Australia imports millions of dollars’ worth of real and faux fur products each year, a portion of which have been found to be mislabelled as faux when they are, in fact, real fur. Australian fur imports often include less expensive fur items, such as trims on clothing, accessories, souvenirs, and children’s toys.
Laws in Australia, Banning a Barbaric Industry
There are no federal or state laws in Australia which specifically govern the use and sale of fur.
- Nationally, the importing and exporting of dog and cat fur into and out of Australia is prohibited, however, there are exemptions and the regulations do not specify criteria for these exemptions. Similarly, there is no express ban on the use and sale of cat and dog fur. There is also no tracing or testing mechanisms in place at customs to ascertain source of fur, and whether fur is real or faux.
- Despite there being some import prohibitions on fur derived from animals who are categorised as endangered under CITES, such as tigers and certain fur seals, animals used by the fur industry; mink, foxes, and raccoon dogs, are offered no protection under CITES or Australian wildlife protection laws, and their fur can legally be imported into Australia.
In response to rising consumer concerns, and the lack of traceability and standards, many brands are taking responsibility themselves by banning fur from their supply chains altogether. As of November 2021, 1572 Australian and global brands had taken the Fur Free Retailer pledge not to sell fur.
How do we end fur sales in Australia?
Around the world, FOUR PAWS, as part of the global animal protection movement, is calling on governments to ban fur. Many similar jurisdictions to Australian states and territories, in Europe and the US for example, have implemented fur farming bans and fur trade bans and can serve as models for Australia.
FOUR PAWS CALLS FOR:
- Banning fur in New South Wales and Victoria
- A National Action on Fur
- Reducing cruelty through labelling
How can New South Wales and Victoria implement a fur ban?
A ban should be instituted in NSW and Victoria by amending animal anti-cruelty legislation in each state, which, as at time of publication, were undergoing reviews in both NSW and Victoria.
For instance, under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (NSW) Pt 10 Offences, a provision could be inserted prohibiting killing animals solely for fur and the use of such products in NSW. While in Victoria, a similar amendment could be inserted into the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic) Division 1 Cruelty.
A fur ban in NSW and Victoria should also encompass any fur products purchased online, and be completed by labelling standards, testing mechanisms and the continuation of taskforces necessary to achieve the intended objectives.
What is a National Action on Fur?
Customs regulations and the protection of consumer rights is governed by federal legislation, as they come under the category of commerce and trade.
Customs regulations, which currently prohibit cat and dog fur, could be expanded to include all fur bearing animals. This should be accompanied by testing mechanisms to ensure products comply with the law and that fake products are not mislabelled. Further, under the Australian Consumer Law, an information standard on fur labelling could be introduced, similar to the free-range egg information standard.
Consistent testing mechanisms applied at customs have an essential role in proper labelling and as part of a ban. Visual checks can help determine whether fur is real or fake, while microscopy and DNA testing can ascertain species.
The EU discovered that proper testing mechanisms at customs, including the testing of products purchased online, is crucial to enforcement.
How can proper labelling reduce cruelty to animals?
Fur sales and imports must be banned to ensure Australia does not support the cruel fur industry. However, an interim solution is to enact labelling provisions for all fur products entering the country, which would entail customs ensuring all fur products have clear accurate labels. Clear labelling, including mandatory fibre content and country of origin declarations, could be enacted through the Australia Consumer Law, which protects consumers nationally and applies in each state.
Clear labelling would include:
- country of origin,
- the specific animal the fur is derived from,
- whether the animals were farmed in wire cages or non-wire mesh, or caught through trapping, and
- specifying whether those traps are permitted under our laws.
More Australians demanding fur action
Within Australia, an important phase in this mission has been the work of local councils in advancing motions to investigate and implement bans on fur and exotic products.
In NSW, the Animal Justice Party passed a motion condemning fur supported by the Upper House. In addition, the concern around fur can be seen via the increasing number of councils in NSW working towards banning fur and exotic products. Sydney City Council, Canterbury City Council, Inner City Council, Blue Mountains Council and Liverpool City Council all announced bans against fur in 2019/2020.
Importantly, there is strong community support on this issue, as the FOUR PAWS petitions and brand actions demonstrate, supported by thousands of concerned Australians.
Many countries and cities across the world have banned fur sales due to these serious concerns. Australia is falling behind and must cease its support of the cruel and dangerous fur industry by banning fur and fur sales. This can begin with councils and states, and ultimately lead to a national ban on production, imports and sales of fur.