Animal Welfare: Congress must close fur-labeling loophole

 An investigation by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) revealed this has been the disturbing reality for many shoppers who have made purchases from some of the nation’s largest retailers: Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, among others. In their investigations, which included a random selection of fur-trimmed jackets purchased from various stores, testing by the Humane Society revealed that nearly all contained real animal fur, including from domestic dogs, wolves or raccoon dogs.

Most of the retailers involved responded in a responsible manner. They pulled the offending jackets from the racks and pledged to be more vigilant against mislabeled fur. But the episode makes clear that current law is insufficient to prevent this type of situation from reoccurring. In fact, it raises the near certainty that many other products being sold in the U.S. today as “faux” fur are quite the opposite.

In 2000, Congress passed the Dog and Cat Protection Act, which banned export and import of dog and cat fur. Unfortunately, the law did not close a loophole that has allowed products valued at less than $150 an exemption from having to list the types of fur included in the garment. In all, an estimated 13 percent of all the garments trimmed with animal fur and sold in the U.S. are exempt from fur labeling requirements.

Exploitation of this loophole typically involves Chinese imports. In fact, roughly half of all fur garments we import come from China, a country with no animal welfare laws where millions of dogs, especially raccoon dogs, are killed every year, often by cruel methods, which can include being skinned alive. According to testing by the Humane Society, in the past three years, the raccoon dog, a canine species native to China, was found in more than two-thirds of falsely advertised or mislabeled jackets purchased at U.S. stores.

This fur loophole deprives American consumers of the facts needed to make an informed purchase. Many Americans choose not to purchase fur products. For a range of reasons, from allergies to moral objections, they prefer faux fur as a substitute. Regardless of the reason, consumers deserve to know if they are buying real or fake fur.

In order to provide consumers the information necessary to make an informed decision, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) and I have introduced legislation, H.R. 2480, the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, which requires honest labeling of all fur products sold in the U.S. The bill would close the loophole in the Fur Products Labeling Act of 1951, requiring that all types of fur included in a product, regardless of the value of the fur in it, be labeled accurately.

This legislation is about empowering consumers to make an informed decision, enabling those who don’t want to buy garments and other products made of fur the opportunity to make a decision that reflects their values and preferences.

Moran is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.