Opinion polls show that the vast majority of the British public want no part in the cruel fur trade, and they would not buy or wear real animal fur.

But real fur is still for sale on our high streets and online, and as ‘Black Friday’ sees the unofficial start of our Christmas present buying it’s time for a reminder about this unethical practice.

Real fur is still routinely sold as faux, or fake, fur by brands and retailers that purport to be ethical, and that have ‘no fur policies’ in place.

The labelling inside the products can be misleading, or even non-existent, and the products are so cheap it’s hard to believe that they are made of real fur.

But all too often the pom-poms, charms, trims and bobbles on our high fashion items are made from the fur of mink, rabbits, racoon dogs or foxes.

Eighty-five per cent of the fur industry’s skins come from animals kept on fur factory farms.

The fur farm industry is notorious for the terrible conditions its animals live in. They are kept in tiny, barren cages, often stacked on top of each other, until they are big enough to yield the maximum amount of fur. Many die a horrible death from disease, extreme stress, self-mutilation and cannibalism before they are slaughtered and skinned. It’s factory farming at its worst.

Although fur farming has been banned in the UK since 2000, it is not illegal to import fur from other countries. We can all do our bit to make the trade less profitable by ensuring we don’t mistakenly buy real fur.

If it feels too good to be fake, then it probably is!

So, if you’re looking for Christmas presents or for something special for your Christmas party, please make a note that there are two things you can do to test whether fur is real or fake:

•Look at the tips of the fur. If they are pointed then the fur is probably real, because fake fur usually has rounded or blunt tips; and

•Inspect the base of the fur. You should be able to see a woven or fabric base if the fur is fake, and if it’s real the base will look like skin (which, of course, it is).

If you have already made your purchase in good faith, but then suspect you may have purchased real fur, you could try the ‘burn test’.

If you carefully set light to a strand or two of real fur it will singe like human hair, but fake fur will simply melt. If you have been mis-sold a product in this way, take it back to the retailer and let them know, and encourage them to remove any other similar items from sale.

The Humane Society International (HSI) has been lobbying the UK Government for some time about banning the importation of fur – ‘putting the compassion into fashion’. It is also calling for more regulation around labelling so that consumers can have the confidence they need to buy fake fur – to have the necessary ‘infurmation’.

There isn’t a legal requirement for garments or products containing animal fur to list that information on the label, or indeed to have a label at all. And when there is a label, it can often be very vague about the presence of fur and use a phrase such as ‘contains non-textile parts of animal origin’.

You can find out more about the HSI’s campaign to make Britain fur-free, and the progress made to-date, by visiting its website www.hsi.org.

And if you like the feel of real fur, then why not pop along to Ard Jerkyll and meet the cats, kittens, rabbits and guinea pigs we have here – all looking for new homes. We’re open every day expect Mondays and Thursdays, from 1pm to 4pm.