THINK before you buy, that's the message of a Southsea veterinary nurse concerned that shops and markets could be unknowingly selling real fur.
In the build-up to Christmas mum-of-two Beverley Elmer has become increasingly concerned that some clothing and accessories available in Portsmouth contain fur, without the proper labelling.
The 49-year-old, who has worked with animal welfare group Animals Asia Foundation in the past, said: 'There are a lot of people who buy these hats and clothes without realising where the materials come from because they are not labelled properly. And it's not the shopkeepers or market stall holders fault as often they don't realise either.
'I see it all the time, in the shops and at markets in the city. I can tell from feeling the material that it is real fur. It feels much softer and falls in a smooth line. Fake fur is much more coarse. Mainly it can be found on the bobbles on woolly hats.
'People think it won't be real fur because the item they are buying is so cheap, but in actual fact the fur is so cheap in China, where the clothes come from, that it is more profitable for the manufacturer to use it. They mainly use raccoon dogs or cats for the fur.
'I am not an animal rights activist. It's not about being active in this way but about making an informed decision. If in doubt, just don't buy it.'
Mark Glover, director of campaign group Respect for Animals, acknowledged that this was an issue nationwide. 'Unfortunately there is a significant amount of fur being sold in this way, often with no label,' he said.
'This is why we have launched Fur Free Retailer and Fur Free Market campaigns as well as lobbied the government (so far, without success) to bring in clear fur labelling. This means that people are buying real fur thinking it is fake which is shocking and, hence, our above campaigns.
'The situation is that retailers are not legally obliged to include a label saying an item is made with real fur. They only break the law if they include false and misleading labelling.'
There are a few tests that can be done to show whether fur is real or fake.
Portsmouth City Council's regulatory service manager, Richard Lee, said: 'Our advice would also be to double-check by looking carefully at the fur. To tell whether fur is real or fake, check the fur tips and fur base. Real fur tends to taper to a point at the end whereas fake fur tips tend to be blunt.
'Fake fur is attached to woven fabric while the base of real fur is the animal’s skin, so it will be leather. Residents who suspect the law is not being followed can contact the trading standards team.'