As the world's most glamorous party girl, Kate Moss could be forgiven for a few stumbles on her birthday last Tuesday. Falling downstairs and almost out of her dress are nothing new for the millionaire model. But on this occasion it was her choice of coat, rather than her behaviour, that provoked questions.
Moss was pictured on Tuesday night in a white "furry" coat, sparking a fierce debate among fashion experts and animal rights groups over the origin of the fur. Was she wearing, as some asserted angrily, a vintage raccoon fur?
If so, the coat will contain the pelts of 30 animals, often caught by trappers in steel-jaw leghold traps that are illegal in Britain and cause so much pain that some animals bite off their limbs in order to escape. Unable to eat, keep warm or defend themselves against predators, many die horrible deaths before the trapper arrives. To avoid damaging the pelt, those animals that are killed by trappers are often beaten to death.
But Moss may have been wearing another type of raccoon fur, the "raccoon dog", part of the grisly trade in dog and cat fur, often exported from China. Animals are typically kept in cramped cages before being beaten to death - or sometimes skinned alive.
Despite repeated requests, Moss's spokesman refused last week to shed light on the origins of her coat.
The RSPCA says even sheepskin coats may involve animal welfare problems behind the scenes, pointing out that they are not necessarily a byproduct of the meat industry.
Mark Glover, director of Respect for Animals, which campaigns against the fur trade, admitted the origin of the coat was something of a mystery: "It could be fake fur - it is not mink or fox or any of the traditional types of fur. It is a yeti-style furry coat. I've never seen anything quite as horrible. But in some ways it almost does not matter because in the public's mind that is fur, and once again she is encouraging the wearing of fur."
The cruelty involved in fur production has been highlighted by this newspaper over the past eight weeks. Yet another celebrity, the rapper Jay-Z, was last week caught up in a row over raccoon dog fur that was labelled fake and used to line one of the best-selling coats in his own clothing range.
If it's raccoon
It takes up to 30 raccoons to make one coat. Most raccoon fur comes from the US or Canada, where animals are often caught by trappers using steel-jaw leghold traps. To avoid damage to the pelts, animals are beaten to death, say animal rights groups
If it's sheepskin
The RSPCA says that sheepskin coats may involve animal welfare problems too, since sheepskin is not always a byproduct of the meat industry. In a new guide to ethical fashion, the charity says that if there is any doubt over where the skin came from, then it should not be boughtReuse content