Tighten rules on labels for animal fur: Green Sense

Green Sense calls for regulations to be improved after rabbit hair is found in furry samples tested

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 January, 2014, 7:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 3:18am

Rabbits are enduring "horrible" treatment on mainland farms as the use of their fur to make clothes and accessories grows, a green group says.

Angora rabbits may have their fur plucked by hand as often as four times a year because their coats grow quickly, according to Green Sense.

The group was speaking after it conducted tests that found rabbit fur in half the samples of items it collected from Hong Kong shops - including those of big-name brands.

"Most Hong Kong consumers don't care much about the materials used for these clothing decorations," Green Sense executive Vicki Wong Pui-chi said. "Buying clothes with fur indirectly encourages animal cruelty."

The group said animal hair was often hard to distinguish by eye from plant fibre and customers should avoid buying such items unless they were sure which was used.

Its research found that most brands did not label the materials they used for trimmings, such as edging on hoods and shoes.

But of the 66 samples that Green Sense tested - 51 items from 18 well-known brands and the rest from street shops - 38 were made from animal fur, 27 from plant fibre, and one, a mixture of both.

Half of the 38 samples were made from rabbit fur while the rest were made either from raccoon fur or unidentified animal hair. Ten of the 38 were from small shops and the other 28 from eight big brands.

Only five brands - H&M, Wanko, Izzue, Lowrys Farm and Chase - had clear labels stating the material used.

Green Sense said rabbit fur was used in samples of all prices, from big brands to small shops.

It cited a popular YouTube video in which an angora rabbit was grabbed from its cage, had its four limbs tied to the two ends of a stool and its hair plucked out by hand, exposing its pink flesh. In the clip, the rabbit squealed continuously in pain.

Rabbit Society committee member Joanna Chow Yuk-ha said the usually quiet animals would squeal continuously only under great pain or fear.

"The video shows what great pain the rabbit had to endure," she said.

"More humane ways such as trimming or shaving require more procedures and higher costs, so mainland business people tend not to use them."

Wong said angora rabbits' hair grew back quickly, so they had to endure such treatment every three months on average.

She said if a brand used real animal fur originating from the mainland, it was very possible that the hair had been collected in a cruel manner.

She called on the government to tighten its legislation on labelling so consumers could have tools to make better decisions.