Fur industry guilty of ‘greenwashing’ in new report

The fur trade is directly contributing to the high risk of imminent extinction of the critically endangered European mink.

A new report detailing the environmental impact of fur has criticised the fur industry for ‘greenwashing’, as Respect for Animals calls for governments to take action.

Download the new report here:

Respect for Animals is calling for an end to the trade in fur after publishing a new hard-hitting  report that denounces ‘misleading’ and ‘unsubstantiated’ claims about the sustainability of fur, including the fur trade’s so-called ‘Furmark®’ certification scheme

The fur industry has faced legislation around the world prohibiting fur farming and trapping on the grounds of their inherent animal welfare failures. Having lost the argument on animal welfare, the fur industry is trying to present itself as ‘green’, with a major fur trade European lobbying group even rebranding itself ‘Sustainable Fur’.  

The new report, ‘The Environmental Cost of Fur: A scientific review of the environmental impact of the fur industry and why Furmark® is just another attempt at greenwashing’, exposes the fur industry’s impact on biodiversity, pollution, resource use, toxic chemical use, as well as scrutinising the claims underpinning ‘Furmark®’. It considers the fur industry’s claims regarding environmental sustainability and finds fur guilty of the seven ‘Sins of Greenwashing’ as defined by TerraChoice.

The report is being sent to the European Commission, the US Federal Trade Commission, the United Nations and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, who are all looking at the issues of sustainability and greenwashing.

The report details:

●        Excessive killing of wild animals for their fur led to the extinction of some species and the need for many others (including large spotted cats) to be given protection as endangered species.

●        Traps still used to catch wild animals for their fur are indiscriminate and kill non-target species, including rare species.

●        The presence of non-native, alien species is one of the main threats to biodiversity. Animals such as American mink, raccoon dogs and possums have been deliberately and/or accidentally released by the fur industry in many parts of the world and the industry lobbies to prevent actions to address the problem.

●        Water, land and air pollution from fur factory farms often has serious impacts on local environments as well as the health and quality of life of local residents.

●        The fur processing industry uses highly toxic chemicals. In terms of land pollution by toxic metals, fur dressing and dyeing has been ranked in the top five highest pollution-intensity industries by the World Bank.

●        Potentially dangerous levels of several hazardous chemicals have been found in fur on sale in Europe and China (including in children’s clothing)

●        Fur has a substantially higher environmental impact (on a large number of measures) than other common textiles. The impact of a mink fur coat (over the whole life cycle of the product from production to disposal) is many times higher than coats made of many other materials, including faux fur.

●        Vast amounts of fish have been used in feed for Danish fur farms. Prior to the cull of mink on Danish farms in November 2020, approximately 238,000 tonnes of sandeels were delivered to Danish fishmeal processing factories in that year, from where they were delivered directly to Danish fur farms. The industrial sandeel fishery is one of the largest in the North Sea and is permitted to operate within the foraging range of IUCN Red List species like kittiwake and puffin.

●        Furmark®, the fur industry’s certification and traceability scheme, almost totally fails when assessed against a set of 12 criteria that any credible scheme would be expected to meet and appears to be little more than a public relations exercise. The scheme does not currently include any standards for emissions, biodiversity impact, resource / energy use or any other environmental performance measures. The scheme standards generally reward the status quo with no requirement to go beyond normal industry practice and basic legal requirements. 

●        The fur industry commits all seven ‘Sins of Greenwashing’ and has had to stop numerous advertising campaigns as a result of making false claims.

Mark Glover, Chair of Respect for Animals says:

  ”The fur trade’s claims to be sustainable have been exposed as greenwashing and fur lobbyists should be seen in the same light as the tobacco industry that ignored the facts and worked to undermine the science that exposed their products as lethal. It is interesting to note that one of the senior staff at the International Fur Federation used to work for the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association.”

“One shocking example of contempt for the environment emerged during research for the report is that fur farmers have consistently argued that they feed their animals on waste products but the annual catch of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sandeels targeted by industrial fishing boats to supply the demand from Danish fur farms (before they were forced to kill all their animals) on its own shows this is untrue.”

“Large numbers of luxury brands have come to understand the truth about fur, seeing through the fur trade’s bogus claims, and have gone fur-free”.*

The new report’s author, scientist Heather Pickett says:

“Furmark® is an elaborate but thinly disguised greenwashing exercise. The environmental damage caused by the fur industry is laid bare for all to see in this report and Furmark® is shown to be no more than a poor attempt to put a stamp of approval on business as usual.”

* On 24 September 2021, luxury brand giant the Kering Group which includes Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Saint Laurent announced it would be going ‘entirely fur free’. Chairman and CEO of Kering, Francois-Henri Pinault declared: ‘For many years, Kering has sought to take the lead in sustainability, guided by a vision of luxury that is inseparable from the very highest environmental and social values and standards…….The time has now come to take a further step forward by ending the use of fur in all our collections’.