Designers decree that real fur is back. Can they get away with it? asks James Sherwood
In the words of Mrs Merton, "Let's have a heated debate": fur and fashion.

Anna Wintour, editor of US Vogue, suffered for her unashamed love of fur. Only this year a brave protester hurled a frozen raccoon into her lap as Wintour lunched at the Four Seasons. Such is her sang-froid, Style Police was amazed that Wintour didn't turn it into a clutch bag. Unbowed, she instead devoted 16 pages of September Vogue to "Svelte Pelts", with captions like "The tails are definitely wagging" for a bag dripping with mink tails.

Before demonizing Cruella De Wintour, we must take into account the mounds of animal fur that stalked the catwalk for the Winter season. It's not just die-hard fur fanatics such as Karl Lagerfeld who have promoted real fur this season. Dolce e Gabbana, Versace and Gucci favoured fox trim. Marc Jacobs and YSL went for "Chubby" sables and Galliano prettified his fox tails by dyeing them powder pink.

Those with half a conscience, such as Alexander McQueen, used recycled fur. A spokesperson for McQueen said, "We haven't used anything that would remind Alexander of his dog," so he opted for ostrich, crocodile and horsehair. He still got a pile of animal intestines on his doorstep at Givenchy for his trouble.

And let's not forget "the girls". Way back when supermodels were super, Naomi, Claudia, Yasmin and Christy posed for anti-fur propaganda posters issued by PETA. And who should sashay down the catwalk in fur this season but the self-same Ms Campbell.

"It just won't wash," declares Mark Glover, spokesman for Respect For Animals. "In this month's Marie Claire, 90 per cent of readers surveyed said they would never wear fur. Fashion spreads like US Vogue's won't make any difference to the British public." Meanwhile, Company magazine is producing an anti-fur issue in November.

But glossy bibles such as Tatler and Vogue rely on advertising from the fashion giants who have decreed that fur is making a come-back. The designers, in turn, are offered sponsorship by the furriers to add that touch of mink to their collections. "We have shot both real and fake fur for December Tatler," says editor Jane Proctor. "We respect both opinions. But don't you get the feeling that people who kick up the most fuss can't afford real fur?"

In fur's defence, fur is an integral part of the decadent chic of the Autumn season. Mum did look good in that touch of mink, so why not recycle? And there is nothing like the real thing. But, like it or loathe it, on the streets of London a fur on your back is like a sign saying, "Sister of Satan". Should Anna Wintour ever eat at Bluebird, expect a torrential rainstorm of raccoons.