September 29, 2008
Menendez-Coleman Bill Would Close Consumer Deception Loophole for Fur-Trimmed Jackets
WASHINGTON —The Humane Society of the United States today applauded the introduction of the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, S. 3610, in the U.S. Senate, which protects consumers by bringing much-needed accuracy and full disclosure to fur labeling laws. The bill, introduced by U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), closes a loophole in federal law that currently allows some animal fur garments to go unlabeled if the value of the fur is less than $150, leaving consumers in the dark as to whether they are buying faux or animal fur. The original cosponsors of the bill include Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.).
The legislation also requires accurate and consistent language on labels of raccoon dog fur, which was recently the subject of a nationwide scandal in the retail and fashion industries. Dozens of jackets advertised as "fake fur" or as different species of animals such as "raccoons" and "coyotes" were found through laboratory testing to be fur from raccoon dogs — a member of the dog family often skinned alive in China. As a result of that investigation by The HSUS, many retailers and designers pulled the jackets from their stores and pledged not to use fur from raccoon dogs.
"Even if it says fake fur, shoppers have no confidence that it wasn't really peeled off the back of a living animal," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Humane Society of the United States. "Imagine if one out of seven medicine bottles or food items used inaccurate names or didn't list key allergens. Consumers need to know what they're getting so they can make informed purchasing choices."
"This bill is more than just empowering consumers to be able to make informed decisions about where their dollars go, and this kind of labeling is more than just picking the right size or the preferred brand," said Sen. Menendez. "This is about allowing consumers to make decisions about whether they want to support a practice — a practice that, given all the facts, so many would be adamantly opposed to."
"Consumers have every right to be given full disclosure on what exactly it is they are purchasing," said Coleman. "Transparency in the marketplace is essential, and I will work closely with my colleagues to ensure consumers are protected."
Under current law, an estimated 14 percent of garments trimmed with animal fur and sold in the U.S. are exempt from disclosing the fur in labeling or advertising because the value of the fur is less than $150, even if the fur is dyed pink or blue to look synthetic. Designers and retailers already have an obligation to label fur garments with the name of the species and country of origin if the value of the fur is $150 or more, and the new legislation would extend that same labeling standard to all fur apparel regardless of value.
Investigations in China have revealed millions of raccoon dogs killed by cruel methods, including being skinned alive. Raccoon dog fur trim was found on more than two-thirds of the falsely advertised or mislabeled jackets tested by The HSUS over the last three years.
Domestic dog fur has also been found on unlabeled garments sold in the U.S., despite being illegal.
A similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 891 introduced by Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.), currently has 175 co-sponsors.
* The HSUS investigation found raccoon dog fur on 80 percent of a nationwide sample of fur-trimmed jackets purchased from well-known retailers and designers. Of the raccoon dog fur jackets tested, not a single one properly identified the animal in advertising or labeling, instead calling it such things as faux fur, raccoon or simply not labeling it at all.
* Estimates on the number of raccoon dogs being caged and killed in China range from 1.5 million to 4 million.
* It is illegal to import, export, sell or advertise any domestic dog fur in the United States, but raccoon dog fur is currently not included in this ban.
* The Dog and Cat Protection Act of 2000 banned the trade in domestic dog and cat fur after an HSUS investigation revealed the death toll of 2 million animals a year in China and other parts of Asia and found domestic dog fur for sale in the United States.
* Raccoon dog fur is commonly unlabeled or inexplicably called "Asiatic raccoon," "Finn raccoon," "tanuki," or other names, without any consistency in the marketplace. "Raccoon dog" is the only accepted common English-language name used by federal agencies and leading mammologists for the species Nyctereutes procynoides, a wild member of the dog family native to parts of Asia.
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