it’s a really cheap life on a fur farm.’
More than 100 million animals across the globe are reportedly killed for their fur, after living short and miserable lives in small and barren wire cages for their entire lives.
HSI International say mink are often killed by gassing while foxes and raccoon dogs are killed by anal electrocution.
While there are many horror stories in countries with no animal welfare laws like China, there are plenty in the European Union, where some 46 million animals are killed for their fur every year.
In 2018 HSI investigators at ‘high welfare’ facilities in Finland found diseased and wounded mink kept in tiny and cramped cages.
Their conditions turned many of them stir-crazy and led to self-mutilation, fighting and in some cases even cannibalism.
More creatures are caught in traps and killed for their fur in the wild – mainly in the US, Canada and Russia, where they are often left for days dying slowly in agonising pain.
Shelly said polling carried out by HSI UK suggests most British shoppers want to avoid real animal trims, but without knowing how to look out for the warning signs, many will pick them up from the shelves without realising.
She added: ‘They’re buying something that actually, in their heart-of-hearts, are going out to avoid, I think it’s very shocking.’
Humane Society UK Executive Director Claire Bass said: ‘It’s completely unacceptable that compassionate consumers setting out to buy fake fur are being misled into buying cruel animal fur.
‘The vast majority of British shoppers want nothing to do with the horrors of fur farming and trapping, but because of mislabelling shoppers face a minefield trying to avoid it.
‘As long as animal fur can be legally and cheaply sold here this problem of ‘fake fake fur’ will persist.
‘The UK banned fur farming almost two decades ago because it was deemed too cruel, now we must finish the job and ban animal fur sales too.’
In 2018 Parliament’s Environmental Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee scrutinised the issue of real fur being sold as faux.
One of the the Committee’s recommendations released last summer was for the government to hold a public consultation to consider whether to ban the import and sale of animal fur in the UK, post-Brexit.
HSI is currently pushing for animal trims to be taken off the shelves altogether with its #FurFreeBritain campaign.
They say the ban would end a ‘double standard’ which sees imports cruelly produced in other countries being sold in the UK, where fur farming is banned on ethical grounds.
Romwe have been contacted for comment.