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Companies need to take responsibility

Last year I wrote in Drapers about the need for the fashion industry to address the growing demand for animal welfare, following an RSPCA poll that showed nine out of 10 people would never knowingly wear real fur.

Why then – one year on – are we seeing real fur and animal skins making a comeback? Not only on celebrities but on catwalks, the high street and in magazines. Today, according to research conducted by Channel 4, 400 designers use fur, compared with 45 in 1985. And it isn’t just fur. Leather is also making a comeback.

We are not only seeing leather belts, bags and shoes, but jackets, dresses and trousers in UK high street stores.How are consumers expected to make informed choices about products if the company selling them has no process of traceability? How can we guarantee that the animal whose skin was used to make our bag or shoes was reared and slaughtered in a humane way?

Companies can no longer hide behind the assumption that leather is a by-product of the meat industry. The selling of skins for leather can be more profitable for farmers than meat, so unless companies take a long hard look at their supply chains, consumer confidence cannot be guaranteed.

The only two high street stores to be named as finalists for the fashion category of the RSPCA Good Business Awards, Marks & Spencer and Topshop, lead the way at looking at thetraceability of the animal-derived goods they sell. Other retailers now need to follow suit.

The RSPCA Good Business Awards 2008, is being held at the Natural History Museum, London, on October 9.

Wayne Hemingway is a designer and a judge of the RSPCA Good Business Awards 2008.

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