HSUS investigators tested several styles of Nicole Lee Fabiola handbags advertised as having "faux-fur trimming" and discovered that the so-called fake fur was actually rabbit fur.
"Consumers should be aware that animal fur is still being sold as 'faux' by major retailers," Pierre Grzybowski, research and enforcement manager for the Fur-Free Campaign of The HSUS, said in a news release.
Selling animal fur as fake fur is a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act and carries a civil penalty of up to $16,000 per violation.
Mislabeling real fur — for example, claiming rabbit fur is mink fur — is nothing new. However, mislabeling real fur as faux is a relatively new development.
It might not seem to make business sense, but the demand for faux fur has increased as more people aim to shop cruelty-free. As manufacturers try to meet this demand, products are often mislabeled.
In 2008, the HSUS discovered several faux fur coats sold at Neiman Marcus were actually made with fur from raccoon dog, a canid native to East Asia (and pictured at right).
The HSUS sued the retailer, and in 2010, Neiman Marcus paid a $25,000 penalty.
That same year, Neiman Marcus and other retailers, including Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Saks Incorporated and Lord & Taylor, were also found to be selling mislabeled faux fur. A settlement agreement was reached after the HSUS filed a lawsuit for false advertising.
Later in 2010, President Barack Obama signed The Truth in Fur Labeling Act into law, which closed a loophole that previously had allowed fur-trimmed garments to go unlabeled if the value of the fur was $150 or less.
The law also required that all fur garments be labeled not only with the name of the animal, but also the country where the animal was killed.
Despite these stronger regulations, each year the HSUS finds manufacturers and retailers violating the law.
In March, Neiman Marcus, Drjays.com and Revolveclothing.com settled federal claims that they had marketed raccoon, rabbit and mink fur as faux.
Another 2013 HSUS investigation discovered the sale of domestic dog fur in apparel at a New York retailer, which led to action by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
U.S. law prohibits the import or sale of dog and cat fur products, but many designers outsource manufacturing to such countries as China, where fur is cheap and no animal welfare laws are in place.
China is the largest fur exporter in the world and raises several species of animals — including domestic dogs and cats — for the fur industry.
More than 75 million animals, including rabbits, raccoon dogs, mink, bobcats, foxes and domestic dogs and cats, are killed annually worldwide to make fur products, according to the HSUS.
Unsure if that fur is real or faux? Read the HSUS's guide for how to tell real fur from fake fur.
Earlier this year, the HSUS and New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal visited a N.Y. Century 21 store and found many fur garments were mislabeled. Watch the hidden-camera video below.
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