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Sep 6, 2021
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Natural fur: What does Furmark global certification mean?

Sep 6, 2021

The International Fur Federation has developed a global certification program called Furmark, guaranteeing "animal welfare and environmental standards" for natural fur. It's an initiative that aims to change the way consumers look at a material that certainly hasn't been to everyone's taste in recent years. But in concrete terms, what does this certification guarantee?

Changing the way natural fur is perceived in the world is a major challenge at a time when the fashion industry is gradually banishing this material from its collections. Still, it's a challenge that the industry intends to tackle head-on. This is evidenced by the development of a certification program, available worldwide, seeking to guarantee transparency, animal welfare and quality in natural fur.

Total transparency

From farm to closet, Furmark-certified products are traceable, verified and guaranteed to meet numerous recognized standards, selected by a panel of industry stakeholders, scientists, sustainability leaders and welfare experts. Consumers can now access a wealth of information that makes the entire supply chain transparent for wild and farmed natural fur, hailing from leading animal welfare programs.

"We recognize that the public, regulators and those in fashion do not have a clear understanding of the fur trade. The International Fur Federation (IFF) has therefore created a single certification framework for natural fur, as well as introducing new component parts which are subject to certification," explains Mark Oaten, CEO of the IFF.

In practice, Furmark-certified products will be stamped with a unique alphanumeric code that will provide all information relative to their traceability, from the type of fur to its origin, the associated animal welfare program, the manufacturer and the place of manufacture.

Strict, globally recognized standards

Furmark certification is a guarantee of science-based, third-party certified and transparent animal welfare and environmental programs, explains the initiative's official website. Each of the certification programs, as well as their individual protocols, must meet strict criteria, such as being science-based, independently approved, third-party verified, traceable and sustainable.

"Each animal welfare and sustainability program has a detailed, independently-developed, and science-based protocol or standard. The respective programs are then subject to third-party assessment and certified by a recognized certification body. Strict, active enforcement is ensured via visits and assessments: those that do not meet standards are excluded from the certification program and the Furmark system," explains the scheme's press release.

The question of animal welfare

Beyond questions of sustainability, it's animal welfare issues that have been impacting the natural fur trade for several years, with fashion brands announcing each after the next that they're banishing the material from their collections. Furmark-certified products will have to meet the criteria of the European WelFur farm inspection scheme, which notably applies to mink and fox farms. Its protocols are based on the four principles of animal welfare: good housing, good feeding, good health and appropriate behavior.

However, the fashion industry, consumers and animal welfare associations will still need to be convinced. Indeed, some have already raised questions about the WelFur program. The Fur Free Alliance notably stated that the scheme "is not able to address the serious animal welfare problems inherent in fur production." A conclusion based on "numerous scientific reports," the organization states.

The Furmark certification scheme may be able to give a boost to an ailing sector, while satisfying consumers' ever-pressing quest for transparency. But the much deeper issue of animal welfare remains. And in this regard, animal rights advocates are unlikely to be satisfied with these standards, as strict as they may be. Many such groups and individuals frequently call for the end of the animal fur industry, which they consider "cruel" regardless of any standards or certification schemes.

In recent years, many brands have taken this route, doing away with animal fur altogether. Moreover, in June, Israel became the first country in the world to ban the sale of fur in the fashion industry. This decision was welcomed by animal rights groups, including PETA, which hailed the move as a "historic victory for animals."

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