The Labour Party pledges to ban fur imports to the UK

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Image source, Humane Society International

The Labour Party has pledged to ban all fur imports to the UK.

The decision follows two separate petitions with more than 500,000 signatures urging the government to act.

"We should not have a fur trade that relies upon the suffering of animals abroad," Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell told Newsbeat.

"We think there's sufficient public pressure to force the government into banning the imports."

Fur farming has been illegal in the UK since 2000, but government figures show the UK imported almost £75m of fur last year alone.

"When we banned fur farming more than 15 years ago, we did half the job," said Claire Bass, the director of animal protection group Humane Society International.

"Now we see an opportunity to stop the import and sale of all fur in the UK."

Media caption,
The difference between real and fake fur

Brexit could stop fur imports to the UK

That opportunity comes with the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

While there are current EU regulations which ban fur imports from domesticated cats and dogs, the fur farming of other animals is still legal in several EU countries such as Finland, France, Italy and Poland.

As a member of the EU single market, the UK can't ban the importation of all animal fur from these countries.

The government says the UK will leave the single market, which gives it the opportunity to extend its ban.

Ryan Pollock and artist Queen V were among supporters at the Houses Of Parliament, where Labour politicians announced their plans.

Both voted to stay in the EU but now believe a UK ban on fur could be a major positive to come from Brexit.

Image caption,
Queen V and Ryan Pollock describe the fur trade as "barbaric" and "unnecessary"

"We saw with the ban on fur farming in this country that it had such an impact from other countries banning it as well after that," Ryan told Newsbeat.

"Hopefully we will lead the way in this movement for banning all fur imports."

Queen V added: "The bigger picture would be to have no fur in the world, especially Europe - but one step at a time."

Claire Bass says the UK government is currently making "positive noises" about animal welfare and has an opportunity to make a real impact.

"We have a secretary of state who has just banned ivory trade. He's also talking about a series of other things to improve animal welfare," she says.

"So really it doesn't make any sense to ban something like fur farming on home turf, but then outsource that cruelty to oversees."

The government hasn't committed to an outright ban yet even if it were to leave the single market.

In a statement it said: "After we leave the EU we plan to retain the current regulations banning the import of cat and dog fur and products, and seal skins and products from commercial hunts.

"We are also considering whether further steps could be taken outside the European Union."

Labour has gone one step further.

Image source, Humane Society International
Image caption,
John McDonnell and Sue Hayman of the Labour party told Newsbeat of their plans to ban fur imports

Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman told Newsbeat: "What we want to do now is ban importation of fur altogether.

"What we need to do is really toughen up our rules."

Designers Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Versace have all banned fur in recent years.

But the British Fur Trade says its membership is growing with smaller independent designers.

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