(2014) Rabbit Fur Collected Cruelly in Breeding Farms; Consumers Urged to Avoid Fur Clothing

Recently there have been suspicions whether certain rabbit dolls were made with real rabbit fur. In January 2014, we conducted a study jointly with the Hong Kong Rabbit Society and announced results on 20th in a press release.

The rabbit fur industry is a rather new topic of discussion in the city. Although there exist some reports of fur farms (located mainly in China) collecting rabbit fur with very inhumane means, awareness of the issue was never high in Hong Kong. In fact, many clothing parts that are decorated with fur, such as the collar of coats, scarfs and shoes, use fur as a raw material. Yet citizens often mistake fur for plant fibres, and inadvertently become an accomplice in promoting animal cruelty by purchasing these fur-decorated items.

In view of this, Green Sense has collected various fashion items with fur and examined them under the microscope. We found that animal fur (from rabbit, cats, dogs, raccoons, etc) exists everywhere and in many forms in the fashion market, from leading chain stores to small local shops; from high-end items costing thousands of dollars to inexpensive ones costing only a few dozen bucks. Among all the samples, rabbit fur is most frequently used, and is found in hood rims of winter coats, cuffs, boot linings, fur hats, scarfs and accessories. It is shocking how common rabbit fur is.

Hell for innocent animals

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) revealed in November 2013 that fur farms in China has been collecting rabbit fur with the most excruciatingly brutal ways. Rabbits have their paws tied up and their fur plucked raw, or are electroshocked then skinned alive. Either way the little animals’ screams of agony are enough to make one’s hair stand on end. Imagine you hair is being torn out until you are completely bald – this is the pain the rabbits have to suffer. By the end of the process, every inch of the animal’s skin is swollen and bleeding. Worse, in the case of an angora rabbit, its hair grows so fast that three months later it would be plucked again. It is no denying that such wretched treatments are a prolonged torture and humiliation to these innocent animals.

Consumers have low awareness

The lack of awareness towards fur-containing fashion products has indirectly aided the expansion of the bloody fur market. In Hong Kong, actions against fur clothing rarely pay attention to fur-decorated products, and many animal lovers or even animal right activists, may have unintentionally purchased items containing real fur and hence promoted inhumane fur collection. It is even falsely but widely believed that the lower the price, the less likely is the item to contain real fur. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to educate the public to consider carefully before buying furry products, and to emphasize constantly the trauma inflicted on the animals by buying fur products.

Study on fashion items with fur

In two months’ time, Green Sense has collected around 66 fashion items from various sources (from chain stores to local shops) through various channels (purchasing, borrowing from friends and relatives, etc). Fur was obtained from these items and examined under a microscope to distinguish the sample as plant fibre or hair from mammals. When magnified, plant fibres appear as elongated, flat and creased, while mammal hairs are thinner and multi-layered. In addition, hairs from the middle-layer of a rabbit’s coat appear to consist of square cells. These features unfortunately cannot be seen with the naked eye, and the difference in texture between plant fibres and animals hairs is almost nonexistent, with animal fur being ever slightly smoother to the touch. Hence it is extremely difficult for consumers to distinguish real fur and faux fur.

Micrographs of (left) plant fibres and (right) rabbit hairs

*As plant fibres are usually thicker than animal hair, image on the right has a higher magnification

Take-home message from the study

As revealed by PETA, in China extremely inhumane methods like raw plucking and live skinning are used to obtain rabbit fur, which is then used to manufacture products that are eventually sold in Hong Kong. Yet it is difficult for Hong Kong consumers to avoid fur products due to a lack of awareness and means to distinguish real fur. As a result, Green Sense and the Hong Kong Rabbit Society encourage the public to avoid any furry clothing items. If a purchase must be made, consumers are recommended to read clothing labels to confirm whether the item contains plant fibre or animal hair. Consumers should also ask a staff member when in doubt to avoid buying real fur and feeding the cruel fur farms.

Reference video: Never-Before-Seen Footage: Angora Fur Exposé

Remarks on the 2014 fur product study

(1)   It is not the aim of this study to target certain shops and brands, but rather to inform the public of the issue in the fashion market. Therefore, all brands mentioned are represented by the first letter of their names

(2)   Microscopic examination employed in this study is a method widely adopted by universities and laboratories around the world. However it is not a 100% accurate method compared to DNA testing.

(3)   While it is likely that animal cruelty is involved during breeding and fur collection process, it does not mean a brand that uses real fur sourced from China is involved directly in animal cruelty. The brand is recommended to investigate in its fur source and any occurrence of animal cruelty. However, as it is almost impossible for breeding and fur collection to not induce any level of cruelty, and plant fibres are excellent replacements, we maintain that the brands should replace real fur with plant substitutes.

Extended reading:

List of some stores that refuse to sell angora rabbit fur

The truth about your fluffy jumper: Asos bans angora as agony of rabbits plucked alive is revealed in shocking video

Fur Free Retailer Program