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Down Fur the Count

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The New Jersey state legislature last week gave final approval to a bill requiring the labeling of all animal fur garments, making it the fifth state -- after Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, and Wisconsin -- to better protect consumers from fraudulent fur selling. It's a major step forward for policymaking on the fur issue, after leading retailers and designers were exposed for advertising "faux" fur-trimmed jackets that actually contained real animal fur, even dog fur imported from China. We are grateful to New Jersey state Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) and Assemblymember Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Camden) for carrying this important reform through to passage, and we hope Governor Jon Corzine will quickly sign it into law.

Red fox credit Eric Begin/CreativeCommonsSearch
New Jersey is poised to become the fifth state to pass
legislation on fur labeling.

It's not only in the public policy arena, but also in the marketplace, where we are seeing major progress on the fur issue. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 3.5 million animal fur garments and accessories were sold in 2005, and today that number has dropped to just more than 1 million annually -- a dramatic decline of more than 70 percent. The struggling economy has had an impact, for sure, on an industry that is peddling an unnecessary luxury product. But it's much more than that, and also reflects a broader shift in consumer attitudes and corporate behavior.

Since 2005, a number of major retailers and designers -- like BCBG Max Azria, Calvin Klein, Ed Hardy, Foot Locker, JCPenney, Kenneth Cole, Overstock.com, and Tommy Hilfiger -- have stopped selling animal fur after discussions with HSUS. Others like Andrew Marc, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, Rocawear, and Sean John have pledged to stop using raccoon dog fur, curbing the cruel killing of a wild dog species whose faces are remarkably raccoon-like. And still others like Burlington Coat Factory have dramatically reduced the amount of fur they sell, removing up to 80 percent of fur garments from their stores.

No label on garment with animal fur
The label on this garment lists nothing about the animal fur (visible on the left) trimming the hood.

These corporate policy reforms have taken a great deal of fur off the market. JCPenney alone had imported more than 1.1 million fur items over the past decade, so the reduction by each individual company is quite significant. There are so many warm and fashionable alternatives to animal fur, and consumers who are increasingly seeking out those options can shop with greater confidence when retailers and designers adopt strong fur-free policies.

The marketplace is moving in the right direction, but until the day that all fur is faux, we need to ensure that consumers know what they're getting and have the opportunity to make informed purchasing decisions. It's time for the U.S. Congress to pass the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, S. 1076 by Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and H.R. 2480 by Representatives Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.). Please watch this video and then ask your federal lawmakers to support the Truth in Fur Labeling Act--fur might be more scarce, but we need a national policy that sets an accurate and consistent labeling standard for all the animal fur garments still found on the racks.