An investigation by UK animal rights group the RSPCA has found that two high street clothing retailers sold items with unlabelled or mislabelled fur.

It said that an investigation found a coat with a fur trim at TK Maxx, despite its no fur policy, and a pair of gloves with a fur trim in an Edinburgh Woollen Mill store that were labelled as acrylic.

An RSPCA campaign against fur will now follow, amidst the UK's Clothes Show Live, which starts in Birmingham today (7 December).

In its campaign, the RSPCA is calling for retailers not to sell real fur, or to carry out more stringent checks on the products that they do sell, it said.

"The RSPCA is opposed to the fur industry because it is responsible for unnecessarily killing 55m animals a year. The society will launch its new campaign, called 100% Fake, alongside this year's The Clothes Show Live," a statement said.

An RSPCA mystery shopper bought the products from individual outlets. TK Maxx's coat was labelled as polyester and nylon but made no mention of fur, the RSPCA said, with laboratory analysis by the charity identifying the trim as Arctic fox.

Meanwhile, the mystery shopper's gloves from an Edinburgh Woollen Mill store were labelled as made from acrylic. On this occasion RSPCA's lab test identified the trim as rabbit fur.

The RSPCA also said that as a result of its investigation, TK Maxx, the UK arm of US-based TJX Companies, was "committed to enforcing rigorous processes to ensure real fur products do not enter our business", and that The Edinburgh Woollen Mill has pledged to stop selling fur by spring 2008.

The Edinburgh Woollen Mill was unavailable to comment further immediately, but TK Maxx emailed just-style the following reaction:

"TK Maxx is proud to have implemented a long-standing policy with regard to not buying or selling real fur product and we never knowingly sell fur.

"At TK Maxx, we buy a huge range of product from thousands of international and reputable brand owners so we are committed to enforcing rigorous processes to ensure real fur product does not enter our business, and that all labelling has the highest integrity.

"It was therefore with great surprise and regret we learned that a designer coat with real fur trim was found in one of our stores.

"We are pleased that the RSPCA has brought this to our attention so that we can learn how this error occurred and so that we can pursue this with the manufacturer."

There is currently no clear legal requirement for retailers to positively label fur as long as any labelling that does appear is not misleading.

However, the RSPCA's head of external affairs David Bowles said that many UK shops think they are buying fake fur because of unlear labelling.

He commented: "We believe that real fur is mistakenly being widely sold in the UK. An RSPCA survey showed that 93% of people would not wear real fur, but a lot of shoppers are accidentally buying it assuming it's fake because it is cheap and not clearly labelled."

Late last month an EU-wide ban on the production, marketing, import and export of products containing cat and dog fur was approved, which will apply from 31 December 2008.

By Joe Ayling.