Companies that produce leather and fur goods are no stranger to criticism from animal rights groups for their treatment of livestock -- but even standard industry practice seems humane in light of horrific scenes recorded at a fur farm in Indonesia. According to the Humane Society International (HSI), and as evidenced in shocking footage acquired by investigators, some breeders are skinning animals alive and using their fur to make cheap knockoffs of the popular Australian boot, known as uggs. An investigation from the HSI examined a variety of imported uggs (a style of footwear popularized by an Australian company of the same name), and found that they had been improperly labeled. Instead of being merino sheep, as suggested by the Chinese manufacturer, DNA results indicated the fur and leather boots were actually made from Raccoon dogs, a long-haired, fox-like species native to East Asia.
In an interview with Australia's News.com.au, forensic expert Han Brunner says that the imported items were misleadingly labeled.
"There is no doubt they have mislabelled these items and customs refuses to do anything. They have been labelled Australian merino fur and that was on the inside of the boot on the outside there was hairs from the raccoon dog."
The findings are made all the more troubling in light of some sickening footage recently obtained by Swiss Animal Protection showing raccoon dogs having their skin removed while they are still alive before being tossed onto a pile of other dying dogs at a fur farm in Indonesia. (Video of the practice is available here, but WARNING: it is extremely graphic.)
In some cases, the imported uggs seem to have been inappropriately labeled as a product manufactured in Australia, and have likely been purchased by countless unsuspecting tourists who believed they were buying the iconic Aussie footwear.
A spokesperson for the popular Ugg Australia brand, Lena McDonald, tells News.com.au that the importation of cheap, counterfeit boots -- particularly those made with dog fur -- was common, and that consumers need to be weary of knockoffs:
Ms McDonald said her company used its own local tannery to ensure the quality and standards of its boots, but added there were anywhere between 30 - 40 products using the word "ugg" but that many were not made in Australia and used overseas materials including fur.
"As far as I can see many of these boots are not made in Australia at all yet they have the word Australia and ugg on them," she said.
Currently, Australia bans the importation of items made from dogs and cats, but officials say this does not apply to Raccoon dogs as they are categorized similarly to foxes and wolves.