Consumers are used to faux fur being almost indistinguishable from the real thing. But, sometimes, it is the real thing. An investigation by the charity Humane Society International (HSI) found that British stores were selling fake fur items that had their origins not in synthetic fibres, but in real furry creatures. Fluffy “faux fur” clips sold by Boots were made from mink; a pompom keyring from Tesco and gloves from Fat Face were made from rabbit fur. “[These stores] are all companies with commendable no-fur policies, so it is very disappointing to find that real animal fur has slipped into their stores described as faux fur,” says Claire Bass, director of the HSI.
But with no legal requirements to use the word “fur” on labels, how can you tell whether the product you are buying is “cruelty-free”? “Unfortunately, as labels can lie and trusted retailers can be found selling real fur as faux fur, consumers have to become their own fur detectives,” says Wendy Higgins, spokeswoman for HSI.
Don’t go by price
It is wrong to assume real fur will be expensive – we are not talking full-length mink coats here. “Much of the fur on sale in the UK is in the form of pompoms [on accessories] and trims on coat hoods, all with deceptively low prices,” says Higgins. “The appallingly poor conditions that animals suffer on fur farms mean real fur can be produced and sold more cheaply than faux fur.”
Look at the tips
“The tips of the hairs in real fur taper and have pointed ends, whereas the hairs on faux fur are blunt where they have been cut in manufacture,” says Higgins.
Look at the base
Part the hair to see how it is attached. “Animal fur has a leathery backing because it’s attached to the animal’s skin, whereas faux fur will have a material woven backing.” Hairs on real fur will also be different lengths, while faux fur tends to be more uniform.
Probably not one to try in a shop, but you could do it on something you already own. Trim a few hairs and set fire to them (safely). Real animal fur singes; faux fur melts in a sticky way, cooling to form hard plastic balls, and will probably smell plasticky.
Beware of buying online
EU regulations state that “textile products” (ie clothes) containing fur should be labelled as containing “non-textile parts of animal origin”. However, HSI says this doesn’t need to be included in online product descriptions.
Some faux fur can be extremely convincing – or it is real. “If people are still unsure, we ask them to leave the item on the shelf,” says Higgins.
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