ASA Ruling on European Fur Breeders' Association
European Fur Breeders' Association
Avenue des Arts 3-4-5
21 March 2012
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council Decision:
Two issues were investigated of which one was Upheld and one was Not upheld.
A magazine ad for the European Fur Breeders Association (EFBA), seen 30 June 2011, stated "WHY IT'S ECO FRIENDLY* TO WEAR FUR ..." The claim was linked to small print that stated "… one of the most ecologically balanced systems in agriculture". Bold headings in the ad stated "Fur lasts a lifetime", "No waste", "Food Chain Recycling", "Helps conservation" and "Reduced CO2 gas emissions". Under each heading additional text provided more detail. Under "Reduced CO2 gas emissions", text stated "No transportation needed, fur animals are born, raised and die on the farm".
Global Action in the Interest of Animals (GAIA) challenged whether the claims:
1. "it's eco-friendly to wear fur" was misleading and could be substantiated, because they believed a study carried out on their behalf by CE Delft showed the environmental impact of mink production compared unfavourably with the production of other forms of clothing; and
2. "Reduced CO2 gas emissions No transportation needed, fur animals are born, raised and die on the farm" was misleading and could be substantiated, because it did not take into account the full process and factors such as the transportation of food for the animals and of the animal pelts from the farm.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. European Fur Breeders' Association (EFBA) and International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) said the objective of the ad was to provide the public with information about the ecological aspects of the fur sector that were rarely discussed. They said the claim "it's eco-friendly to wear fur" was not presented in isolation and their reasons for making that claim were listed in the ad below the claim, and the claim was also linked to the asterisked text "*one of the most ecologically balanced systems in agriculture". They said that, by being durable, and based on the sustainable use of the natural renewable resources, fur was a sustainable product. They said fur could be worn for many years (30 years or more for a well-made mink garment), which was far longer than most of the textile materials. They said fur could be recycled into other fur products (bags, cushions, other accessories) and, as it was a natural and organic product, it biodegraded.
They said natural fur was produced using by-products from waste and the use of that waste reduced demands in the environment and resulted in a more efficient use of materials harvested from the environment. They said their production process showed that fur animals were fed by food-industry wastes of poultry and fish and that fur animals productively recycled nutrients that would otherwise be wasted. They said that the manure from farmed mink was recycled into organic fertiliser, mink fat was used in the production of bio-diesel and carcasses were recycled into energy production. They provided two studies in support of their claims, an assessment of the lifespan of mink and fox fur (by MTT Agrifood Research, Finland) and a life cycle analysis on the environmental impact of natural fur (by DSS Management, Canada).
2. They felt the claim was clear and said the full process was carried out on the farm and, for example, there was no transportation to a slaughterhouse. The ad stated "reduced", which made clear that there were CO2 emissions. They said the claim was supported by a study which stated that over the life cycle of a natural and faux fur coat, the production of faux fibre and fabric accounted for 78% of the climate change risk associated with that product, so faux fur contributed more to the risk of climate change. They said that additional research stated that the carbon footprint (CO2 gas emissions) of fur production was relatively small.
The ASA considered that the claim "it's eco-friendly to wear fur" was an absolute claim about the environmental benefits of the fur industry and considered that absolute environmental claims should not be used without qualification unless advertisers could provide convincing evidence that their product would cause no environmental damage, taking account of the full life cycle of the product from manufacture to disposal.
We noted that the headline claim "it's eco-friendly to wear fur" was qualified by a number of additional claims that outlined in more detail the environmental benefits of wearing fur. We also noted that the advertisers had provided supporting documentation for those environmental benefits. However, we did not consider that the information and documentation showed that the fur trade would cause no environmental damage.
We noted that the Code required advertisers to acknowledge whether informed debate existed, and, unless stated otherwise, to use a 'cradle to grave' assessment when considering a product's environmental impact and make clear the limits of the life cycle. Although we noted that the ad included information setting out the environmental benefits of wearing fur, which were intended to form the basis for the headline claim "it's eco-friendly to wear fur", because we considered that that headline claim would be understood as an absolute environmental claim, and because we did not consider that we had seen sufficient evidence that the product would cause no environmental damage, taking account of the full life cycle of the product from manufacture to disposal, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.
On that point, the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 11.1, 11.3 and 11.4 (Environmental claims).
2. Not upheld
We noted that the claim "Reduced CO2 gas emissions No transportation needed, fur animals are born, raised and die on the farm" was supported by evidence provided by the advertisers, which stated that the production of a product like natural fur, if done carefully, did have advantages over the production of goods that fundamentally depended on non-renewable resources.
We noted that the ad stated that fur farming produced "Reduced CO2 gas emissions" and considered that, unlike the headline claim, this particular claim was not absolute and that readers would understand that some emissions were produced by the process. We also noted that the claim specified "No transportation needed, fur animals are born, raised and die on the farm", which we considered further clarified that the claim referred to the processes on the farm itself only and considered that readers would understand that the claim did not include external processes such as the transportation of food for the animals and of the animal pelts from the farm, which would be likely to produce emissions.
Because we considered that the explanatory text in the ad "No transportation needed, fur animals are born, raised and die on the farm" sufficiently clarified the context of the claim, we concluded that it was not misleading.
On that point, we investigated the claim under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1, 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 11.1, 11.3 and 11.4 (Environmental claims), but did not find it in breach.
The ad must not appear again in its current form.