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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 January 2006, 12:10 GMT
What are the rules on wearing fur?
The Magazine answers...

Pete Burns
Pete Burns is 'thrilled' his fur coat offends other housemates
Celebrity Big Brother contestant Pete Burns could be jailed for wearing a coat that is reportedly made out of gorilla fur. What are the rules on wearing fur?

Big Brother often feels like a zoo, but celebrity contestant Pete Burns has taken it a step closer by wearing a fur coat which is said to be made from gorilla skin.

His boasts have caused outrage inside and outside the house. Biodiversity minister Jim Knight said: "Gorilla skins belong on gorillas, not on reality TV show contestants."

Burns could be in a lot of trouble if it turns out to be true. Gorillas top the list of critically endangered species and trading in any such species carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine.


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which was passed in 1975, states that any gorilla skin acquired after June 1947 would require an exemption permit. This would be highly unlikely to be granted.

Equally any products made of the skin require an import permit to be brought into this country. The same goes for all endangered species.

"Any acquisition, any sale of a gorilla skin item is counted as trading," says a spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. "Even if you buy something on eBay it is considered trading."

After consulting with a monkey expert, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) says the fur is more likely to come from a Colobus monkey. It is also endangered so the same strict guidelines apply.

Colobus monkey
The Colobus monkey is endangered
The charity will be writing to Burns when he leaves Big Brother to inform him of issues surrounding the fur trade and will ask him to donate the coat to Peta to use as part of its education programmes.

"Whether the animal is endangered or not all animals suffer horrifically at the hands of the fur industry," says a spokeswoman.

"Even if that coat dates from before Cites, just wearing it puts animals in danger. Some people always want something unusual and wearing that coat just provokes interest."

Other endangered species whose fur is traded on the black market include tiger, river otter, platypus, jaguar and ocelot, according to Peta.

The farming of non-endangered animals for their fur takes place mainly in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Holland in Europe, but China is the largest exporter of fur in the world.


The government banned fur farming in Britain in 2003 but it can still be imported from other countries. Despite the ban, the fur trade is worth up to 500m a year to the UK, according to the British Fur Trade Association (BFTA).

Mink and fox are among the most popular furs in the UK. Dog and cat fur is legal in Britain, although members of the BFTA do not handle them. Responding to concerned animal welfare charities, the government has said there is no hard evidence that dog and cat fur is sold in the UK, although admits it is difficult to establish whether such skins are entering the country.

Trade in some sealskins is legal and the skins can be brought into the UK, although many seals are protected can't be traded in the EU.

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Major stores, including Harvey Nichols, Marks and Spencer, Mango, Morgan, Monsoon, Liberty and most recently Selfridges, have banned fur from their racks.

But in recent years it has started to increase in popularity. Furriers have reported a surge in sales in the past year, with fur reappearing on fashion show runways.

The BFTA says its sales have risen by a third in the past year and the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF) says global sales have increased from $9.1bn (5bn) in 2000 to $11.7bn (6.6bn) last year.

Both support Cites and say they do not handle or deal in endangered species.

"As an industry, we are against any form of animal cruelty," says BFTA.

You comments:

It's remarkable thata programme like Big Brother has fuelled the fur debate. I'm actually ant-fur myself though I have to say, seeing the discussion in the house about it has softened my stance rather than harden it. I really question PETA's choice of ambassadors (I mean, Jodi Marsh of all people!). When listening to her argument about fur with Pete Burns and George Galloway I actually found myself nodding in agreement with them instead! Scary!
lee, London, UK

I think it is utterly irresponsible to wear that coat, not only is it wrong for the reason of fur is abhorent but he is doing purely to get a reaction otherwise why on earth did he take it in with him. To wear fur just to try and get some votes and press coverage is just disgusting and very stupid.
Justine Baker, Taunton, England

I was surprised at the contestants not knowing the difference between killing an animal to eat and killing an animal just to look good.
Mr Mark Adams

IF the fur is banned then the person that bought the coat should be arrested. I feel that to send Pete Burns to jail is just making him a scapegoat. Mr burns has stated on more than one occasion in the house that he did not buy the coat, it was a gift. As with all famous people, the public like to make examples of them.
Iain Perham, Glasgow

I am absolutely livid. I thought that the whole sorry trade in animal fur had been made socially unacceptable over a decade ago. I blame the fashion industry 100% for the new interest and hope that the designers and super models responsible for the comeback are really pleased with themselves. If they hadn't made it "fashionable" again then the likes of Pete Burns wouldn't be walking around in it!
Sandy, Beaconsfield, Bucks

I find the fur trade sickening and believe Pete Burns (or at the least the boyfriend he claims bought it for him) should be punished should the coat turn out to be made from the fur of an endangered species. Gone are the days when fur was essential to keep us warm and dry - it's just a shame that the morals of some people are still stuck in the Stone Ages. They say you reap what you sow. Doesn't sound too nice does it?
Jodie , Northampton, UK

A little alleged controversy makes for better TV ratings - something becoming more and more necessary to maintain an interest in these so called 'reality' shows - but, if this proves to be true then the conceited low-life MUST be ejected from the BB show without hesitation or ceremony. After that he should be arrested, processed and hopefully locked away with a few 'gorillas' who'll make him think twice before doing it again. Fur is found on beautiful animals and UGLY people !!
Ian C, Midlands, UK<

While I can see the argument for banning trade in new fur, to me it seems a waste of the sacrifice an animal has already made to ban trade in existing fur. I realise it is possibly hard to distinguish between the two, but surely it is a desperate waste of animals already killed to ban their trade or to destroy them.
Tom, Guernsey

Channel 4 should not be allowing criminal/illegal activities and the Big Brother producers should be satisfying themselves of the legal position and should make a statement to cover that.
Jim Griffiths, Chelmsford UK

I object to killing animals for the sake of fashion, but if an animal dies of natural causes, why should we not use it? We eat Beef, so why not use the skin to make leather? We eat lamb, so what is wrong with sheepskin jackets? The time will come when, if we are to survive, we will need to utilise every possible resource. It just seems silly to me to burn or bury an animal whose skin could be useful.
Jim weatherall, Gosport

It is high time The Government banned the importation of fur, whether endangered species or not. Many of the nation's pets are stolen every year and many end up in the cruel fur trade. Some years back this subject was very high profile with very direct posters everywhere, which were very effective at the time but the trade has now dramatically increased again and it is time for another concerted effort to eliminate this appalling trade in animal fur.
Janet Ledger, Nottingham<

While I would never wear a fur coat, I do love my leather jacket - which is also the skin of a dead animal. Clearly the two are poles apart, but where should the line be drawn? Or can it be?
Mike, Aberdeen

I am deeply offended by seeing this man parading around in this horrific coat Well done to Jodie Marsh for speaking out about it. I hope he is arrested and charged when he leaves the house
Rosemary, london

Cruela De Ville aka Pete Burns? It's a stunt. That coat is as real as he is.
jim , rugby

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