Pres. Obama Signs Truth in Labeling Fur Act

Faux fur coatUpdate Dec. 21, 2010: President Barack Obama has signed into law H.R. 2480, the Truth in Fur Labeling Act. 

The bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this month. 

For more information about this landmark legislation, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below. 

People Need to Know the Truth About their Fur Fashion Statements. It’s time to pass the Truth in Fur Labeling Act

The 1951 Fur Products Labeling Act, 15 USC §§69b-69f requires fur clothing and accessories must be labeled generally with the name of the animals used, the country in which the animals were killed, and the manufacturer.

(For a complete list of regulations for labeling fur products, go to 16 CFR Part 301.)

The Act, however, exempts garments with a "relatively small quantity or value" of fur. 15 USC §69f. Note the exemption is not based on the value of the clothing or accessory. Instead, whether the exemption applies depends on the value of the fur.

Thus, for example, a dress that sells for $1000 and sports an animal pelt valued at $150 or less, is not required to have a label disclosing the use of real fur. Consumers often have no way of knowing if their clothing or accessories have real or faux fur. They also have no idea where the real fur may have come from.

A rabbit pelt may sell for $5.00. An entire rabbit coat probably would not contain $150 worth of fur. Thousands of rabbit coats could be sold without any labeling requirements. Consumers would never know they are buying real and not faux fur.

Ermine may sell for $6 or $8 each. Again, an ermine jacket or coat probably does not contain $150 worth of the fur of these animals. Innumerable garments made of ermine or with the fur as decoration can be sold with no labeling requirements. Consumers are not told the fur is real or even the country of origin of the animal.

This is true for any number of animals’ pelts. The deception means millions of dollars in additional sales of real fur. People who would not buy real fur may not realize they are doing just that. More animals are losing their lives, living in desperate conditions, because of these now legal, but deceptive practices.

Also, it is illegal to import and sell dog and cat fur in the United States, 19 USCS § 1308. Yet because of the lack of labeling requirements, there is concern dog and cat fur could be included in clothing and accessories sold in the United States. Manufacturers in China kill and skin approximately 2 million dogs and cats each year for the fur trade. Who would know if dog or cat fur was used for clothing sold in the United States?

More than 500,000 items of clothing or accessories are sold with fur in the United States each year. Potentially all of them could be sold without a label, without any indication whether the fur is real or faux. Consumers who do not want to buy fur may never know the coat they purchased is actually real and not faux fur. It is time to close this loophole.

A bill is pending in Congress that will do just that: H.R. 2480 passed the House of Representatives on July 28, 2010 on a voice vote. The bill is now before the Senate. S.B. 1076 is a Senate version of the original bill. 

H.R. 2480 as passed, amends the Fur Product Labeling Act, 15 U.S.C. 69(d) to require labeling of all fur products regardless of value. The House version does contain an exemption for products made from an animal that has been trapped or hunted and then "sold in a face to face transaction at a place such as a residence, craft fair, or other location used on a temporary or short term basis, by the person who trapped or hunted the animal, where the revenue from the sale of apparel or fur products is not the primary source of income of such person."The bill also directs the Federal Trade Commission to update the Fur Products Name Guide, which has been criticized as inaccurate and outdated.

During debate on the bill in the House, Rep. Ed Whitfield (D-KY) pointed out,  "A series of recent investigations revealed that a significant number of clothes designers and retailers were selling some fur-trimmed garments described as faux or raccoon or coyote or mink or whatever, when actually it turned out to be dog fur or something else.

"As a matter of fact, of 38 jackets subjected to very specific tests, every single garment of those 38 was either unlabeled or it contained a label that misidentified the animal’s fur that was used in that garment. And so this legislation is about transparency, providing consumers with accurate information on what they’re buying.

"Eighty-seven percent of garments sold in the U.S. today with fur already are required to abide by this. This will simply require the other 13 percent, those valued below $150, to abide by the same law. And consumer protection organizations, retail, and even the fashion industry all support this legislation."

The bill’s House sponsors are Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. James Moran (D-VA).

People have absolutely no need for fur products. In fact, a coat made from an animal takes 66 times more energy to produce than one made of faux fur. Also, fecal wastes from fur farms are often dumped or seep into lakes, streams, and groundwater; these wastes contaminate these water sources.

With the synthetics available today, clothing and accessories with fur serve as nothing more than fashion statements. It is sad animals must suffer greatly in order that millions of people can look fashionable, can believe they are somehow hip or cool because they are wearing an animal’s pelt. There is nothing hip or cool about how these pelts end up as fur on garments.

Over 50 million animals are killed each year for their fur. Fur farmers raise animals in small wire cages. These animals can barely move. This is how they live their entire lives. They become frustrated, desperate, sad. They pace constantly to the extent possible and self-mutilate. They are often inbred and suffer the physical and mental abnormalities common with such breeding. These animals in no sense live a normal life.

These fur-bearing creatures, mink, fox, rabbit, bobcat, raccoon, ermine, badger, bear, wolf, and others are killed on these fur farms by anal or vaginal electrocution, gassing and drowning. Or the farmers may slaughter them by breaking their necks.

Trapping animals is no better. The most commonly used trap, the leghold trap, is dangerous and inhumane. These traps cause animals to suffer terribly from broken or crushed limbs and other bones, torn ligaments, and lacerations. Interestingly, according to a 1996 survey by Caravan Opinion Research, 74% of Americans think the leghold trap, should be banned.

Yet, only seven states have outlawed the leghold trap. Those laws can be found at Washington, R.C.W. §§77.15.192, 77.15.194; California, Cal Fish & G Code § 4004; Massachusetts, ALM GL ch. 131, §80A; Colorado, C.R.S. 33-6-203; Arizona, A.R.S. § 17-301; New Jersey, §§ 7:25-5.12, 23:4-22.5, 23:4-22.4; and Rhode Island, R.I. Gen. Laws § 20-16-8. Florida bans the trap in most circumstances, but permits are available for use of leghold traps. Florida, F.A.C. 68A-24.002, F.A.C. 68A-12.009.