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Truth In Fur Labeling Act Passes Senate

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The U.S. Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to H.R. 2480, the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, to provide a much-needed upgrade to the nearly 60-year-old federal fur labeling law. The House previously passed the bill in July, and it now goes to President Obama for his signature.

The HSUS and HSLF have been advocating for years that a new national policy was needed to ensure accuracy and consistency in the labeling of fur-trimmed apparel, after our investigations found dozens of major designers and retailers selling unlabeled jackets trimmed with animal fur, some of it falsely advertised as "faux fur." We stuck with it every step of the way, and are pleased to be one step closer to enacting this bipartisan law to protect consumers and animals.

Since the 1950s, any fur garment sold in the U.S. has had to include a label indicating the species of animal used and the country of origin, but there's a gaping loophole in the current law that excludes fur-trimmed garments if the value of the fur is $150 or less. At recent pelt prices, that means a jacket could have fur on its collar or cuffs from 30 rabbits ($5 each), nine chinchillas ($16 each), three foxes ($50 each), or three raccoon dogs ($45 each), and be sold without a label indicating the fur species. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that one in every eight fur garments doesn't require labeling.

Imagine if one in every eight medicine bottles or food packages didn't have a label, especially if you avoid certain foods or medicines because of allergies, ethical or religious reasons. Consumers making well-informed decisions based on complete information is a cornerstone of a functioning market economy. Shoppers who may have allergies to fur, ethical objections to fur, or concern about the use of certain species cannot make informed purchasing choices due to this gap in the current law.

With the technological advances in synthetic fur, and the dyeing of animal fur colors like pink and green to make it look fake, even the most careful and knowledgeable shoppers and department store clerks often can't tell the difference simply by visually inspecting the material. Especially when consumers purchase designer jackets over the Internet, they have no choice but to trust the retailer's statements about those garments. The only way to address this widespread deception in the marketplace is to attach a label to the individual garment.

The Truth in Fur Labeling Act will finally address these problems, and will require proper disclosure in the marketplace. Fur-trimmed jackets, parkas, sweaters, vests, hats and the like will finally meet the same federal standard as other fur garments, and provide the same important product information that's already required seven times out of eight. The bill includes an exemption for hunters and trappers who sell home-made fur items at county fairs and flea markets, but will have a major impact at department stores, online sellers, and places where the confusion and deception over fur trim has been most acute. The legislation also directs the FTC to initiate rulemaking to review and update the Fur Products Name Guide to ensure that the species names used on labels are providing consistent and accurate information to consumers.

We are very grateful to the legislative leaders who fought hard to pass this legislation--especially Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) and Ed Whitfield, (R-Ky.), and Sens. Robert Menendez, (D-N.J.), Susan Collins, (R-Maine), and David Vitter, (R-La.) We also thank House and Senate Commerce Committee and Subcommittee leaders -- Reps. Henry Waxman, (D-Calif.), Joe Barton, (R-Texas), Bobby Rush, (D-Ill.), and Whitfield, and Sens. John Rockefeller, (D-W.Va.), Kay Bailey Hutchison, (R-Texas), Mark Pryor, (D-Ark.), and Roger Wicker, (R-Miss.), for their work to guide the bill forward and advance it swiftly through Congress. And we are grateful to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev.), for bringing the bill to the Senate floor last night, and to Sen. Tom Coburn, (R-Okla.), for carefully reviewing the legislation and giving his approval.

About 10,000 bills are introduced in every session of Congress, and so far in the 111th Congress fewer than 300 have been enacted. Two animal protection bills are now awaiting President Obama's signature -- on crush videos and fur labeling -- and it will be a major accomplishment when they are among the 3 percent of all legislation that has made it through the entire process. With these two policies on the books, we will take major steps forward in stopping the torture of animals for sexual snuff films and in stopping the widespread deception in the fur fashion industry.

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