UGG, those again? The infamous—and aptly named—Australian boots have never been easy on the eye, but now there’s a bigger reason for them to weigh heavier on your conscience. Animal-rights group Swiss Animal Protection has uncovered horrifying footage of breeders skinning raccoon dogs alive to make cheap knockoffs of the shoes. Genuine UGGs can cost up to $300 a pair, but counterfeiters are cashing in by substituting sheepskin with raccoon-dog pelts and selling them at cut-rate prices. Despite their name, raccoon dogs are more closely related to foxes, jackals, and domestic dogs than they are raccoons. One animal is shown with its neck pinned to the ground with a heavy boot before it’s flayed alive and tossed onto a heap of carcasses. Divested of skin and fur, it still manages to feebly raise its head.


“The raccoon dogs routinely endure unspeakable suffering,” Mark Jones, the U.K. director Humane Society International tells The Sun. “They die a slow, agonizing death, their bodies raw and bloody.”

Although the U.K. government banned the import of cat and dog pelts from China in 2001, raccoon dogs are exempt because they’re not considered “dogs.”

Although the U.K. government banned the import of cat and dog pelts from China in 2001—a Europe-wide ban took effect in December 2008—raccoon dogs are exempt because they’re not considered “dogs.” “There is no U.K. ban on their fur so it’s possible these phony boots could enter the high street,” Jones adds.

UGG has denied using raccoon-dog fur in its own products, pointing the finger rather at off-brands for tainting the entire industry. Up to 40 fur-bearing products from overseas contains the word “ugg,” according to Lena McDonald, who heads the company. “We have seen companies cutting off tags saying ‘made in China’ and putting on a ‘made in Australia’ tag,” she says.

Not that sheepskin is less barbaric, of course, even if you believe that UGG acquires them humanely. Whether your UGGs are genuine or ersatz, made in Australia or imported from China, your moral mileage may vary. Torture and murder is where we draw the line, however.