Interview: Fur Free Britain's Director Claire Bass discusses the #FurFreeBritain campaign
What inspired you to start the Fur Free Britain campaign?
HSI UK launched the #FurFreeBritain campaign because although fur farming was outlawed in the UK on moral grounds in 2000, Britain still allows the import and sale of tens of millions of pounds worth of fur each year, a from animals cruelly farmed and trapped overseas including fox, rabbit, mink, coyote, racoon dog and chinchilla. It’s a double standard we are determined to change. If fur is too cruel to farm here then it’s too cruel to sell here, we shouldn’t be outsourcing suffering.
The UK was the first country in the world to ban fur farming and many others have since followed. We are now calling on the government to make the UK the first country to ban the sale of animal fur. As well as removing a market for some 2 million animal pelts each year, this will blaze a trail for other global markets to shut their doors to the cruel, outdated and unnecessary fur trade.
What kind of response have you received, nationally and/or globally to the campaign?
We have received wide support for the campaign both nationally and globally. Stars such as Ricky Gervais, Paloma Faith, Fearne Cotton, Alesha Dixon, Evanna Lynch, Kirsty Gallagher and Nicole Appleton have all posed in #FurFreeBritain t-shirts urging their fans to sign HSI’s petition at hsi.org/banfur, and other big names including Dame Judi Dench, Andy Murray, Stella McCartney and Simon Pegg have joined us in urging the government to take action.
We’re gathering cross-party support for a ban from MPs including John McDonnell, Zac Goldsmith, Maria Eagle and Tom Brake, and more than thirty MPs spoke in strong support at a debate in Parliament last year. We are fully confident that the British public backs the ban, with opinion polls showing that 80 per cent of people believe it's unacceptable to buy or sell animal fur in the UK. The government has said it will consider the case for extending existing fur bans (for cat, dog and seal fur) after Brexit, and that’s when we’re going to be dialling up the political pressure.
What’ve you found to be the most difficult part of launching and carrying out your campaign?
The ongoing uncertainties around Brexit have been a challenge! The UK’s trading relationship with the rest of the world is not yet clear, and a lot of when and how a fur sales ban can become law depends on clarity there.
What are the next steps you have in place at the moment? Do you have any other projects or campaigns lined up for the future?
Yes! We are continuing to demonstrate to the government the wide support - from the public, celebrities, the fashion industry and politicians - for a UK fur sales ban in recognition of the horrific conditions suffered by animals on fur farms.
It’s vital that we remind consumers and politicians of the heart-breaking cruelty of the fur industry, and how important it is that the UK takes a moral stand to stop bankrolling that suffering. We can’t go into too much detail just yet, but expect big things to come from the #FurFreeBritain campaign.
What are the best alternatives to real fur that you’ve found?
The ultimate alternative to wearing real fur is simply to not wear fur, you don’t have to replace it with faux in order to no longer support the cruelty. If you do want the same look though, we love the fact that faux fur companies are right at the forefront of sustainable textile innovation. Exciting new fabric technologies will soon mean that fake fur can be made using biodegradable plant-based materials. For example, New York-based brand House of Fluff, makes the majority of its faux fur products using natural dyes and earth-friendly materials , and is working with scientists to produce a compostable faux fur textile.
Ecopel, a leader in faux fur, has introduced its first range of faux fur made from recycled plastics collected from the oceans, and the Faux Fur Institute in Paris has launched a roadmap for innovative ways to create faux fur, called SMARTFUR. Based on the principles of the circular economy, SMARTFUR uses plant-based synthetics and recycled polyester and acrylic to provide new and exciting options.
Are there any companies/cities that have ditched fur that you’ve found to be particularly encouraging/inspirational?
There are so many to choose from! The last few years have seen the world’s most influential designers fast going fur-free. In May, major fashion house Prada announced that it will no longer use fur, and since the beginning of 2017 alone Burberry, Versace, Gucci, Chanel, Coach, Donna Karan, Michael Kors/Jimmy Choo, Diane von Furstenberg, Columbia Sportswear, Farfetch, Yoox Net-a-Porter, Burlington, VF Corporation (Timberland/The North Face) Furla and Bottega Veneta, have all stopped using fur in their collections.
Our US affiliate the Humane Society of the United States has been instrumental in negotiating many of these fur free policies, so its thrilling to see our efforts pay off. We celebrate each time a fashion-house announces a fur free policy as it not only saves the lives of countless animals but it is one step closer to an end to the fur trade for good.
The same can be said for the fur sales bans that have been introduced in several US cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, in addition to similar bans being under consideration in New York City, New York state and California. These state-wide bans set a strong precedent for the UK government to follow.
What can people coming to Bare Fashion expect to see and hear from you guys at Bare Fashion?
Come and chat to us to learn more about our #FurFreeBritain campaign. You’ll be able to sign our petition to help us reach one million signatures, support us by buying our popular #FurFreeBritain t-shirts featured in our celebrity selfies, learn how to be a fake faux fur detective and alert us if you spot real fur being sold as fake, and find out more about our other campaigns to make the world a kinder place for all animals such as our Forward Food program to promote plant-based eating.