The Labour Party has pledged to ban fur imports to the UK.
The shadow environment secretary, Sue Hayman, is challenging the government to prove its animal welfare credentials ahead of a parliamentary debate on the fur trade.
In an exclusive interview with Sky News, Mrs Hayman said: “I was so proud when the Labour government back in 2000 actually brought in a ban on fur farming in this country.
“Now we want to take the next step and ban importation of fur all together.
“The Conservatives, instead of being morally indefensible and refusing to do so, need to step up to the plate and follow Labour policy and ban fur imports.”
:: Real animal fur sold as fake on British high street
Image: Sue Hayman says the government must ‘step up to the plate’ over the issue
Fur farming was banned in the UK in 2000 on moral grounds – after a public consultation found “overwhelming public support to end the practice”.
However, the UK still imports foreign farmed fur, including fox, rabbit, mink, raccoon and chinchilla.
Over 100,000 members of the public signed a petition triggering the latest debate.
Another 400,000-strong petition was handed in to Downing Street by Queen guitarist and animal rights campaigner Brian May.
Michael Kors, Gucci, Versace, and Jimmy Choo have all banned fur in recent years, joining other top designers including Hugo Boss, Armani, and Tommy Hilfiger in opting for synthetic materials instead.
Designer and animal rights campaigner Stella McCartney described current UK legislation as “hypocritical and unacceptable”.
In an open letter to the government urging them to support an imports ban, she wrote: “While fur farming may not occur on our shores, the UK is currently complicit with animal cruelty by allowing fur imports and supporting the industry.”
However, London-based designer and fur specialist Rebecca Bradley told Sky News she believes farming animals for fashion is no different to farming for food.
:: More ‘fur free’ retailers found selling rabbit and fox fur, Sky News finds
“I believe the animal doesn’t know why it’s being farmed therefore the use afterwards is irrelevant,” she said.
In 2016, almost 42 million pelts were produced across Europe to meet demand and the British Fur Trade says its membership is growing with smaller independent designers
Mike Moser, the chief executive of the British Fur Trade, told Sky News he believes consumers should be allowed to choose whether they buy fur.
“People stigmatise fur but accept leather, or they stigmatise leather and accept meat, or they stigmatise meat and they wear silk,” he said.
“What’s important is that animal welfare is paramount and then I think it’s up to the individual to choose,” he added.
The government’s view, set out in its response to the petition, is that national bans are less effective than working at an international level on animal welfare standards.
A letter from 50 vets and animal experts has been delivered to the environment secretary, Michael Gove, ahead of the debate.
It states that denying wild animals the chance to roam freely, keeping them in close proximity to one another, is unnatural and leads to psychological stresses.
The environment, food and rural affairs committee is currently holding an inquiry into the fur trade, sparked by a Sky News investigation into labelling.
More from UK
In a series of reports last year, we revealed how major high street stores with strict no-fur policies were selling real animal fur but wrongly labelling them as synthetic.
The fake faux-fur scandal led the British Fur Trade Association to admit that “fur labelling falls significantly short of what consumers expect”.