A joint investigation by the Animal Justice Party (a political party) and Four Paws Australia (an independent animal rescue organisation) has revealed that products made from imported animal fur but mislabelled as fake fur are being sold at two Melbourne markets.
Forensic tests analysed by Forensic Science and Wildlife Matters show that pompoms on beanies, fur-trimmed jackets and the lining of some hats are made from raccoon and raccoon dog fur, despite being labelled otherwise. Raccoon dogs superficially resemble raccoons but are not related. Instead, their closest relatives are foxes. The items tested came from sellers at South Melbourne Market and Queen Victoria Market.
“I think Victorians would be absolutely appalled if they thought they were going somewhere and buying a jacket or a beanie, or whatever item of clothing it is, that has fake or faux fur labelling on it,” Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick tells Broadsheet. “They’re buying that product in the belief they’re not contributing to a cruel industry; they don’t want to be a part of that. They’re being deceived. That in itself is a consumer protection breach.”
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Next week Meddick – a member for Western Victoria – will call on the government to introduce a fur taskforce to crack down on the sale of mislabelled fur products, and for a ban on fur sales in Victoria.
“There’s no federal law that says you can’t import real fur into Australia; the only thing we can control in this state is if it is sold,” he says. “Let’s not be part of that industry.”
Items purchased at the markets were analysed to determine whether they contained synthetic fibres or hair. Items labelled “100 per cent polyester”, “100 per cent acrylic” and “100 per cent rabbit fur” were found to be made of raccoon and raccoon dog fur.
“South Melbourne Market was unaware of any uncertified fur products being sold at the market, or of any product mislabelling, and will be investigating,” South Melbourne Market executive manager Danielle Bleazby said in a statement. “While fur products are not banned at South Melbourne Market, stallholders are required to provide certification that genuine fur items they stock are sourced ethically.”
Queen Victoria Market, on the other hand, relies on authorities to alert it to any breaches by its sellers.
“We certainly do not condone the sale of any goods that do not comply with animal cruelty regulations,” Queen Victoria Market chief executive officer Stan Liacos said in a statement. “We have referred the matter to the relevant authorities for further investigation.”
Meddick says our government should follow the lead of California’s, which has severely restricted the sale of new fur products. If established, he says, the Australian fur taskforce could be used to determine how widespread the problem is and how much knowledge retailers have of what they’re selling.
“We don’t know how far this goes,” Meddick says. “This might even be happening in our bigger department stores, or in smaller shops that might not necessarily be aware they’re purchasing these products.”
He suggests consumers question sellers of both fake and real fur products on the provenance of items, and if they have doubts, to not make the purchase.